Prairie's Salamander

Experimentation, Experience, and Reflection: A Dancing Rabbit Update

What is your relationship with giving and receiving constructive or critical feedback? What are your thoughts on feminism? Deep breath! Ready… answer! 

This is Prairie, once again being prompted by the world and its myriad inhabitants to answer a couple of important questions. If only I could think for a zippy moment and give a simple answer. If you have been keeping up with the awkward and chaotic process one might call growth that inevitably bleeds into my writing, you may have discerned a certain pattern of experiment, experience, and reflect. This article holds no exceptions. 

Fun fact: I have lived here for two and a half years and then some. I have been my mother’s guest. On June 3rd, barring any unresolved concerns from the community, I will become a resident. After six months of residency status and positive integration into Dancing Rabbit, I can apply for Membership. The difference between these titles? Members pay a small percentage of their quarterly income to the non-profit, CSCC, join and contribute to at least one committee, and forgo a personal vehicle. (Luckily, I do not have one!) Additionally, and what deeply interests me, is the ability to own and build property on Dancing Rabbit’s land. You will hear more about that, no doubt, when the time comes. 

What is your relationship with giving and receiving constructive or critical feedback? What are your thoughts on feminism? Here we are again. “Good question,” I told Liz many a time throughout my residency interview. I can’t replicate here precisely what I replied at the time, but I walked away from that interview realizing how important my answers are, for others’ benefit and my own. 

My general reaction to criticism, I have noticed, is to become defensive: my belly tightens and my jaws clench. I feel this odd smallness, as though I am shrinking somehow. These, I think, are not-so-subtle cues that I am taking the feedback too personally, as though I am being critiqued, versus my actions or behavior. The difference being what I do is temporary. Who I claim to be also changes in the sense that thoughts and ideas do not remain forever. My awareness, however, continues, untouched by time or even experience. Eyes receive photons and transport that information to the brain for analysis; like awareness, the actual act of seeing continues instinctively. It is perspective that determines interpretation and then reaction. 

Criticism falls like rain; one can build walls to keep it at bay, use umbrellas or coats, but inevitably we all get caught in storms and soak ourselves. Positive self-talk to contradict the negative response to feedback has only taken me so far. There comes a point when facing the rain becomes vital and necessary for growth. Processed more deeply, I can actually hear the feedback and use it, with neutral discernment. It is pivotal to be able to receive criticism and choose diligently what to do with that information, especially in community. 

Giving constructive feedback is another growth edge of mine. (What isn’t, these days?) That’s another story for another time. What is your relationship with offering criticism? Maybe you can help me out. 

On feminism. Firstly, when I choose to embody feminism I choose to acknowledge the historical and cultural objectification, demonization, domestication, mistrust, and ultimately degradation of women as physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual, social, and spiritual creatures; secondly, with that awareness, make choices in alignment with my unique values as a young woman, and in consideration of the women around me and abroad. With conscious intent I have the power to bring an alternative center of gravity into this world: that of consideration, care, upliftment, compassion, and empowerment to all humans. Feminism in my mind is akin to equality and that means bringing this out-of-balance world back to center. It means that as someone with a beating heart, I matter. And so do you. Feminism means finding courage, kindness, and authentic strength in the face of any notion of inequality toward female-bodied people, and speaking up

I began this article mid-morning, fairly sure of what I wanted to say, with no certain way of saying it. It is late evening now, and the trees are nearly still. I can hear crickets faintly through the stocky clay and straw bale walls of my abode. Winter has faded and spring approaches summer quickly. Gradually, I have begun to tenderly call Ironweed garden ‘my garden.’ It has formed orderly, fertile beds, with my help, ready for tomatoes, beans, corn, and maybe even some carrots! Asparagus season is waning, and already we have a colorful crop of radishes. Peas soon to come. 

Every (mostly distant) social interaction I find myself in these days feels like an immense blessing at this confusing time. I see Graham and Katherine gardening with Cat and Jed; Hassan walking his new puppy, Buddy; my younger friends about the village paths enjoying the warm air; John keeping busy as always; and my snug little kitchen and it’s committed inhabitants. We all came here for our reasons, varied and powerful in our ways. And we keep going. 

Much grace to you in navigating these turbulent waters. May your footsteps lead you deeper into your truth and carry out the message you have to offer this thirsty world. What are your thoughts on feminism? How do you receive criticism?

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