Here Comes the Sun: A Dancing Rabbit Update

After several consecutive days of rain and grey cloud cover, I looked to the sky this morning and saw dawn break for the first time in what felt to me like weeks. Though I welcome the rain after many weeks of unrelenting heat, there is a certain heaviness I observe in my steps and those of others without the warmth of the sun. Without the vital nourishment that massive ball of heat provides, my mood can suddenly slip into cycles of melancholy and sluggishness. What a relief to see it again!

Prairie here, more than ready for the sun to stick around in this corner of the Midwest, at Dancing Rabbit ecovillage.

Thanks to our cool, wet spring, I had not been in the habit of watering the garden. The soil was parched and depleted by the time I began a watering rotation. I regretted not having done so earlier in the season, a lesson I hope to recall next year.

Despite the persistent heat and then the raucous rain, I greeted most days with an eagerness to go forth and get work done. Although I avoided a case of the Mondays, I flopped down every day after work, exhausted but satisfied from long hours well-spent in the garden or inside canning pickles or tomatoes.

One of my favorite aspects of living in community is that I inevitably end up interacting with at least half a dozen people every day, even with rain and blistering sun. I realize how necessary human connection is, especially now, when COVID-19 has created a massive gap between many people and the ones they love. I feel immensely grateful to have the connections I do and the ability to cultivate them further, even during this pandemic.

More social distancing activities are being offered here despite, and perhaps because of, COVID, including:

-Art in the park, which is held in a shaded grassy area between the Milkweed Mercantile and Kurt and Alline’s house. Lauren, one of our newest residents, hosts this weekly get-together. An incredible artist herself, Lauren brings theory, practical ideas, and intriguing physical objects for participants to utilize in their own unique way. I have personally felt inspired and empowered by what she offers. Thank you, Lauren, for creating another space for people to connect and learn in during these confusing and conflicting times.

– Process parties, during which fellow community members meet, ask questions, and discuss aspects of Dancing Rabbit culture and governance, to more fully understand the ins and outs of what it is we are doing here and why. Thank you, Katherine, for bringing these integral discussions back into our midst.

– Week In Progress, or WIP, meetings where villagers gather to review and schedule community activities for the coming week, such as coordinating car ride shares. Alline offers homemade treats to those who attend the meetings in the park. This week the attendance was splendid, and John was the lucky winner! Great idea, Alline.

– Song circle, which has resumed on a monthly basis, instead of every Wednesday evening as usual. Christina hosted a special gathering around a bonfire near the swimming pond for her birthday. Approximately a dozen people from the tri-communities arrived and sang for a couple hours beneath a striking starlit sky. It was beautiful and unifying. I hope you had a happy birthday, Christina, and thank you for your presence in our village.

-Book discussion group, which includes listening to, and then discussing, the book Stamped by Jason Reynolds. Stamped is a condensed version of the book Stamped From The Beginning, by the author Ibram X. Kendi, and it dives into the tangled swathe of historical racism and how it continues to impact the lives of millions of people alive today. It is this group’s intention to understand and dismantle systemic racism and contribute to a world of equality and peace.

Whew! I’m suddenly very busy these days.

On the 12th of September, ten years ago, Tamar Friedner, a poignant member of Dancing Rabbit’s early years passed away. She played and taught fiddle, and built houses, gardens, and strong connections. Last Saturday, close friends and family of Tamar celebrated her passing on Zoom. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Tamar, and I wish I could say more about her and her life. Blessings and condolences to her friends and family, and may she always be remembered.

In the last few weeks, I have taken to writing snippets of my experience in the garden, collecting bits and pieces of my life for later reflection and integration, or so I hope.

I found a now-amusing entry in which I alluded to the difficulty I had showing up day after day in the garden where I was met with slowly dying tomato plants. The plants were dry and brown, rather than resilient and green, from Anthracnose fungus that overwinters in dead leaves and twigs. Come our cool, moist spring, it spread happily, running amok among our trellised tomatoes.

“Life is not adversity alone,” I wrote, “but in living, I cannot escape its reaching grip.” I then recalled a single, blessedly cool morning during which the sun hid behind a wide swathe of grey clouds. “I watered in the late morning and early afternoon, attempting to nurture the lower half of the garden: sweet potatoes, strawberries, sweet peppers, eggplant, Seminole winter squash, leeks, and the struggling tomatoes. How interesting that of the varying shades of vibrant emerald to crumbling brown that I witnessed in my watering, it was the latter—struggling, as I saw it—that drew out my emotional energy.

“The wandering eye, starving for negativity, is sure to find just that amid the buffet of ample experience available to us. There is something to be said of the historical tendency to search out the unfortunate and dangerous as a means for survival; it is when I find myself surrounded by the diverse and exquisite beauty of this world, and feel only regret for what I could or should have done differently for those darned tomatoes, that I realize such a reaction to adversity is not only unpleasant but unhelpful. The amount of emotional energy my body consumes while feeling miserable could instead be spent appreciating what I have now and what did go well: an impressive abundance of dried tomatoes in my kitchen! Not to mention a delectable eggplant crop, potato harvest, and hot pepper selection.”

I smile at this now. Time can soften the blow of a difficult experience. But the willingness to admit to feelings of failure, regret, confusion, or hesitation that accompany perceived adversity to oneself and others, is the first step to committing to personal growth and improvement. I have seen myself and many people around me grow in myriad ways over the last year. I know that growth would be near impossible without holding and supporting ourselves and each other. The weather helps too.

I hope you are finding connection and enough vitamin D in your life! Stay strong and safe.

Prairie Johnson is DR’s youngest and most recent official resident. There is hardly a job in the village that she hasn’t helped someone with! She is a talented writer and musician.

To learn more about life at Dancing Rabbit, visit our website: www.dancingrabbit.org.

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