What does it mean to live an authentic life? Liz here, observing the effects of passing the one year mark of living in alignment with my values, intentions, and purpose.
What I remember of my former, urban life (as it fades into the mists of time), is that I experienced considerable tension when thinking about the state of the world and my opportunities to do anything active or meaningful to improve it. What I have noticed since moving to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is that I have relaxed internally, with greater joy and happiness, now that these two things line up. Letting go of the tremendous responsibilities and energy-draining aspects of maintaining a nuclear, family structure has created a much more dynamic relationship with my adult children and allowed me to express my individual purpose in life to a greater degree.
There have been many ways this has manifested and some of those ways have been very unexpected. I describe this aspect of my life, not to be compared with anyone else’s, but to encourage anyone who might need encouragement to live their own authentic life. So, here are some stories from this week that are meant to do just that.
This week, I began learning how to plaster a straw bale house. Dancing Rabbit just finished hosting a natural building workshop. The participants worked on Angela’s straw bale house, the latest natural building project at DR. I have joined the project as a volunteer so that I can develop my skills for setting straw bales in place to form walls, plastering exterior and interior walls, and whatever else I can learn in the coming weeks. At my former home in Berkeley, I found my home improvement niche as a painter. I found that I loved working with color and texture and had enough patience for repairing plaster on old walls and then repainting them. Stuffing plaster between the fibers of a straw bale has some similarities in that it can be learned pretty quickly, and the results can be seen almost immediately.
While working together in Cob’s garden each morning, my son Graham and I began talking about what type of housing we thought would be inspiring to build at Dancing Rabbit. Between my wanting to help provide much-needed housing at DR and Graham’s interests in natural building design and cooperative living, we hatched a plan to start by building a simple 20-foot diameter straw bale roundhouse with a reciprocal roof to gain skills for eventually building a cluster of buildings forming a cooperative sub-community within the ecovillage. It is a grand adventure; it is a way to serve DR’s mission of growing the village and it is a way to share experiences with my adult children.
Cob’s garden will be almost on auto-pilot if it continues to rain like it did this week. We pull weeds and harvest what ripens: basil, green and red tomatoes, potatoes, pole beans and bush beans, parsley, summer squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, and yet another crop of radishes. We also watch over the little seedlings of fall crops starting to peek out from the soil: Brussels sprouts, several types of beets, arugula, daikon radish, kale, and garlic. Within the next few weeks, we will sow a winter cover crop of legumes, clover, and buckwheat to enrich the soil for next year and to crowd out unwanted weeds. The rainbow of beautiful perennial flowers (borage, nasturtium, daisies, marigolds, cosmos, and more) are going to seed, hopefully re-appearing next year without our assistance and without the need for much watering.
The garden at Sparrows Nest has had an abundant crop of Concord grapes this year. I continue to harvest the grapes as they ripen and take the dark purple, sweet-tasting nuggets to Alline, who makes them into jelly and juice. It’s a beautiful partnership!
We had three people from the last Visitor Session stay on or return after the program ended. One of them, Charlotte, flew in from Florida and I picked her up from the airport several days ago. She will be hosted by Angela and me and will work for us in exchange for room and board. Her first night, she got rained out of her tent and spent the night in the Common House drying out. We hung her things in the greenhouse at Morel (my house), so they could dry even as it continued to rain the next day, and Hassan helped her string a tarp over her tent to keep the rain out. She has remained cheerful and resilient through it all, a good sign she will do well in the next few months she plans to live here.
The Milkweed Mercantile has had ongoing inn guests this week, all of them family members of Rabbits. I have been training Graham to take on some breakfast shifts and over the weekend we served two family-style breakfasts for nine people. We gathered everyone around one big table loaded with mile-high biscuits and homemade jams, zucchini fritters, and blueberry muffins along with the standard Critter eggs, Sandhill farm produce, and of course, plentiful cups of coffee. I’m not sure exactly why feeding people tasty food is so satisfying, but it keeps me coming back to work every week. It’s also interesting to get acquainted with the parents of some of my community members.
Birthdays are very important at Dancing Rabbit and much hoopla is made over them. This weekend, Alannah asked for a chocolate birthday cake with peanut butter frosting and my daughter Talia and I decided to collaborate and make her one. It was an interesting balance for me of helping Talia find the ingredients and supplies in the Mercantile kitchen and stepping out of the kitchen for moments to let her put the cake together. Talia is a veteran dessert-maker from way back (even though she’s only 20!) and I knew I could leave this dessert project in her capable hands. The finished product looked professional and delicious.
In preparation for Singing Rabbit this weekend and Dancing Rabbit’s annual Open House on September 8, residents and members gathered together for Land Clean Day on Saturday. Each of us chose some aspect of the village to beautify or repair in a three-hour work party. The advantage of numbers worked in our favor in getting these tasks done and the place looks great.
And what of my purpose in life? For me it boils down to this, as expressed by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk: “We are here to awaken from our illusion of separateness. We are all the leaves of one tree, we are all the waves of one sea.” Whatever I can do that moves me in this direction feels enriching and authentic.
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 and a couple of events and workshops, like Singing Rabbit and the Permaculture Design Course happening between now and October. How will you choose to get involved?