Stacks of firewood like this one, all over the village, signal the coming winter. Photo by Katie.

Community Has My Back: A Dancing Rabbit Update

My long-awaited favorite season seems to be over in the blink of an eye. Leaves and temperatures fall at a quick pace that leaves me struggling to get my firewood in order, stacking it by my little straw bale cabin in an increasingly Jenga-like appearance. I’ve lit two fires in my wood burning stove so far. Having never used one before, I decided it’d be best to practice a bit before relying wholly on it for warmth. It’s nice to have a fire going and my dog and cat agree, curling by the stove and watching the orange flames flicker and dance in contented silence.

The past few months have been full of ups and downs. I suffered a health scare, coming down with a case of cellulitis over my ear and part of my face. The red infection traveled quickly and I was quite panicked. This was the first time I’d been ill while being so far from family and friends, and learning that I could truly rely on my fellow community members was extremely heartening. Whether I was being taken to the doctor first thing in the morning, having yummy food cooked for me, or having my dog walked while I lay in bed, the people I share this bit of land with had my back. I was also impressed by the quality of care I received at Memphis Medical Services.

I’ve been in quite the emotional slump, unable to find much energy for socializing or any creative endeavors. Writing this is like pulling words from tar. I think that mostly, I’m homesick. I’d hoped that once I got over my first bout of it that I might not feel it again for quite some time. As the days become cold and gray, it’s harder to keep from wanting to go home and visit. I’m trying to wait until Thanksgiving, but we’ll see. 

Even when I’m feeling down, there are still many bright spots here at DR, one of which was our most recent visitor program. I had the opportunity to meet and hang out with several folks of very different backgrounds than my own. We sang songs around a bonfire, played some hilarious games, and chatted about all manner of things; from tattoos we’d like to get someday, to our favorite prairie forbs. 

Halloween is just around the corner, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the costumes and revelry the creative folks here come up with. Halloween was and still is my favorite holiday, and I’m going to have to go rummaging through some of my unpacked boxes to find the spooky mask I made out of pinecone scales. Things might get frightfully fun under these night skies.

Speaking of which, another thing that continually takes my breath away are the stars. After living in the suburbs for the past eight years, going to the outhouse at three in the morning is made worth it by the sheer, dizzying number of stars in the sky. On clear nights, the band of the Milky Way can be seen arcing overhead like a gauzy ribbon strung with diamonds. Missouri might also get a chance to see the northern lights over the next few days, and I’m hoping to be able to check that off of my bucket list. It’s good for me to remember how bright the stars really are away from the light pollution that dilutes them. 

Grackles and red-winged blackbirds squawk their goodbyes as they start their long journeys south for the winter. In their place are the tinkling chitter of juncos and the clear, sweet whistle of white-throated sparrows. Now that I’m in a more rural space, I’m hoping the colder weather might bring snow buntings, horned larks, longspurs, and pipits to stubble fields. Garter snakes and brown snakes can be seen sunning themselves on the gravel paths, hoping to absorb the last of the year’s warmth.

The colder nights are thankfully bringing an end to the mosquitoes and ticks (though I still found a few of the latter on my dog yesterday). When you have an outdoor toilet, the lack of mosquitoes is worth cheering over. 

As I lie in bed, my dog’s head resting on my belly, coyotes howl and yip. Instead of sounding scary, their songs have always helped me to feel more rooted to the land around me. I suppose that’s what I’m really looking for; a chance to get rooted in. When a plant already has an extensive root system, it can be tricky to transplant it to a new locale. Though my roots are still figuring out their new paths, the soil here is rich. 

Katie Sumner is now the third-newest resident at Dancing Rabbit. We enjoy seeing their pencil portraits of people and pets and listening to them describe our birds and plants with enthusiasm. Now, after almost six months here, we can’t imagine them anywhere else.

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