Would you believe me if I told you that there’s a woman who worked as a nurse in London, while living on a sailboat; was also a regional manager for an important company, covering 26 U.S. states and Japan; who co-owned and operated a business making t-shirts; actually witnessed Woodstock, live and in the flesh; AND is a skilled, certified massage therapist? Well, you better believe me, because her name is Cat, and she lives at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.
In just a couple short years, Cat has become an indispensable member of our community, and one of my dearest friends. Her life is filled with amazing experiences that I find captivating to hear about, and she isn’t finished yet, because she hasn’t seen the last of her life. (She doesn’t like to humble-brag, so I’ll do it for her.)
Cat and I work on a committee together, and every time she comes by to get some stuff done, we silly-dance for a few seconds to start things off on a high note. Last time she came by, we hung out for a little while, and I had an opportunity to hear about how things have been for her in our village, including many of the benefits that are most valuable to her, as well as some of the challenges that she has had to move through in her journey into community. Please allow me to tell you a little about this badass elder woman, who I like to call Cat the Courageous.
The first thing Cat opened up to talk about is how much she loves the land here. She relishes watching the birds flit amongst the trees and hearing them sing to one another in the morning; she loves seeing the wild bunnies scampering amongst the grass, or elusive deer roaming the prairie while walking on our back acreage; and most of all she loves to watch the sunrise paint the horizon pink, orange and yellow in the quiet hours at dawn. Nature does have its drawbacks, alas. Cat can’t stand the ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes that like to harry us in the warmer months; and the extremes of summer heat and winter cold can be a challenge to endure, for critters two-legged and four-legged alike. “As I was leaving my house to come here, Gracie,” Cat’s beloved feline companion, “was splayed out in front of the screen door begging for a breeze. I feel the same way,” she told me with a big laugh.
Cat does a lot to stay active here, and she has plugged in to do a number of important things in our community, both within the village itself and the surrounding area. She volunteers regularly at the local food pantry, and it’s a godsend for many of the folks here, because she sometimes comes home with stacks of food that would otherwise go to waste. Everyone here is so appreciative of having a skilled masseuse in the village, and I can tell it brings Cat tremendous joy to offer a service to our community that folks highly value. She is also passionate about veganism, and spends a lot of time cooking and baking (she made an apple-ginger spice cake with vegan cream cheese frosting for a party we threw a few weeks ago, which was to die for), and she will be doing some of the cooking for our upcoming community singing event. Therein lies one of her challenges, which is making a satisfying meal for around 70 people on a budget of just $2 a person.
This summer, Cat was a liaison for a group of fifteen people from all around the country, who came to spend one or two weeks with us, experiencing life at Dancing Rabbit, learning about ecological sustainability, and just relaxing to have a good time. The role of a liaison is to help our guests understand our village customs and some of the things we do a little differently here, to be available as emotional support for anyone having a hard time, and to help resolve any interpersonal problems that might arise. After speaking with some of the visitors, I know for sure that many of them think she’s as awesome as I do.
Spending a lot of time staying active isn’t always a pleasure, though. Cat, like many of us living at Dancing Rabbit, doesn’t have plumbing for running water in her house, so she has to haul it in from a public tap, or our common building. Chores can be a drag too, sometimes, like when a load of laundry comes out dirtier than it went in because of a capricious washing machine.
Cat is a prominent figure in our village social life, and she’ll often be found having a rousing conversation with the morning coffee club, sharing a laugh during happy hour, or telling one of her engrossing stories over pizza at the Milkweed Mercantile, our local eco-tavern. I saw Cat’s eyes light up when she described her expanding network of friends, though in the same breath, she noted that being so closely connected with so many people has led her to become more of an introvert — not a bad thing by any means, but an eye-opening experience for someone accustomed to being a social butterfly. “Joining hands with others during circle-up and singing a song in unity with everyone is one of my favorite things,” she said.
Close connections with others is a two-sided coin. Working with other people’s perspectives, often wildly different from our own, can be difficult for anyone, and Cat shared that she sometimes feels heartbroken that others don’t care as deeply for animal life as she does. Cat also highlighted one of the challenging social dynamics in our community that often lands hard with newcomers: “If you ask three Rabbits a question, you’ll get five different answers. Sometimes a lack of knowledge, especially specific details, leads me to wonder if I’m really doing my best, and if I could be doing more.”
The state of our country now, which seems to becoming more politically divided and ideologically adversarial by the day, weighs heavily on her shoulders, in ways mental, emotional and practical. Cat shared that she was recently kicked off of coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and had to pay about $1500 out of pocket for a recent appointment. Unfortunately, our local representatives are often unresponsive to Cat’s needs, and the needs of several thousand other good, hard-working people, even though she reaches out to them on a weekly basis.
Living a life more in line with her values is tremendously important to Cat. Here, she feels empowered to care for the Earth, and for others, in community. One of her core values, which we all share at Dancing Rabbit, is feminism. Being in our village has helped Cat to engage with dismantling white male privilege in a caring, constructive way, that doesn’t bring shame to anyone. “I didn’t understand what feminism was really about until living here. I’ve been exposed to new ideas, and seen things in action. I still do a double-take every time I see men wearing skirts, and I’m working on deprogramming that preconception. I’ve become aware of women’s participation in patriarchy, including my own.”
Personal growth is perhaps inevitable, living in intentional community. Cat described it as a veil having been lifted. She told me how she has been forced to confront herself, with honesty, integrity, and crystalline realism. One realization that was challenging for Cat was the scope of her personal ecological impact, including flying twice a day in a past career. “Living here can’t make up for my carbon footprint, but I hope to help others recognize the impacts they’re having, and to inspire them to make positive changes.”
“Dancing rabbit is like an onion. Every day is a new layer being revealed. I’m loving every minute of it.” I hope you won’t miss out on your chance to meet Cat and all the other wonderful people who live here. Your last opportunity to spend two weeks with us in 2019 and discover the magic of living in our community is October 6th – 20th. Don’t worry if you can’t take that much time out of your schedule; you can come to just the first week of the visitor program, or you can attend our Ecovillage Weekend Experience, which is the same in many ways, but condensed to fit into a four-day long weekend, September 26th – 29th. Whichever option you choose, we’d love to have you as our guest, and share with you our dream for humanity to live in harmony with nature. We can’t wait to meet you!
Center for Sustainable & Cooperative Culture
at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage
P.S. If you live within a reasonable distance of northeast Missouri, and you’d like to take part in a special once-a-year opportunity to take a deep tour of our village, you’re welcome to come to our Open House on September 7th, starting at 1pm. It’s free to attend, and it’s a great way to meet some of the folks who live here, get a glimpse of the projects we’re working on, and see our beautiful community firsthand. Check Google Maps for the best directions from your area.