Prairie holding a Chinese cabbage from Ironweed Garden.

Living in the Now: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Long walks, deep talks; sweltering hours, wildflowers; pond dips, trampoline flips; brave leaps, long sleep; big hearts, loud far… — just kidding.

Prairie here, trying to play it cool beneath the relentless sun in Northeast Missouri.

Last winter, Ted and I hauled a ladder, fresh screws, and a driver to La Casa De Cultura (the house of culture, in English). With some patient encouragement from Ted, I ambled several yards skyward carrying a block of foam insulation to seal off an exposed part of the building; an opening that is useful in warmer weather, but an Achilles heel to any attempt at heating the space in frigid circumstances. Power tool in hand, I bolted the foam to the wall and scurried down, new experience added to my repertoire.

Come summer, I had long forgotten about that adventure. Last week, I (finally) managed to take down the insulation, this time without Ted’s help. In retrospect, it hardly feels like an adventure or even worth noting. But life is comprised of small, even quaint, moments like this. I believe it is a vital skill to actively acknowledge these brief drops of joy and courage, to collect and savor them. I come from humble beginnings, but I am a big dreamer. It is an immense gift to find myself here, in the now, the fullness of life amid avid thoughts of bold futures and wild desires. Surely there is a balance between being in the now and the distant but somehow present “then”. How does one contribute to an expansive future while staying diligently present right here?

I reflected on plentiful moments that brought a smile to my face over the last two weeks. I think an answer — if not the answer — lies among them.

Tuesday morning found me slicing and washing eight gallons of carrots, courtesy of the food pantry. Dancing Rabbit often acquires what overabundance is left from the local food bank. In an effort to prevent delicious food from going to waste, Ted and I mixed the carrots with onions, garlic from our garden, fresh ginger, dill seed, coriander, cumin, and hot peppers, also from the garden. Then, in a croc and five-gallon bucket, we poured in salty brine (water and salt). We topped off the ferments with stones to keep the vegetable matter submerged and stored them in the root cellar. After two weeks we will investigate our (hopefully) fermented treasure.

On Wednesday, I was covered in nectarine juice. It dripped lazily down my hands and onto the table in Ironweed kitchen. Thankfully, I had the two cents to put a towel down first. I placed thin slices onto sheets that went into our dehydrator. The next day, the delectable sweets were ready for storage. In the heart of Missouri winter, a small handful of dried fruit goes a long way!

Somehow, the earth grows food. How does it do it? I stared in amazement at the first cucumber out of our garden this year; the first I had ever helped to grow. It was long, a little spikey, and delicious.

Shelby, Emeshe, Eric, Christina, Max, Ted, Kim, and I met in the morning last Saturday to play ultimate and beat the heat. It was still oppressive. Sweat coated my body, leaving my hands too slick to catch the disc many a time. I was out of breath and achy from playing the evening before. It did not help that the wind took a liking to our frisbee, blatantly carrying it up over our heads, out of reach. We were laughed, relieved, when Shelby made the last point and ended the game.

Ten minutes later, I was standing beneath a cool stream of water. An outdoor shower lies just West of the ultimate field, providing relief and, that morning, a sense of perspective. The ache in my calves subsided as I noted the swift breeze and dancing tree limbs around me. The sky was streaked with white ribbons of cloud cover; a gently burgeoning sun touched the cool water on my skin, turning it crystalline before drying the moisture. I closed my eyes in the silence, the adrenaline fading from my extremities, leaving a sense of profound peace.

Future-oriented thinking has shown me the bare-bones of what I value, and what strategies I could embark upon to further embody my values. Like a roadmap, I can chart the course of my whole life, across many seas and valleys in a single thought. Where do I want to live? Who do I want to be? What do I want from my efforts? But viewing the world as a blueprint of what could be, rather than actually living in it has led me to forget to pause, to remember who I am and what is happening right now. Upon closer inspection, I discovered my fantastical, intellectual planning is itself a strategy to find meaning in existence. Paradoxically, when I start mind-mapping my world, I step out of it almost entirely. I miss the mercurial bird swoops, the velvet, indigo sky, peppered with mystery and knowledge; the taste of zucchini and broccoli from the garden, and the beautiful singing-voices of my neighbors.

But I do not think dismissing the inner-strategist-seeker-optimizer would be the winning shot either. After seeing Connie’s face light up as she talked about eventually moving into her house, I realized the excitement of things to come. I hear it in Baigz’s voice too, as he reports the progress on his house, and in it the whisper of a long-awaited wrap-up of the project.

There has been a long bout of social distance in the village, namely when it comes to meetings and community gatherings. However, our week in preview has resumed in person, as opposed to over email. About a dozen of us sat beneath a sprawling oak last Sunday, contagion groups spaced six feet apart, briefing ourselves on the week to come.

Makers Morning has reclaimed Saturday mornings and Aurelia is nearly exploding with excitement every weekend. People sew, knit, crochet, sing, chat, laugh, and otherwise connect over handwork. I have yet to make an appearance, though I have plenty of garden clothes that could use some mending about now. What a life we humans have. There always seem to be opportunities for growth, re-centering, and remembering. I hope to familiarize myself with the art of present-living, and simultaneous forward-moving. I realized why I felt so fulfilled amid the hours of carrot chopping last week: I had found the sweet spot. I was savoring the immediacy of my life while contributing to the security of my future. The instinctual pull toward gardening serves the same purpose. When I am focused on what is in front of me, I can feel my own aliveness, and the fullness of why life is worth living at all. And when I know that what I am doing will positively impact my future and the future of others in my community, I have arrived in balance. The present moment feels good when in it, one is carrying out one’s core values to create meaningful change, great or small. I have only ascertained meaning while being present. I intend to find myself there consistently. I hope to see you there too.

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