Between maintaining three large garden spaces, bottom-lining our cheese production, working a part-time job, building an online business, planning a wedding celebration in the fall, and applying for my wife’s Green Card, it’s all too easy to lose perspective. What’s really important to do? Why am I doing all of this? Avi here, reporting from dry and overgrown Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, where the endless optimistic potential of spring seems like a lifetime ago and the mid-summer toil is in full effect.
Twice a week, I experience a moment that encapsulates the joy of being here, where I live this extremely challenging, yet rewarding, lifestyle. It comes around 10 AM on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. A half dozen of us saunter down to the pond after a rousing game of ultimate frisbee to cool off. Some dive in, some ease in from the dock, and some walk in from the newly expanded beach area. Then there’s a chorus of “oohhs” and “aahhs”, a verbalization of the blissful physical release and relief from the heat.
Then Mark will say: “We’re living the dream. Someone is sitting in traffic right now.” For that moment, especially if it’s a Tuesday morning, it’s all so clear. I didn’t spend the morning in transit to a job I’m not excited about. I spent it gardening, playing a fun game with my friends, and relaxing in the pond. What could be better than that?
A couple hours later, I’m eating sauteed vegetables, cheese, and eggs for lunch. The veggies — garlic, onions, carrots, kale, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers — all came from our garden, the cheese is made from milk produced by the goats we cooperatively take care of, and the eggs came from our neighbors’ chickens.
Recently, I’ve been taking a midday siesta, which almost always involves some quality time with my wife, as neither of us have a job that requires us to be away from home all day. In the afternoon, I work on the computer and have work meetings, and in the evening there’s often social time with my neighbors and friends. It’s a beautiful lifestyle we’ve co-created here; cheap cost-of-living, and expensive in nearly every other way.
The responsibilities and demands that come with doing nearly everything ourselves is overwhelming at times. Troubleshooting my off-grid electricity system, hauling water for the sink, running a football-field length of hose from the pond to the storage cube in my garden plot, chasing an escaped goat, helping a lost child find their parents, making time to have a conversation with someone who feels hurt by something I did or needs support with something they’re struggling with, mowing the grass, etc.
In the cool of spring, it all felt like welcome outlets for the pent up energy of a winter’s hibernation. In the heat and humidity of summer, it feels like a masochistic test of character and endurance. Lately, I’ve been thinking about whether I’d trade some of the freedom, self-sufficiency, and eco-radicalness for a little more comfort, reliance, and specialization.
There are so many things to deal with in living a mostly off-grid, self-sufficient, communal lifestyle. We make our community go. It’s unrelentingly demanding, yet forgiving. It’s mostly the unreality of my expectations, and desires for how things might be, that torture me and leave me feeling like no matter how much I do, it’s never enough.
The truth is we’re not so different here. Or at least, I’m not so different here — not so different from the outside Western world and the suburban or city lifestyle that most humans are living nowadays. Let me tell you: the Protestant work ethic is alive and well in me, a Jewish student of Sufism, and in my secular Ecovillage community. Through our work, we can achieve salvation!
Keeping up with the Joneses is layered on top of that. We’re not striving for the shiniest new car, the largest house, the latest technology, and the highest salaries, but it’s no less present. Who can save the most water? Who’s willing to endure the slow trickle of watering the garden from a gravity fed storage cube full of rain water? Who’s going to break and connect the hose to the county water main? Who can live in the smallest house? Burn the least wood? Eat the most local? Volunteer for the most community work? Who communicates in the most sensitive way? Who’s doing enough activism? Who travels the least? Who’s the most open to alternative ways of everything — health, parenting, romantic relationships, etc.?
I wonder if somewhere on a city highway on a 95-degree Tuesday morning, someone is jamming out to some tunes and saying to themselves or their passengers: “We’re living the dream. Someone is cooling down in a slimy pond after working the fields all morning.”
It’s a beautiful lifestyle we’ve co-created here. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what feels true for me is no matter which lifestyle I’ve lived, how I feel about it on any given day depends on which eye I’m looking out of.
Are you interested in seeing life through the eyes of a Rabbit? You have lots of opportunities coming soon. The first is our annual Open House, on Saturday, September 7th, from 1:00 – 4:00 PM. It’s free to attend, and you’ll get to enjoy a special tour of the village, with Rabbits stationed around the community to tell you in detail about many of the different aspects of life here. There will also be refreshments, perhaps a few vendors selling their wares, and a chance to talk one-on-one with some of us. Alternatively, if you’re craving a deeper exploration of what life is like in our community, you can come to our Ecovillage Weekend Experience from September 26th – 29th. You’ll get a taste of all dimensions of life in our unique community, including some of the delicious food that Avi mentioned, along with several engaging workshops, opportunities to make friends and have fun, and so much more. We can’t wait to see you!