Why I Sing

By Alyssa Martin

When I sing, I feel alive!  I feel like every cell in my body is alert, vibrating with harmony. I notice that my worries and typical thought patterns seemingly melt away. I am completely present, a meditation of sorts. I sing to feel awake.

For me, shared song is pure joy. In fact, studies have shown “that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits” (“Singing Changes Your Brain” by Stacy Horn, TIME). My sense of hope, even if just for the duration of that song, is elevated just like the notes of our shared song. I sing to be happy.

When the loneliness of life feels palpable, I typically seek out groups to sing with. This allows me a chance to feel cohesion and community. When my voice merges with the rest of the group, I no longer feel alone. I experience a sense of belonging. I sing to feel connected.

In a world where my voice can often feel silent and powerless, sometimes belting out good song can feel like a small act of resistance. Singing allows me to connect with that deep desire to speak up and be heard. I sing as an act of protest.

Marking a major life transition with song is a pure gift. How better to honor and celebrate a loved one who recently passed away? Singing a blessing to a new mother and baby represents an offering of the soul, a welcoming beyond words. Birth and death are natural life transitions common to us all. Using song to mark those major life transitions brings sanctity and reverence to the experience. I sing to honor life’s transitions.

For these reasons and so many more, I sing. Perhaps you would like to join me? Come, then, bring your voice, whether seasoned or new, confident or scared, and join me and others at Singing Rabbit over Labor Day weekend 2018. Come learn more about why you, also, must sing!

Alyssa, Dan, and Jennifer in the 2015 Permaculture Design Course. Photo by Aaron.

Seeking Out the Edges: A Permaculture Perspective

Seeking Out the Edges:
A Permaculture Perspective

Alyssa, Dan, and Jennifer in the 2015 Permaculture Design Course. Photo by Aaron.

Alyssa, Dan, and Jennifer in the 2015 Permaculture Design Course. Photo by Aaron.

I took a blind leap in 2015, and signed up to take a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. As a long-time gardener, I had been feeling tired and burned out. While I loved eating my home-grown food, the work output was weighing on me. I hoped that the PDC would offer ideas, insight, and just plain inspiration for me to continue growing a large portion of my own food.

I didn’t realize at the time that Permaculture is about so much more than agricultural ecosystems, so much more than gardening. While I did find ideas, insights, and inspiration that helped me plant seeds in my garden for the coming year, I also saw the application of permaculture principles in many different areas of my life. Over the course of the PDC, I became intrigued by the concept of “social permaculture”.

One of the Permaculture Design Principles suggests the value of using edges and valuing the marginal when developing a permaculture design plan. In nature, this Principle might best be seen at an edge between two biological communities or landscapes. In the transitional place where land and water meet, for example, we might find greater diversity of animal and plant species than either ecosystem could support on its own. It is thought that more action happens at these edges, these places of transition.

I wondered, though, could this concept also apply socially? What if we all chose to live by this Permaculture Principle and seek out the edges in life?

I noticed that, personally speaking, it can feel easier to steer clear of those edges. There is comfort in the familiar, the known. It feels safer to stay within that familiar, to stay in my own ecosystem, so to speak, than be pushed to an edge. However, living in or near that social edge may actually prove to be the most fertile and inspiring place to be.

I also see the potential for greater conflict in the edges. I may choose to hold strong to who I am and be unable to integrate the gifts brought from a different ecosystem. What if, instead, I chose to lean into that edge with curiosity, engaging with the difference and the potential conflict in front of me? Even in the face of conflict and difference, I may leave a more balanced, whole, diverse being.

What else is there to explore on the edge?

I know that as a midwife, my work is on an edge. The beauty and rawness present when new life makes its way into this world is humbling and inspiring to say the least. I see new mothers, pushed to that edge, showing up with greater courage, presence, and ferocity than they even knew was possible.

At the beginning of the book Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture, by Rosemary Morrow, there is a quote of a Vietnamese saying, “You can’t do anything on your own.”  As much as I might want to do everything on my own, I am realizing that I need those edges to remind me over and over again that doing things with others and exploring that uncomfortable place of difference and transition allows for a richer life experience.

A common phrase used in consensus decision-making is that “everyone brings a piece of the truth.” Permaculture reminds me to seek the places where I can better see and hear all pieces of the truth, especially the ones that don’t come from me.

As I plant new seeds in my garden this year, I now see the limitless applications of permaculture in the form of my new rain gardens, a polyculture fruit orchard, my newly open heart and the presence of new friends. I now seek out that edge.

Alyssa Martin has been living a rich life at Dancing Rabbit since 2006. She spends her time gardening, homeschooling her son, serving pregnant women and their families via her work as a Certified Professional Midwife, dancing, playing ultimate frisbee, knitting, and loving life in a vibrant community.

Adventures in Homeschooling: A Michaelmas Dragon Story

by Alyssa

Zane wearing his cape and brandishing his sword, ready for any dragons that may come! Photo by Bear.

This fall marks my second year sharing the adventure of homeschooling with my seven-year-old son, Zane. While I relied on plenty of experienced homeschoolers and resources, my first year was truly a year of figuring things out as we went along. My conclusion was that kindergarten is great (and I highly recommend it for every adult)!

As part of our homeschooling adventure last fall, Zane and I celebrated Michaelmas. We have enjoyed incorporating the seasons and various celebrations into our weekly school schedule. Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with Michaelmas until last year, so perhaps you are too.

Michaelmas happens at the end of September and is a celebration honoring St. Michael, an angel who is seen as a protector against the dark of night. St. Michael is often depicted with a shield and a sword restraining a dragon underfoot.

Throughout the week, Zane and I learned more about St. Michael. We sang songs about courage and we recited verses about bravery and good deeds. We daily read a Michaelmas dragon story. Zane constructed, sanded and oiled a beautiful wooden sword. Together we dyed a silk cape golden yellow. We even constructed a “dragon” out of construction paper and old paper bags. We were ready for anything.

On Friday, the last day of school that week, we got a phone call. Zane’s papa had run into a neighbor on his way to a meeting that morning. This neighbor reported a dragon in the area and wondered if we could help.

Zane’s eyes lit up. He quickly ran to his room, donned his new golden cape, grabbed his sword and we ran out of the house in the direction of this neighbor in need.

The scene was worse than we imagined. When we got there, our friend Caleb shared a dramatic story of barely escaping the wrath of the dragon. Luckily, he walked away with only a cut in his clothing. Their favorite chicken, Captain Cluck, however, didn’t live through the experience. They showed us the charred feathers and wing of the beloved chicken.

“Where is the dragon now?” Zane asked. The dragon had left and flown in the direction of the Milkweed Mercantile. Without hesitation, we were off!

Zane asked a lot of questions along the way. Did I really think the dragon ate Captain Cluck? What if the dragon found other friends in the village? What will we do if we find the dragon? He didn’t seem to really be seeking answers, just posing the questions and processing the experience.

Zane dying his cape a deep golden yellow color. Photo by Bear.

Before arriving at the Mercantile, we ran into Alline. She was devastated. The dragon had come into the Mercantile and eaten all the cheesy puffs! None of us had any knowledge of dragons liking cheesy puffs in a culinary kind of way.

Luckily Alline was okay (minus the cheesy puffs) and the dragon had moved on. She thought she heard the dragon mutter something about jewels at Sara and Ted’s house. Zane quickly remembered that dragons love jewels. We had to make sure our friends were okay!

Sara was in the path by her home. She was in tears. The dragon had come into her home and stolen all of her jewelry. She was distressed and didn’t know what to do. Zane’s sword was drawn. He would find this dragon. Sara last heard the dragon mutter something about thirst and noticed the dragon flying toward the pond. We couldn’t run fast enough.

All was quiet when we arrived at the pond. We didn’t know what to make of that. We crept closer and closer and then noticed something. The dragon, the one we had constructed earlier in the week, was sitting by the side of the pond. Zane swiftly drew his sword and bravely slayed the dragon. The village was safe!

Zane carried the dragon back into the village. We showed our neighbors and friends that they would now be safe. There was an audible sigh of relief from all those affected by the dragon’s antics.

In the subsequent days, Zane asked even more questions. How did the dragon get here? Did I really think the dragon ATE Captain Cluck? Was the dragon really real? Like for real, real?

Throughout this experience, I wrestled with the fine line between dishonesty and story, reality and imagination. In the end, I told Zane the truth. Yes, I put our constructed dragon at the pond and asked our neighbors to help with the hunt.

At first he was disappointed. And then, he decided that the story was just too good to let go. He loved the story. He continued to live the story. In the end, he was just as brave and courageous as St. Michael when called by his friends in need.

Furthermore, we both learned a little bit more about ourselves than we had known before. And so, the adventure continues!

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Alyssa Martin has been living a rich life at Dancing Rabbit since 2006. She spends her time gardening, homeschooling her young son, serving pregnant women and their families via her work as a Certified Professional Midwife www.homebirthnaturally.com, dancing, playing ultimate frisbee, knitting, and loving life in a vibrant community.