As we we left Minnesota, headed once again for Dancing Rabbit, the I-94 corridor sported a few inches of fresh snow — another reminder of our changing climate. Jami here, writing about my most recent return to the village. My husband Dan and I were excited to visit the friends we first got to know through the community’s weekly column, and who we now feel are a part of our extended family of choice.
Upon our arrival, we were surprised to hear that we’d picked an eventful time to visit. Not only did we arrive on Pizza Night — it’s always a treat to see the hubbub of the larger community at the Milkweed Mercantile — but the Dog and Gun was in progress too. The Dog and Gun, more widely known as the Rutledge Flea Market, is an expansive event that comes together once a month in the nearby town of Rutledge, from April through October. I was also glad to hear that there was a facilitated conversation for community members to discuss the issue of child abuse in the village. I love the people of Dancing Rabbit, and I have been distraught and prayerful about the situation. I am amazed by how the people of Dancing Rabbit continue to make such an effort to ensure that the events are processed, and to give everyone a chance to voice their concerns and needs, while working to move forward in a positive and hopeful way.
During my visitor session at Dancing Rabbit in the fall of 2014, much of the workshop time was spent learning about communication, conflict management, and healthy, respectful sharing. Each day began with a circle to check-in with each other to communicate how everyone was doing physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. This PIES model gave each of us an opportunity to process ideas and feelings from the previous day, and to talk them through with our fellow visitors, guided by our session liaisons: Hassan and Tereza. I found these PIES discussions to be enlightening and connecting, and that they generated empathy and understanding as I grew to love each of the members of my group. (As with any group of humans, some folks were easier to love than others.) Many of the friendships I formed at that time continue five years out.
I still practice PIES with groups of friends occasionally, and it is always a stimulating process that brings increased trust, intimacy, and love. Sometimes it also brings scary things. When I did this with a group earlier this spring, one of the members opened up about a near-death experience: while gathering wood, he experienced insulin shock. Luckily his partner found him in time to save his life. Our group grew more cohesive and supportive as we each shared our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual reactions to his experience, as well as that of his partner, before sharing about what was happening in our own lives. Two friends joined together in song that evening, and I found it to be a delightfully creative way of sharing PIES.
During my visitor session, we experienced some trust building and trust breaking, as well as communication breakdowns and resolutions, in the process of figuring out how to live together for three short weeks. We each brought our mix of skills and baggage to our new relationships with each other. We each brought our own perspectives on reality, our cultures, and our ways of living as well. Truth really does depend on where you stand. Perspectives are surprisingly diverse when you bring people from all walks of life together at an ecovillage in rural Missouri!
The Dancing Rabbit experience taught me about climate change, natural building elements like cob and living roofs, as well as gardens, and different kinds of co-ops. But the most enduring impact came from all I learned about human relationships. I can still reach out to people I met here to ask questions as they pop up in life: I’ve gotten a cob (earthen plaster) recipe from Rae, cistern ideas from Kyle, and many messages of love and humor over the years from a variety of Dancing Rabbit friends. It’s always fun to share what we learn from the folks here.
I spend most of my time working to stop the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline in Minnesota. It is hard, and sometimes depressing, work as thousands of people strive to show lawmakers and politicians, corporations and fellow citizens the risk posed by the pipeline — not only to the pristine waters of Northern Minnesota, the Mississippi River, and Lake Superior, but also to the world at large as we eat away the last of our remaining carbon budget.
Climate scientists are expressing more and more alarm at the too-quick pace of melting ice; sea level rise; the increasing intensity and frequency of storms, fires, droughts, and floods, as well as their devastating effects. Many places have become unlivable, yet we keep doing nothing on a global scale, even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was issued last fall. The world seems to be changing faster than any of us can imagine.
Many are awakening to the urgent need to address our climate catastrophe. With a concerted effort, similar to that which created the Apollo mission that took us to the moon, we could create a new way of life that focuses on clean energy, the restoration of our environment, and a safe, loving future for our children. Dancing Rabbit gives me hope that there is a way for people to live full and delicious lives by living more simply, more lovingly, and more respectfully. It isn’t easy — mostly because we are still humans with emotions, ideas, fears and perspectives that still must be reconciled — but it is possible. The future can be very bright if we all decide to focus less on consumption and more on community; less on money and more on human relationships; less on the hurried rush and more on communing with nature.
The birds are singing, the owls are flying, the green things are growing and Dancing Rabbit is alive and well as our visit comes to an end. It has been delightful to see the food production, creativity, and technological innovation happening here. The gifts of a visit to Dancing Rabbit are endless, but most important are the gifts of friendship and comradery. It is always good to spend some time reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Love abounds.
Jami Gaither was a visitor to Dancing Rabbit in 2014. She lives with her husband Dan in Alida, Minnesota, where they are building a Permaculture homestead and a resilient, sustainable community with neighbors. She blogs as “Retired at 45” on WordPress.
Would you like to visit Dancing Rabbit and learn some wonderful things that you can take home with you, like Jami did with the PIES communication model? Visit our website now and register for the 2019 visitor session of your choice.