Matt with his wife Carolyn and son Henry.

Living Lightly: A Dancing Rabbit Update

Where does the time go? My answer could easily be my son, soon to be age 4; Carolyn, my partner for 11 years running; or the ever-growing list of homesteading tasks. In truth the answer is all of those things and more. This life can be relaxing, though my personal time is often fleeting. (Maybe I’m getting older and wiser, or maybe I’m just getting older.) Matthew here, writing as the new Development Director for the nonprofit at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage: the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture.

Matt with his wife Carolyn and son Henry.

One of the most fulfilling things about moving into community is that my social opportunities are abundant. As an introvert, I often find myself having more options than I can possibly commit to. (My family and I moved from Houston, Texas a little over two years ago and ironically, a city of roughly 2.3 million people was missing this dynamic.) Moving here was the most life-altering event I’ve ever experienced. I resigned from my job teaching music (which I still love, and seek out from time to time as a substitute teacher for our local school district) to trade it in for hauling water and gardening amidst the northeast Missouri prairie. I wouldn’t trade back now, but it took nearly a year to adjust. Whenever I can manage to knock the chore list down to an acceptable level, I enjoy: playing board games, ultimate frisbee, and just plain hanging out. My son and I visit the library frequently, and I enjoy overlapping my time with many of the people in my extended community in various ways. These activities, and the interconnected relationships I’m forming, bring perspective to the lifestyle we live here in intentional community and make the chore list worth the effort. I enjoy bringing my personal worldview into these interactions. I also enjoy teaching and learning in equal parts; the give and take of information is essential to my life. I learn as much from those I’m “teaching” as I give, and this interaction never ceases to draw me in more. It is a pleasant reminder that human connection and understanding can be a bridge, even when there is a difference of opinion, that I don’t have to agree with someone to listen to their experience, and that we both have knowledge to gain from the other.

Here at Dancing Rabbit we just finished giving our first 2019 visitor session a chance to experience a little of this lifestyle. I enjoy the time I spent with visitors, sharing about this community, answering their questions, and seeing their faces light up with inspiration. I remember my time spent on the other side of the equation, and I like to reflect on what I have to give to them now. In order to keep giving this knowledge and experience to others we need your help. We invite you to join us on May 1st for Give STL Day. This 24-hour online giving event will help keep our organization going, and help us further our outreach efforts, as well as provide scholarships to some of our visitors. Your gifts are the essential elements that we need to keep on growing. We thank you for giving back, and we appreciate you for being loyal readers.

Every time I read the weekly column I’m revitalized by the people that I now call my neighbors. I am able to refocus on the simple things that I easily take for granted. I recalibrate my attitude so that all tasks, even doing dishes (not my favorite duty), can have some positive effect on me. I hope that these inspiring stories of the lives of Dancing Rabbit members feed you as well. In part, this inspiration is what Dancing Rabbit is about: showing the imperfect nature of living this way, with the beauty, struggle and triumph it brings. There are wonderful individuals all around the globe doing amazing things. Sometimes I want to run out and join them. I question if I’m doing enough, and how I could be doing more. Maybe, this has a similar effect on you.

I felt stifled in Houston, nestled in a conventionally built suburban building and spending much of my time working and driving back and forth in traffic. I realized I wanted to live lighter. We were however fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with a loosely run yard policy. Our friends down the street had converted their entire plot to food production. In contrast, our nearest neighbors, though they were friendly folk, trimmed their grass to the extreme and applied herbicides and pesticides. Meanwhile, our yard was a haven for spiders and insects. The miniature jungle was quite a spectacle to behold: spiders crawled freely through the grass and garden in search of shelter or prey; flowers supported bees and other pollinators, which is what happens when you let clover grow; fallen leaves housed all the beetles that zone 7 afforded. As I teach my son the benefits of spiders, I often remember this time, but my love of spiders does not extend to getting caught in their webs, some brainstem responses are hard to reprogram. Missouri offers a new host of organisms to admire, and I hope to one day be able to identify them by sight so that I can teach that to my son as well. I love that Dancing Rabbit holds space for nature to thrive, so that humans can live alongside it. Being in nature constantly is healthy for my well being (seriously, it’s supported by scientific research).

Getting ready to be surrounded by nature this time of year means sharpening my scythe blade and building a snath (the implement that houses the scythe blade). Sure, the goal of mowing is to manage and reduce the longer blades of grass. However, that in turn gives us fodder, mulch, paths and exercise regimens. I am reducing months of growth from these amazing plants to tailor our homestead and use the collected material in a sustainable loop. It’s a give and take that has been one of my favorite uses of the limited time alloted to me. I am thankful for the chance to learn this skill, and I look forward to the day when I understand it well enough to close the circle and offer some of this knowledge to others. I enjoy giving back. Maybe you feel similarly. You read these stories each week. You help spread the messages, insights and sustainability tips that we share with you. I have learned that we are one small spoke that radiates out to all of you this year. I’m thankful that you are part of our readership. I encourage you to consider a contribution on May 1st. To make the most of your donation through prize pools, join us during the hours of: 12-1pm, and 6-7pm.

For updates about Give STL day and other exciting events, please follow us on Facebook. We appreciate your support and that we have an amazing audience. If you are not available on May 1st you can pre-schedule your donation as well.

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