Howdy y’all, Ben here, again.
It is a pleasant morning in early May here at Dancing Rabbit. I have been awake for quite some time, prompted mostly by the pre-dawn scolding song of house wrens about my warren, the occasional crow of roosters, and the ever present hum of trains a mile and a half away. Shoeless on my way to feed the pigs and poultry, I am damp to the ankles in spring dew, soothing relief for the constellation of wild parsnip burns lining my left foot.
The chestnut sapling that we’ve planted down near the barn is finally beginning to leaf out, which means, I believe, that all the trees have broken dormancy. The oak leaves are on, many of them much larger than a squirrel’s ear. Even the late waking persimmons are festooned in slight little leaves.
The poison ivy is really flourishing, speckling banks, draws, and hillsides like blood drops. I haven’t got into it yet, but surely, my time will come, as it does every year for a few months.
Across the way, just over a clump of multiflora rose and up in an eastern red cedar is a cardinal nest with some helpless, nude hatchlings inside. My daughter has apparently been monitoring this situation for a while, and now I have a little bit more insight on what it is she’s getting into when she consistently shows up late for meals. I suppose it could be worse.
The birds awaken me most mornings, and the story of my life here in spring at Dancing Rabbit seems always to center on distortions of time. I begin waking earlier and earlier about now, undergo seemingly long interludes of quiet, solitary work that in reality only last a few minutes, and at other times I attempt a simple task, say, fixing a hinge or, more likely, looking for my pliers so I can fix a hinge, and find myself distracted, a thousand feet away and two hours late for whatever it is that I really ought to be doing.
If you really want a boss here, you might be able to find one, but for most folks I think time is essentially self-managed, which has pros and cons, at least for a brain like my own. The livestock we keep are like bosses to me. They don’t really pay me, but they don’t ask me to fill out paperwork either.
Some villagers have a careful pace to their day, often times scheduled electronically, guided by a litany of buzzers, bells, and ringtones. Me, I tend more towards running between about a dozen different tasks in an attempt to mitigate any minor emergencies, balancing in my head what is my next best strategic move. Then I hear a screaming goat with its head caught in a fence, which is a ringtone of sorts.
Sometimes I do this with my son Arthur, who toddles about, putting things in his mouth, or discovering the variety of unsafe places I keep leaving the hatchet. If he comes upon an item of interest, say some sort of rare piece of hardware that I want to use, he typically either clenches it in his small but strong baby fist, unwilling to release it to the point of tantrum, or slips it through a crack in the decking of our outdoor kitchen, irretrievable in some chasm. Then he says, “Oooh!”
The neighbors over at Sandhill held their annual May Day celebration this past weekend. I stuck around the homestead to take care of the animals, work on some projects, and enjoy the village on a spring afternoon without the activity and noise of my human neighbors, appreciative of them as I sometimes am.
I am sure it was a real brouhaha, complete with a Maypole dance, food, drink, all that. I’ve only been to the May Day celebration once, like a half decade ago, and have since found that it almost always seems to fall on my Personal Holiday of Solitude and Productivity.
I’ve found that living in community doesn’t require of me that I always prefer the company of humans, and often being in the company of this little human I helped create has satisfied some large part of my social needs lately. Sometimes I prefer babbling to intelligible conversation. Anyhow, I did take part in revelry of my own in support of the celebration, and I didn’t even have to embarrass myself, or accidentally smear face paint on my pillow, or sleep in a ditch. Plus I got some buckwheat planted.
May Day seems always to initiate what I sometimes refer to as The Season. For many of us here, our work and responsibilities do not start and end so much as cycle, but it is around this time that a lot of things need physical accomplishment, and additionally, we are soon inundated with visitors, work exchangers, stray dogs from the local flea market, old faces, new faces, and perhaps some ticks and chiggers thrown in for good measure.
There will be drama, complaints, minor injuries and accidents, clashes of ideology, communication, miscommunication, and over-communication. I will focus on keeping my feet on the ground, after I’ve run some chickens and goats over it and planted turnips in it. Still, it is all such a mess sometimes.
We may be a community that is dedicated to living peacefully with each other and harmoniously with the earth, but this is all in spite of the fact that we’re human beings, and from what I’ve seen, human beings so often cannot help themselves from making a mess. We can all choose how much we engage in mess-making, but inevitably, we must clean up our messes, or at least that’s what I tell the kids. I’m pretty thankful for my own mess, which is composed chiefly of duck manure, buckets I forgot about, overdue bills, tools I lost, and laundry. Lots of laundry.
Every growing season for me can be joyful so long as I am not completely stressed to the breaking point. There is a lot to observe and enjoy, like the clutches of baby chicks we raise naturally under broody hens; the goat kids frolicking and dancing out on pasture; the trees and children, ever maturing; the fat hogs lazing in barn shade; and the tiny little oat sprouts beginning to emerge after the recent bout of rains.
But with it all comes the responsibility, for me at least, of remaining a hardcore human being, capable of compassion, if not emotional depth, in spite of my own messes. It is one of the non-physical underpinnings of sustainability, and I’m figuring it out, just as soon as I figure out where I put the dang pliers.
Reminder: this Thursday, May 11th is Give STL Day—and we really hope you’ll join us for this exciting one-day-only online giving event! Why is it so exciting? Because if you give at specific times, your gift to support our nonprofit’s work will be maximized! We’ll be sending you an email reminder the day of, but just in case, please bookmark our giving page. You can also support us by spreading the word in your networks. Thank you!
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.