Happy rabbits, mid-wives, farm crews, and babies!
Good day, Rabbit friends!
The sun is now hiding behind the clouds giving a much needed respite from the August “heat dome” in Missouri, and the village is still dripping from this early morning’s thunderstorms. Rain always puts me in a good mood—I feel especially appreciative when it means that I don’t have to water the garden!
Katherine here this week, to give you the goings-on and appreciations from one Happy Rabbit’s perspective.
Why am I so gosh-darn happy? Well, here’s only a few of the reasons:
As I write this, I am sitting in the Great Room of the Common House eating a slice of delicious pizza that I made last night from scratch, at one of my very fun jobs—Pizza Night at the Milkweed Mercantile. I can’t think of a much better way to write than eating good food while watching the drizzle outside and having friends walk by as they go about their day, cooking for their kitchen coops or coming to the office of the non-profit at our village.
The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture (which I work for as development assistant) has its office located in the heart of the village and thus provides us with the daily reminder of why we are saving the world. You can usually find Danielle in there with the door open for any “stop and chats” or just a great hug. Many an online Board meeting or program discussion has happened in that office, while the sounds of laughter and construction float through our window. Both of these feel crucial to the building of a community.
This is where I take a moment to applaud Danielle (Dee) for stepping into the role of Executive Director! She is an incredibly talented and perceptive young woman who has taken great care for how she has shown up in this village. She is gentle, fierce, and a great leader in more than a few arenas. I admire her as a leader because she is not the type that asks to be followed, people just naturally gravitate towards her energy. I am incredibly excited to see her stretch into this new role that she and the community at large has chosen for her… (She’s also pretty humble and is probably blushing by this time.)
Right now is also baby-time with my nephew Arthur and that also puts me in a great mood. I moved to community to be an auntie and sure enough, here I sit with a 5-month-old who is not family by blood, but by choice. The Critter Collective, to which Arthur and I both belong, has been together for a few years now, taking care of each other physically and emotionally. We are a sub-community of Dancing Rabbit that nurtures each other through good food, conversation, and the never-ending extension of personal boundaries. We love, we fight, we choose to create lives together that serve our existence in this community and the world. You have seen Ben write of many bucket haulings and pig wrasslings… Well, now you know just one of the folks who might be holding his baby while all these shenanigans take place.
Speaking of folks taking care of each other, the Critters also enjoy hosting wexers (work exchangers) every season. This has been another great year filled with fresh energy from cos (gender neutral pronoun) who want to come work, hang out, and learn some sustainable life skills to take with them on their journeys. Melody, Riley, and Clare have been absolute superstars this season with their hardcore work ethics and good attitudes. It is nice to get into a rhythm and just know that the buckets are being filled, emptied, and moved from point A to Z.
They are always ready to hold a baby or a kid (ha ha, goat joke) or make a smashing pot of red lentils for their cook-shift. Kelsey wexed for us earlier in the season and brought lightness and ease to daily life. We were sad to see her go, and there were definitely a few tears shed. She said she would be back, and knowing what I do about the transient state of our village, I smiled, nodded, and gave her a hug.
Lo and behold, she is back! This time she brought her partner Shawn, and they have both joined the Critters for the rest of the season’s construction and food processing. Thank goodness for the help! I don’t know what I would have done without her in the garden… there’s been a bumper crop for corn and it’s coming out my ears! (Ha.)
Part of what lights me up about this demonstration village is our desire to invite people from all walks of life into our home. Our visitor program has been successfully running for many years, and allows folks to get such a glimpse into our world that they might be enticed to join our community. Another avenue to visit is through the student groups that come through. Colleges and high schools also bring groups for an immersive view of one way to live a sustainable life.
Last week EarthDance Junior Farm Crew brought six students and three leaders for a few days to try out their skills in consensus, communication skill-building, and of course, goat milking! It was totally awesome to hear the perspectives of these (mostly) high schoolers from Ferguson, Missouri talk about their community, trusting other people, and where they are going with the future of this planet. Needless to say, these city kids and this rural ecovillage are coming at life from incredibly different points of view.
To share with y’all some of our organizations’ common ground, this is what EarthDance has to say for themselves, “Our Vision: Organic farmers feeding the world. Communities caring for the land. Farms inspiring creativity. Today we have the unique privilege, responsibility, and opportunity to transform this vision into reality through the production of healthy food, the education of multiple generations, and the engagement of our communities.”
So, I know I can write a pretty great puff piece about how happy I am all the time and why my life is so wonderful… and I would like to share with y’all a reality check: I totally have my moments of anger, jealousy, and any other human emotion that is less than serving of my being. When I am in these states, I tend to hide. People ask me how I am so happy all the time, well, I’m not. I go to my house and stew, or cry, or plan an escape.
Fortunately I live in an intentional community, and when I come back around to my rational side, I ask for help. I talk to my friends about what is going on and truly feel listened to. I am not given advice as much as questioned about why I am feeling these things. The level of communication and emotional maturity in this village can be outstanding depending on which Rabbit I have chosen for conversation. When questioned, I am able dive down and find the root of my insecurity. I am not being told what I am feeling and why, rather I am being asked to look within myself and figure out what is triggering these feelings.
This last year has given our community many incredible opportunities for growth. We have faced mental illness, disease and death, economic woes, division of community, and every other growing pain that accompanies life (on top of climate change and social unrest in our nation!). We have not turned our back on the mass shootings, riots, war, and other inequalities that seem to constantly plague our planet. One of the reasons that I moved to an intentional community, and especially an ecovillage, is because I care so much about these things that it hurts. Someone once told me, “You are the happiest sad person that I know.”
Our community has drawn strength in the last year by coming together around these issues. As people pass through our corner of northeast Missouri, they take a piece of us with them and leave stories behind. Dr. Karambu Ringera of Kenya was incredibly inspiring to me as she shared the horrific stories of women in her community dying on doorsteps and leaving behind orphaned children. She did not accept the atrocities in her community, rather she empowered others to take charge of their lives and created The Amani Home, a community home of peace for orphans and vulnerable children. She founded International Peace Initiatives to “mitigate the effects of poverty, disease, discrimination and violence”. Her sentiment that has stayed with me: I can not help people, they have to help themselves. Together we find the tools to do so.
More inspiration for me is found (daily) in my village, and more specifically with DR member, Sharon Bagatell. Sharon helped launch the Northeast Missouri Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization empowering people to experience breakthroughs exercising their personal and political power,” and traveled to Washington (by train) to speak with Congress on the passage of the carbon fee and dividend. This legislation “is the “best first-step” to preventing the worst impacts of a warming world”, according to economists and climate scientists.
Yet still another group of women in our tri-communities annually visits the State Capitol in Jefferson City on behalf of the Missouri Midwives Association to ensure the rights of mothers and children in the name of choice for pregnancy and birth options.
Recently I watched a documentary called Happy (circa 2011, director, Roko Belic). I had heard of the World Happiness Report years ago and once again it was brought to my attention in this film. The report was first introduced by the United Nations in 2012 “using economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy and more to enable policies that support better lives.” One interesting tidbit I learned were the statistics from Denmark, a country that consistently ranks in the top 10 happiest countries on Earth. The Danes have more of their population (5.7 million) living in cohousing than any other industrialized nation.
Cohousing was born in Denmark in the 1960s when some families became dissatisfied with their traditional neighborhoods and began seeking a more cooperative living situation. Individual or family units may be found around a shared common house and outdoor garden/play area, and there are many different models of cohousing with a range of shared infrastructure. These models are found in every developed area from cities to suburbs to rural areas around the world.
This is where I put in the plug for elders in cohousing!
Over the years I have heard folks say that we have a very nice village and they would have loved to live here 20 or 30 years ago. One does not have to live in our community to live in a community like ours. There are over 200 cohousing communities in the US alone and many of these are intergenerational. Elders are finding that they can keep their independence and not be alone in their twilight years, by joining these intentional communities. The focus on aging in community has led to senior cohousing and the founding of EICs, Elder Cohousing and Other Self-Directed Intentional Communities.
To find an intentional community such as an ecovillage, cohousing, residential land trust, income-sharing commune, student co-op, spiritual community, and “other projects where people live together on the basis of explicit common values,” please check out the Fellowship for Intentional Community at www.IC.org.
So there we have it, folks! These are just some of the reasons I have found to be so gosh-darn happy a lot of the time. I am appreciative of the people that come through my life and all of the work that they have chosen to take on. I want to continue connecting people around the globe with their wonderful ideas and organizations, to cross-pollinate the greatness that I see in their endeavors.
As an individual, I can care for the entire world; as a community, we can do the work together to find our happy place, whatever that looks like to you.
Two quick reminders: Don’t forget that Dancing Rabbit’s annual Open House is happening Saturday Sept 10th, 1-4 pm! Check out our webpage for details!
And the week after, on Sept 17th, our Permaculture Design Course starts! Click here for more info or to register now– September will be here before you know it!
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.