Happiness, Holidays and Hygge: A Dancing Rabbit Update

    The modern DJ (aka Illly) in action at the DR NYE party. Photo by Kim Kanney.

The modern DJ (aka Illly) in action at the DR NYE party. Photo by Kim Kanney.

Hi friends!

This is Alline with your weekly report from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

I am writing from my desk, upstairs in my studio in the strawbale house that my husband Kurt built (with much appreciated help of a slew of interns, work exchangers, visitors, and community members over the years). Our home is cozy, warmed by our wood-burning stove.

The sun is shining brightly in through the windows, but is deceiving – it is a nippy 23°F outside. Now that the crazy weeks of Christmas & New Year are over, I finally know what day of the week it is again. For some reason holidays always seem like Saturday, leaving me wandering around confused when the real Saturday actually rolls around.

For those reading this column via email or online (and not in our local newspaper, the Memphis Democrat): please know that Dancing Rabbit has not floated away, nor are we flooded. Rutledge, in Scotland County, is a mere 15 miles from the Iowa border and many, many miles from the southern part of Missouri, where so much wet devastation is currently happening. Many who haven’t yet visited DR may not know just how far north we are, and when the news says “Missouri is under water” fear that we are too.

Walking around the village this week has been lovely. While it is freaking cold, it is absolutely gorgeous. At the beginning of the week everything – every tree branch, fence wire and blade of grass – was covered in a thin sheet of ice. When the sun came out the whole world looked like a sparkly wonderland.

Each step crunched, crackled, and creaked, and even the tall grass became an amazing adventure. It felt similar to using snow shoes — being suspended on the high grass itself and never sinking, because it was frozen solid. During my walks I realize that I’m still working on winter’s biggest challenge — memorizing the colors of everyone’s winter coat and hat so that they’re recognizable from a distance!

A highlight this week was our annual New Year’s Eve bash. We begin celebrating the arrival of the New Year at 9:30 pm (which, conveniently for those who like to go to bed early, is Newfoundland’s midnight), New York’s midnight at 11:00 pm our time, our own at our midnight, Colorado’s at 1:00 am, California’s at 2:00 am, and, if anyone is still awake, 3:00 am in Alaska and 4:00 am in Hawaii. Aloha indeed!

Illly provided what is quickly becoming the gold-standard of DJ-ing, and 9-year-old Aurelia began her DJ apprenticeship with grace, aplomb and much enthusiasm. DJ-ing has come a long way from the days of multiple turntables and stacks of LPs – Thursday night’s setup consisted of two smart phones, some wires, and a couple of great big speakers. Party on, dude!

Our numbers are low right now – many Rabbits are traveling, visiting far-flung family and friends. The good new is that this makes for a lightning-fast WIP (Week in Preview), our Sunday meeting where we plan who is doing what, going where, and in which car.

Tony was here for a brief visit, and it was a delight to see him again, and hear about his work with the non-profit Citizen’s Climate Lobby.

On my nightstand is a book entitled Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. At its most basic, it is a book about happiness – what happiness is, and how to get it. Digging a little deeper, though, it is about much, much more. Buettner begins by discussing how experts define happiness and then takes us to some of the “happiness all-stars” around the world. He begins with Denmark, which is number two (Costa Rica is #1, the US is #20). I was fascinated to find that life at Dancing Rabbit provides many of the attributes that help make Danes happy. A few of these are Build an Environment of Trust, Volunteer, Nudge People into Interaction, and my favorite, Make Cozy, Well-Lit Home Environments. This is also known as “hygge.”

Hygge (pronounced “heu-gah”) is usually inadequately translated as “coziness.” This is too simplistic: coziness relates to physical surroundings — a sweater can be cozy, or a warm bed — whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.

Achieving hygge generally involves being with friends and family, eating and drinking, celebrating the everyday, and a feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other. It is the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel openhearted and alive. For a better explanation of hygge, watch a brief video here. (It’s worth it just to hear Danes pronounce “hygge.”)

The Milkweed Mercantile took two weeks off from serving pizza, as both holiday eves fell on “pizza night” (known in the normal world as “Thursday”). Kurt and I missed seeing our friends laughing and talking over melted cheese and cold beer, so it was nice when folks came in and joined us for coffee in the mornings (our own version of hygge).

Today I asked Mae and Ben if they had any news to add to this column, but they weren’t much help: “the temperatures fell below freezing and now we have to haul water to the animals” didn’t seem zippy enough for a headline here. But, for those who are interested in such matters, there you go. Or, as they say in England, “and Bob’s your uncle.”

Speaking of England, we’ve been hosting after dinner episodes of Foyle’s War (starring the dreamy and dashing Michael Kitchen) in the Mercantile, and down the road at Thistledown they’re hosting a weekly viewing of the (highly-anticipated) last season of Downton Abbey. Will Daisy find happiness? What marvelously snarky thing will Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham say next? Will the Earl get another dog? Pinkies up, everyone, and let’s find out!

Until next time, wishing you all a big warm dose of hygge.

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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.

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