Time stands still for no one, and that is certainly true at Dancing Rabbit. Liz here, describing the ebb and flow of life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Spring has definitely sprung. The whole landscape is turning green and the first bulbs are beginning to flower. We have had mild temperatures, rain and cool winds, which is typical of spring weather in northeastern Missouri. Often, when I’m exchanging pleasantries about the weather with my village friends, there will be the inevitable warning not to get too used to it: April often has surprises in store. We had snow for a few days last year, luckily before most people had put any seeds or starts in the ground. When the weather is fine, many people here find something to do outside and the kids can once again be seen clustered around Andrea’s trampoline across the gravel road from me, laughing, yelling, and playing.
I have recently adopted a mixed terrier named Roxie, and on these warm days we have been taking long walks on the restored prairie that is part of Dancing Rabbit. We also make the rounds through various neighborhoods in the village, talking to whoever happens to be outside and stopping to introduce Roxie to her new dog friends. Becoming a communitarian has just as steep of a learning curve for dogs as it does for humans: she has to be comfortable with a wide range of humans and the unpredictable behavior of children; she has to get along with dogs, especially those that are allowed to be off-leash here; and she has to be able to deal with lots of comings and goings, especially when we’re hanging out at the Mercantile. I have gotten used to training this dog, who is five years old with no prior training, in what is essentially a fish bowl. I have come to love it, as there is no question I have about training that can’t be answered by someone around here.
Another aspect of village life that signals that spring is here is the seasonal shifting of living quarters. As soon as the weather is warmer, various people move out of their warm winter spaces and into housing more suitable for spring and summer weather. Some people move into tents, and others move to new rentals. Even though my little straw bale cottage is warm in winter and cool in summer, I often get caught up in speculating about where I should move within the village.
My daughter, who has been here for a year now, will soon be moving to Kirksville about an hour away to be closer to her community college classes, and I’ve contemplated renting a larger place in the village with an extra bedroom so that she can come home whenever she needs/wants to. Of course, a larger place comes with additional space in the living room and dining room, and because of that I am looking at renting much more space than I really need just for me and my little dog (she weighs 10 pounds with her harness on). This kind of thinking happens to a lot of us in the mainstream culture, and may be why houses in the U.S. are an average of 2000 square feet nowadays; we are each expected to be so independent that we think our houses must be suited to meet every need we might expect to have. For example, we might think we can’t do without an extra large dining room to host Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family each year, or an extra bedroom so that we can invite friends and relatives to visit from far away, or a large kitchen to cook for parties.
I have a strong memory of coming to visit Dancing Rabbit right before I moved here. I had about 10 items on my list, related to running several businesses from here, that were worrisome to me, and I happened to mention this while sitting at lunch with Hassan and Bear. They invited me to share my list, and they pointed me to a solution or a person to talk to about some shared resource that I could take advantage of. Within a few minutes they solved each problem with a community solution. At the time I was still somewhat unaware of how people share resources here, and it was a revelation that others might be able and willing to help me with practical matters — that has continued to be the case for the last two years. Being in an environment of collaboration, and having the opportunity to practice shifting my thinking from consumption to simplicity, is one of the main reasons I moved to Dancing Rabbit.
Spring is also a time when we get ready for visitors with Land Clean Day. Most of the village pitches in for three hours weeding, mulching paths, clearing brush, repairing foot bridges, and many other tasks. My favorite land clean task is mulching paths. Christina and I have taken on this job several years in a row now, and we catch up on personal news while filling up our wheelbarrows before wheeling mulch out to different parts of the village.
I have mixed feelings this year about hosting our first visitor program, so soon after the Situation. I find myself not signing up for any of the volunteer positions, such as picking up visitors arriving at the train station or airport, leading workshops, or cooking for visitors, which I would usually do. I am amazed that most of my fellow villagers seem up for having strangers here for several weeks, looking at our lives in detail during a time of turmoil and fatigue. I am glad that they are up for it so that I can fade into the background until I’m ready to come out of my shell and be social again.
There have been so many changes this winter, and I am grieving them. At the same time, spring energy is stirring in me and my mind is presenting plans for action this season to carry me through the summer. In that spirit, and to encourage all of us who find ourselves without stable ground to stand on and aren’t sure which direction to go in, I offer some words from Jack Kornfield, dharma teacher and author, from his book called, No Time Like the Present:
“In Zen they say there are only two things: you sit [in meditation], and you sweep the garden. And it doesn’t matter how big the garden is. As you quiet your mind and listen to your heart, you discover that your spirit will not be satisfied unless you also tend your garden. Pick something you care about. It can be local or global, reducing racism or fighting climate change. Educate yourself, make close friends with others who are different from you, join the local school board, volunteer at a hospital, work for a political cause, or help the school plant a garden. Lower your carbon footprint. Add your voice and energy. Plant seeds for a compassionate future. You can’t change it all, but your freedom empowers you to contribute to the world, and your love gives you the way to do so.”
What do you care most about? What occupies your thoughts and stirs your feelings? For those of us living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, the answers include ecological sustainability and living in community. If you’re on a similar wavelength, we invite you to visit us sometime this year. You may learn some new things, make some new friends, and return home with new tools with which to tend your garden.