The new mural by Scout in the early morning light. Photo by Nik.

Pandora and Permies: A Dancing Rabbit Update

We all remember the story of Pandora’s Box. In the mythology of Ancient Greece, Pandora was created as the first woman on Earth, much like Eve. She was given much beauty and abundance in her world, much like Eve. And she also was presented with something that she was commanded not to partake in, an elaborate vessel from Zeus that she had to promise never to open.

Nik here, and that story of ‘Dora and the box has been heavy on my mind since the second annual Permaculture Design Course (PDC) just wrapped up at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.

Before getting to more of Pandora, a bit more on the PDC. I wasn’t able to take the Permaculture course this year, because I was cooking meals for the course, along with the rest of the tireless and amazing crew of the Milkweed Mercantile. We prepared breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the students, who were in class from 8:30 am to sundown.

It seemed like a grueling schedule, but every time the students came in for a meal, they were smiling and bubbling with new thoughts and ideas about permaculture in their lives. Being on the outside looking in gave me an opportunity to see and hear the impact of the course on these people new to the village.

The fifteen students taking the nine-day course were from all over the country and were college-aged to retirement-aged. Two students were members of Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, and the course was organized and co-taught by our very own permaculture expert Sharon Bagatell. But it would be next to impossible to talk about this course without talking about Bill Wilson, of Midwest Permaculture, who has led the course here the last two years. He is a seemingly inexhaustible engine of joy and wisdom.

I heard many praises of the class throughout the nine days:

“I didn’t know what to expect, but this is a life-changing place and a life-changing experience.”

“The food was worth the price alone.”

“I laughed, I cried, I ate better than ever, I opened myself up to new experiences and I just really felt the love that exists here.”

Bill realizes himself how life-changing the course can be—on our last evening together around a soft fire, he admits to the group that no matter how life-changing it has been for his students, permaculture has changed his life irrevocably for the last 20 years. He gets the honor and privilege to pass on this way of living to students around the world.

This class was a truly rare opportunity, that could happen with no one else, and no where else. The combination of Midwest Permaculture and Dancing Rabbit is an extremely potent one.

The intensity of the class may have caught students off guard. While prepping for dinner on the first day of class, one student came into the Mercantile on a break looking a little worse for wear and maybe in need of a snack. I asked him how the class was going so far. He said he was pretty drained emotionally from the last presentation. The conversation delved into so much of what is wrong with the world, all of the opposition to making a positive change, and he was left with a sense of hopelessness.   

With a newly-acquired snack in hand, he went back to class to push through.

A few hours later, I saw that same student, smiling and sitting tall. The class had apparently shifted into a place of more answers and more hope. He told me how he’d been singing that gloom and doom story for so long, but what he saw here at Dancing Rabbit and in this class was different. There’s a prevailing attitude of hopefulness.

I nodded with a big smile and said, “Yes, of course! Because with no hope, there is no action!”

In the story of Pandora, the ending is what everyone forgets. That box was filled with all the gloom, doom, misery, disease, and crippling sadness… but at the very bottom of the container, small and glowing, there remained hope. Pandora had released pain and suffering into the world, but she also allowed hope to follow.

Changing the world is not a simple task, especially because it first starts inside oneself. First, we have to go through the doom and the doubt, feeling small and powerless against it all, but we chug through it. We know a Pandora’s box when we see it. Many people will look at that box, shake their heads, and say, “No, sir-ee, I’m not touching that thing, I’ve heard what’s in there!”

But at the bottom of Pandora’s box, there lies hope, if we dare to open it.

Next year, I’m going to get someone to cover my cook shifts and take the course. Care to join me and open that box?

Find out more about the Permaculture Design Course at Dancing Rabbit! (You can sign up on that page to be notified of 2017 Course dates.)

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and nonprofit outside Rutledge, in northeast Missouri, focused on demonstrating sustainable living possibilities. Find out more about us by visiting our website, reading our blog, or emailing us.

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