As the van pulled onto the driveway and past the “sing” signs, I could feel a knowing and growing excitement in the pit of my stomach. This was it: Village Fire, the largest singing event I had ever attended, last year. Now I was here again.
Prairie here, to tell you about my experience singing last June, and my pure excitement for Singing Rabbit, our very own singing event here at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which gathers this Labor Day weekend!
When my family drove past the greeters, my heart began to beat faster. I had already recognized two of the people. As soon as the engine was off, I flew out the door to hug the people I knew and introduce myself to those I didn’t. I felt right at home by the time the opening circle began. (Someone even let me use their air pump for my mattress because I had forgotten mine.)
After an introduction, full of gratitude and excitement, the first song was taught. My heart felt more ready to sing than my vocal cords, as I hadn’t practiced or prepared for this beforehand, but that didn’t seem to matter. Everyone’s voices flowed beautifully together, even if I fell out of key or tried a harmony that didn’t resonate. The richness of the circle simultaneously allowed for individual experimentation and deep connection with one another.
There are so many stories I could share from my latest singing adventure. The one that jumps out most prominently for me was when I taught a song to more than fifty people. There was a growing pressure in me to teach a song that I wrote last winter. A few friends of mine from Dancing Rabbit and elsewhere had heard it and sung it with me before, but now I wanted to feel it expand with the voices of dozens of people. I already taught two other originals that day to smaller groups, and received grateful and encouraging reception, but nothing could prepare me to teach such a large crowd.
It was the last night-circle of the event; I knew it was now or never. I stood, crossed to the center of the tent, and walked around the fire. My hands were shaking. I tried to remain steady as I met the eyes around me. I jumped right in and introduced the song, (forgetting to do the same for myself). I was surprised how clear and strong my voice sounded to my own ears. I led the first and second parts even as I heard little whispers of doubt in my mind: People aren’t interested, you’re not teaching it well, they don’t like the song. I kept singing. And so did everyone else. The heat from the fire, coupled with everyone’s gazes, felt overwhelming. I belatedly remembered the third part, and with the last of my cracking voice, taught it. I could barely speak by the time we ended the song. But I finally did it.
I was relieved to sit back in the circle and feel people’s eyes slide away from mine. The silence after a song feels profound and respectful, like we are honoring the space it opened in our hearts to let it in. I wanted to pitch my song out of my brain and into an ocean far away, so I didn’t have to recall my failure at teaching it, but I soon forgot my troubles as the next person stood to teach a song of their own, ready to show us all where they had been in a moment of their lives, through words, melody, and rhythm.
On the next (and last) day of Village Fire, people thanked me for what I had shared the previous night. At the time, I received the gratitude alongside my own scathing inner dialogue about my failure as a song leader. Now, though, I see things in a new light. I will never teach that song the way I did that night, because I am a different person now than I was then. All that was within me was held in those moments, never to be experienced exactly the same way again. Even if I felt nervous, doubtful and overwhelmed, I still tried my best. I moved with the fear and remembered the value that singing embodies for me: it captures the essence of humanness, raw and unimpeded by culture, race, age, and beliefs. I think everyone can sing, whether they like the way they sound or not.
All of these joyous moments and memories are held cherished in my heart, craving for more to be added — it makes the next two months of waiting for Singing Rabbit excruciating, as well as delightful, as I practice letting my inner songs weave their way out. I can’t wait to sit around the fire in my very own home and ecovillage to share songs, as well as community, in our intimate gathering of voices. I don’t plan to sound perfect for Singing Rabbit, and I hope to see you there too, with all your imperfections.