Katie with a snake

New Rhythm, New Life at Dancing Rabbit

I went to pick up my U-Haul for the drive from Ohio to Missouri with my heart in my throat. I had lived within an hour radius of nearly all my family and friends for all my life, and, at the sight of the ubiquitous white and orange truck, the reality of my impending move hit with all the force of…well, a moving truck. No way could I do this.

Then something caught my eye: The graphic upon the side of the truck (always a U.S. state or Canadian province) just happened to be of Missouri and depicted a famous regional bat cave. Bats are one of my favorite animals. The odds of me getting that image were 1 in 200. I don’t often look for signs, but it was hard to miss one the size of a wall. So, I took the leap. Katie here, finding a new rhythm in a new life.

Today marks two months and a week since my eight-hour journey to Dancing Rabbit with my dog, cat, and two snakes. While I still feel like a bit of a transplant, every new day makes a bit more sense and feels a bit more right. It helps to be very literally and figuratively grounded by the natural world just outside the door of my straw bale cabin. My dog and I walk dew-spotted paths that are less and less confusing, and now we have enough time under our collective belt to notice the changes in the land as summer begins to loosen its grip.

The mulberries have come and mostly gone, staining both my tongue and my feet purple. The fireflies arrived, twinkling like the stars that shine cold white above my head. They’re dwindling now, the season of their lives coming to an end as they blink out their goodbyes. Just as the last of the raspberries were plucked from the vines by hungry birds and children, the blackberries swelled into being, and now they’re softening back into nothingness. Cicadas sing to the hot sun. My dog, Ripley, pokes her head through curtains of sky-blue chicory flowers, looking for rabbits. Wild bergamot, ironweed, and clouds of Queen Anne’s lace soften rolling hills of bluestem. Tadpoles swim in five-gallon buckets dotting worksites, and butterflies drink from mud puddles. Everywhere I look, there is some sort of being obeying the ancient circle of the seasons.

Trying to reweave myself into that rhythm has been more of a challenge. I wonder if the ironweed gets homesick for the original prairie that once grew here in riotous diversity. All I know is that I feel homesick at times. It’s a new sensation for me — being so far from the land that formed me. I miss my mom, but she’s never too far; whenever I catch a toad or spy some bright pink coneflower against the green, I know she’s there. I miss my dad, but I hear his voice saying, “measure twice, cut once” and “get your butt behind you” as I help with a construction project. I have often found myself thinking “I cannot live every path, and so I must choose to be content where I am” or, as a wiser mind than mine once said, “wherever you go, there you are.” If I had chosen the mountains, I would long for the seacoast. If I had chosen the coast, I would long for the desert. If I had chosen the desert, I would long for the forest. And so, I chose to plant myself in the prairie among the flowers I so love.

I am feeling more and more at ease with not just the community of plants and animals surrounding me, but also with my fellow Rabbits. I am learning that living with dedicated, passionate people is rewarding and difficult, and that we are more than the sum of our parts. A child in the community asked if she could call me “Snakey” for my love of the animals, and for my luck in finding them. It makes me smile every time I think of it. I walk out my door and instead of hearing traffic, I hear birdsong, crickets, banjo, and irimba (a musical instrument). For the first time in many years, I’m feeling inspired and I’m allowing myself to imagine a future that doesn’t involve sitting in traffic or slaving away at a job that saps my life energy just so that I can barely get by. I’m taking a step out of constructed scarcity and into natural abundance. I’m imagining a future that lets me rise with the sun and see the clear stars at night, that lets me truly get to know the character of a place and its people. In time, I hope that I might naturalize myself just as the chicory and dandelions have, and travel fearlessly from season to season.

Katie Sumner is one of our newer residents at Dancing Rabbit. You can see her often walking her dog and pausing to identify insects and birds. As a new crew member constructing the straw bale building called SubHub, she can simultaneously sing along to most songs from the musical Hamilton while she mixes clay plaster or hammers 2x4s.