The other night, Highway MM from Rutledge to Memphis and back was two very different experiences. On my way, in the partial light and drizzle, it was a beautiful country drive: hills and curves and cows. I love these kinds of drives. I used to have to leave the city to take a country detour like this. Now, as a new resident at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, I get to enjoy these back roads in the natural course of my comings and goings.
While the drive to Memphis was enjoyable, the drive back to Dancing Rabbit later that night was a completely different story. I enjoyed spending a couple hours with some new acquaintances in Memphis before heading back to Dancing Rabbit about 8:30. That same appealing drive through the country a couple hours earlier turned into a test of my nerves and equilibrium on the way back home. It was my first time driving the road at night, and the darkness was complicated by more rain, big puddles trying to pull me off the road, and the glare of oncoming headlights. I knew the center line was there, but it was impossible to see. I slowed down. The curves came out of nowhere. I slowed down again. Just as I thought I was getting more comfortable and speeded up a little, I’d hit an unexpected puddle and need to slow down yet again. Funny how my move to Dancing Rabbit is proving to be remarkably like that trip to Memphis.
Visiting DR in May for a Visitor Session was more like the leisurely drive in the country I first described above. It was bright, sunny, and easily navigable. May is my favorite month of the year, by the way. I could see the curves coming up ahead and the yellow lines were clearly marked. Not a puddle to be muddled. No glare off the smiles of the other Rabbits in the bright light of day. But the subsequent reality, of moving to Dancing Rabbit on August 30 and living here as a new resident, is akin to that nighttime traipse on wet, winding, unfamiliar roads.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the transition has been treacherous, but the terrain is unfamiliar with unexpected, sharp turns and a steep hill or two popping up out of nowhere. The solution, once again, seems to be slow down. I don’t know about you but slowing down has not been something I’ve been very good at in my lifetime. I tend to speed up until I hit the rumble strips on the shoulder, then I slow down. Speed up, slow down. Speed up, slow down. Over and over. “This time it will be different.” At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
Let me tell you more about myself. My name is Troy Matthews, and I’m from Kansas City—Overland Park, Kansas, to be exact. I’m the newest resident of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, Missouri. I first found Dancing Rabbit online around the year 2000. I was looking for something different and better to my way of thinking than how I was living as a suburbanite. Getting out of the city into the country was part of living better in my mind and it still is. Grandma and Grandpa lived on a farm near Alma, Missouri, when I was a kid. My dad and mom did not have the farming bug, so I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and in southwest Florida. After many years of living mostly in the ’burbs but also in big cities like New York and Paris, I bought my first home about 30 minutes south of Kansas City in the country. My country house was situated on a little pond with several pecan trees in the yard. I imagine that most of you reading this understand the call of country living. Moving to Dancing Rabbit is another step toward the country and I’m very happy to be here.
And then there was a white, bedraggled cat . . .
Recently, as I walked the gravel path in the residential area of the village, a white cat approached me from behind, pulled up alongside, passed me, walked five or six feet ahead of me, and had a heart attack. I kept walking. Mr. Cat recovered instantly. He trotted ahead of me again and then had a stroke directly in my path; writhing on his back like a puppet with a couple strings missing. You might already realize what was going on, but I still did not. I continued walking.
Again, the cat recovered and caught up to me. Instead of just passing by this time, Mr. Cat rounded my right leg rubbing as we walked. He then rushed ahead and collapsed in the path before me, yet again. “Maybe this cat wants some attention,” I finally realized. “Of course! Mr. Cat just wants some attention.” I’m a little slow. I told you I lived in the suburbs for a long time. I did not oblige Mr. Cat with any attention. I was busy going nowhere. I did not have time or inclination to indulge this conniving cat. Vague warnings like “Do Not Feed the Bears,” “Natural Area: Do Not Disturb,” and even “Don’t Pet Strangers” flitted through my brain. Mr. Cat persisted; I persisted as well. Instead of flopping down on the gravel on pass number six, Mr. Cat just kept cat-ting on his way. I’ll give Mr. Cat credit for his persistence.
I think karma got back at me the next day. Bad, cat karma. Here’s what happened. I woke up knowing I should roll over and stay in bed. An annoying sound like a fax machine being suffocated by a feather pillow kept poking my peace in the ribs making continued sleep improbable. I got up. It was raining.
I checked my usual email and social media. Rabbits get a lot of emails about goings-on in the village and other business exchanges. While I was web-surfing, Bear asked me to move my truck to the lower field in preparation for Dancing Rabbit’s Open House. (We wanted space for visitors to park upfront, right at the entrance to our village.) I assumed the rain had made for a muddy, lower field, but I figured I had four-wheel drive and wouldn’t get stuck. I put the truck in 4-low and moved to the lower field just a few hundred feet down the road. I had an inkling of the obvious, yet I did not heed it. Two other vehicles were parked already, and I wanted to conform, so I pulled in just as they had done. Immediately, I wondered if I would be able to back my truck out, and immediately, I attempted to pull away, and immediately, I found myself stuck. “Hah! Won’t get stuck.” Stuck. Stuck. Stuckity-stuck-STUCK! I knew it, shaking my head. The truck was stuck in the muck. Stuck!
I walked back up the hill to the village self-talking my way out of a tantrum or a pity party at the least. “Told you I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.” I told a couple other folks about my truck being stuck in the muck. “Welcome to the club,” said one. “Getting stuck is a rite of passage here,” said another. “I can help you,” said yet another. I felt a little less disgusted with myself.
Just after I got the truck stuck in the muck, my new Dancing Rabbit community “circled up” to kick-off the Open House. We circle-up and hold hands before Tuesday Potluck and Community Dinner on Friday, as well. There were about 30 adults and a bunch of kids in the circle. “Who knows the DR song?” The song was sung. As I leaned in to hear the words and catch the melody, I got that warm, connected, I’m-glad-I’m-here feeling once again. By the end of the song, most of the mucky, stuck-truck taste in my mouth had washed away.
That’s all for now. I’m settling into my new life at Dancing Rabbit. It took the help of a tractor to get my truck out of the muck. Mr. Cat is nowhere to be found. If you see me in town at Keith’s Cafe, Tri-State Used Furniture, or getting a coffee on the square, all of which I’ve already visited, be sure and say “Hello.” If I look like I’m in a hurry, I’d appreciate a friendly reminder to slow down, again.
Want to see what living cooperatively is really like? Come visit us this year to get a glimpse into how we live and how you can incorporate these practices into your own life. There is only one Sustainable Living Visitor Program session left happening in October. Come join us!