Like Rabbits Do

by Robbie Love
Entering the gravel lot off Woehrle Road, I tried in vain to ignore the thumping pitter-patter in my chest. This visit was building up to be quite different than my first short stay—that first meeting of Frankie Danger and the Unruly Allies (future band name), aka the Milkweed Mercantile’s writing workshop.

Robbie (3rd from right) with his Dancing Rabbit visitor group, October 2017. Photo by Katherine.

More significant than the duration, a venue had become a prospective home, and I, a prospective Rabbit. So with my introverted mind still processing sorghum harvest at Sandhill (memories like reducing cane juice) and a desire to hop around like a Rabbit for a few weeks, I hesitantly nosed my way through the portal of the car door, through the parking lot, and into the program with nose twitching and ears to the sky, and during those three weeks I got to build a warren, eat, cuddle, grow, and of course dance…like Rabbits do.

A major draw to Dancing Rabbit is the freedom to build a dream home. It brought the founders to rural MO; it brought me to the proverbial doorstep. I’m mesmerized by this. Building a home with my hands once seemed like wizardry to me, but at DR it’s commonplace. So upon arrival I set up the one shelter I can build (a 1.5 person backpacking tent)… only to move everything into a “hole in the ground” a week later. The “hole” is an earthbag structure affectionately called The Gnome Dome.

Weeks later and I hope to live in a similarly artful and cozy hole someday. I also enjoyed a workshop discussion about alternative construction and an opportunity to work on an ongoing site—turns out mixing medium clay straw barefoot is a fun way to start a dance circle, like Rabbits do.

Another priority for Rabbits, for me, for ALL living things is, of course food! While breaking bread at any of the kitchen co-ops, the Milkweed Mercantile “Pizza night!” or in a private residence, I ate WELL at every meal. Our group “broke fast” erratically, it was like a peppering of “semi-impromptu co-op-ish” group breakfasts over a plate of “let’s-fend-for-ourselves-until-we’ve-all-had-our-caffeine” style eggs (of local origin, of course), with a side of small-team cooking.

Most food consumed morning through night was local, plant-based, and/or organic. I was surprised to find access to the food distributor UNFI and a shop in Rutledge (pop. 109) both well-stocked and nicely priced. While convenient, I wonder if this access disincentivizes more on-site food production, but regardless of origin, nothing builds community like sharing a hot meal, and there was plenty of this at DR.

After all community is, as one Rabbit says, “a coming (in)to union.” This community-building component permeated the entirety of the program. Our viz group got close. I’m talking summer camp bonding. The visitors formed a temporary subcommunity of sorts—sharing meals, lending hands and ears, cuddling for warmth.

As time went on, questions were answered, other obligations called our names, and our numbers dwindled from 16 to 5, so the fire rings and mealtime song circles closed-in (summer camp, see? I told you). Be it summer camp, Rabbits, or larger communities, this coming together is sacred, and I’m grateful to have joined up with these folks for as long as we were together.

And as with any coming of union, opposing forces meet, providing the energy for growth—both inter- and intra- personal. An open session of the tri-community Men’s Group provided insight into a vehicle for taking people on journeys of personal growth. More importantly it revealed a group of people interested in driving that vehicle towards a positive masculine identity and healthier gender relationships in their hearts, in their relationships, and in human culture. Easier said than done.

Sometimes living relationships are hard work. Sometimes they’re messy. Sometimes one may find themselves uncomfortable. This group is practical. They demonstrated how one might navigate this discomfort through relationships with strangers, with neighbors, with friends, family, Gaia, God. I had many reminders that we meet God through right relationship and in loving relationship, no discomfort is too much.

With this reminder, that I am a part of something bigger, that when things seem like more than I can handle alone, I have help and support, I drove off with no less of a thumping in my chest, but two new friends in the car, and memories of us facing down our fears and reveling in our joys side by side along with a colony of warren-building Rabbits planting the seeds of a healthier culture and dancing around in the mud…. like Rabbits do.

P.S. A big thanks to all the bright and shining people who helped mold this experience into a powerful opportunity for education, growth, and fellowship—visitors, Rabbits, and neighbors alike. There are too many of you to name in this short piece.


Would you love to have your own “like Rabbits do” experience? Maybe do some natural building or gardening, connect with like-minded folks? Then come join us in a 2018 session of our Sustainable Living Visitor Program!

Upload your resume / skills

Hey – prospective visitor!

Do you have a resume that you would like us to see or a document with some details about your skill set? If you do, please consider uploading it. We will share this information with business owners and organizations in the village that might need your skill.

Please upload a resume or other documentation of your skills:
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Alex making friends with Donkey during his visitor session.

Dancing Rabbit: A Perfect Place to Start

My Time at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage..

by Alex Johnson

As I rumbled down the dirt road, leaving a trail of Missouri dust in my wake, the GPS declared with complete and total apathy “Turn right onto Dancing Rabbit Lane in half a mile.” I was almost offended that my phone could remain so calm in this moment, as a potluck of excitement with a side of debilitating anxiety churned in my stomach. I had fantasized about visiting an ecovillage since I had discovered them 4 years prior, knowing deep in my heart there was a better way of living for the Earth and for those who call it home.

Four years of environmental courses and hours upon hours of extensive research (including the telling episode of “30 Days: Off the Grid,” where two New Yorkers transform from consumer connoisseurs to eco-warriors) could not have prepared me for immersion into the village.

I floated into the Common House courtyard with my luggage in tow, relieved and pinching myself to wake up from what seemed a perfect dream. Laughter filled the air, everyone actually looked at me and smiled, nature weaved itself seamlessly into every space, as the birds sang a welcoming chorus: like I said, perfect.

This flawless first impression of Dancing Rabbit was, of course, just scratching the surface. Like most everything in life it is not a perfect entity, and it doesn’t aim to be.  Dancing Rabbit is an experiment in ecological and cultural sustainability.

It is, in essence, a demonstration, a “be the change you wish to see in the world” type o’ thing. And as the days drew on I began to realize this: the reality of the huge amount of work that goes into making this village seem so magical. Some of it isn’t encircled in butterflies. Naturally with my baseline demeanor of fluttering around without a care in the world, this is the area where I grew the most.

Befriending the dirty work, the dark side, the fear of the unknown. I knew coming into this experience would bring monumental challenges, and my comfort zone would be left in the dust. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Dancing Rabbit was a metamorphosis for me in many ways; some subtle, some not.  There were times when I felt liberated and blissful, and times when I felt homesick and alone. There were sleepless nights, oceans of biting insects, various conflicts; and then there was interconnectedness, pure learning and spirit, newfound friendship, and adventure.

This is the nature of human experience. Out here away from the bull crap you are left with a raw, perfectly imperfect life. You fall into synchronicity with Mother Nature’s cycles, no matter how hard you try to stay up past eleven. You wind up dancing and chanting around a fire as the full moon rises, and believing even more in magic outside your obsession with Harry Potter. You find yourself set free to be who you are, even if that means getting up on stage in front of the whole village, mock microphone in hand, to channel your inner rock star.

Though I am nowhere near omniscient enough to say what is the right way to live, I can tell you Dancing Rabbit is a perfect place to start.

 

Alex Johnson participated in the Dancing Rabbit Visitor program in August 2017. He is a 22-year-old recent graduate of IUPUI, specializing in Environmental Studies. He is a vegetarian, aspiring permaculturist, singer, and protector of the Earth we all share. His highest goal in life is to change the overarching culture from one of division to one of love and interconnectedness.

 



Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage
 is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Past open house fun at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

Come to Dancing Rabbit’s Open House!

Come celebrate and experience Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s
Annual Open House
 Saturday, September 9, 2017

FREE tours begin every half hour between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.

Dancing Rabbit was founded in 1997 to find out how people can live rich, vibrant lives while leaving an ecological footprint that our planet can sustain.  Come learn about sustainable living and see all that we have created.

There will be loads of friendly Dancing Rabbit members to answer your questions, a Village Fair selling unique crafts and goods and some complimentary refreshments. What’s not to like?

This is your opportunity to:

  • See alternative building methods such as straw bale and cob up close and personal! Ask questions of the builders themselves – we love to talk about our buildings.
  • Tour an organic garden and chat with some of our gardeners.
  • Learn about renewable energy and how we power our village with the sun and the wind.
  • Be amazed that 70 people can share 3 cars, a truck, and a tractor and feel good about it!
  • Understand more about sustainable and cooperative living.
  • Drink (filtered) rainwater, and learn about our water catchment systems.
  • Discover more about how we are making the world more sustainable.
  • Find out the top ten most misunderstood things about Dancing Rabbit!

Village Fair

We’ll also have a Village Fair with unique crafts and goods from our ecovillage members and neighbors, plus complimentary refreshments.

Comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended.  It’s probably no surprise that carpools are encouraged.  See our website for more information and for biking or driving directions.

You can also find this event on Facebook. Please invite your friends!

 


Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

Brooke Jones measuring our trash

Proud to Be a Muse

by Brooke Jones

I’ve got some exciting news to share with all of you! First, a bit of background…

Research has always been an important part of our mission at the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture (CSCC), the nonprofit arm of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and for the last six years we’ve been working with a team of social scientists to collect data on our resource use and carbon footprint. The results of these years of research have not only enlightened our perspective as to where we currently are (environmentally speaking), but have also pushed us to work harder (and smarter) toward our goal of living lightly within the ecosystems that surround and sustain us.

Internally called the “Eco-Audit”, our research shows that people at DR are living on approximately 10% of the resource consumption rate of the average American in several key areas (vehicle fuel, vehicles per capita, water, and electricity, to name a few). Our data also shows that we’ve done this while maintaining a quality of life that is on par with that of the average American, demonstrating that it is indeed possible to greatly reduce resource consumption while also living a fulfilling life.

Part of one season’s research team at Dancing Rabbit (Brooke and Dr. Lockyer are on the left).

The exciting news is that one of our extraordinary board members, Dr. Joshua Lockyer, Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Behavioral Sciences Dept. of Arkansas Tech University, recently published an article in the Journal of Political Ecology, a widely respected online peer-reviewed journal. In the article he examines the role of intentional communities, and more specifically ecovillages, with Dancing Rabbit as his leading example. In the article he says that ecovillages serve as places where the necessary “fundamental shifts in cultural logic can be manifested,” and that are “recreating common property arrangements [referred to as ‘commoning’]…. as a vehicle for social and political emancipation and societal transformation…[and] as a counter to the individualist accumulation of wealth and goods that drives the growth economy.”  

Dr. Lockyer highlighted data he helped collect for Dancing Rabbit’s Eco-Audit research project to demonstrate the value of intentional communities in the transition movement, and members of Dancing Rabbit as “effective stewards of local commons while also being responsible citizens of commons that are more global in scope.” Dr. Lockyer touted DR as a hotbed for scholarly research, and concludes his article with the statement, “if…de-growth is conceivable only… within the framework of a system based upon different logic, then in places like DR, we seem to have found our muse.”

We are proud to be a muse for the scientific community!

Want to join us in our mission to combat climate change? We are always looking for people to come and conduct research in our unique, dynamic community. Are you a social, environmental, biological scientist or other academic interested in intentional community, sustainability, ecological preservation/restoration, climate change research or another relevant field? We might have a place for you! Please contact our research director at brooke@dancingrabbit.org about current opportunities to be part of the research team at Dancing Rabbit. This could be a great senior project, thesis, or even dissertation for the right person(s). We look forward to hearing from you!

You may wonder why this research so important to us. We want to have greater credibility with the scientific and policy-making communities, and know that we are truly having an impact in the wider world. We take climate change very seriously, and are constantly re-examining our role in combating the destruction caused by the typical lifestyle in industrialized countries.

It is essential to show the world that alternative communities, economies, social structures, and governance not only can exist in theory, but do exist, successfully, in practice. There are feasible alternatives/solutions to the current growth-based society that is leading us into environmental catastrophe. And maybe even more importantly, we need to show that people living within these alternative systems are living abundant, happy lives; thriving even.  

And while we want people to move here and live more simply with us, we know that most people can’t or won’t move to ecovillages, so that alone isn’t a feasible solution to climate change. Ecovillages can’t handle a mass influx of people, and we need to use existing infrastructure in cities and suburbs. Those areas often have the greatest impact, and need the most drastic change.

In order to create the desperately-needed change, we must offer an alternative that’s proven, attainable, adaptable, and maintains an acceptable quality of life. This is the revolutionary role of places like Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and could be our greatest contribution in the realm of climate change research and mitigation.


Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.