I was going to write about my Christmas week spent back in my hometown in California, but California gets enough attention. In the meantime, I’ve weathered record cold temps here at Dancing Rabbit, and lived to tell the tale. Liz here, with the latest from my ecovillage home.
I returned from California to find my yard covered in snow, and it took several days of running the wood stove to get the straw bale walls back to releasing heat at night, that process aided by passive solar warmth passing from the attached greenhouse through a bank of windows on the south side of my cottage.
It wasn’t until we were halfway through the week of temps culminating in minus 15 (15 ticks below the zero mark!) that one of my Thistledown kitchen mates happened to mention that it had been 10 years since he’d seen temps this low. And I had been thinking that winters were usually like this! So instead of feigning nonchalance at walking around doing chores like carrying wood into the house while the climate outside continued its icy temperature decline, I ended up feeling good about my ability to just carry on life as usual. Although I did spend much more time inside sitting in my easy chair in front of the fire than I had in December.
I had an uneasy feeling being in such a different climate after a lifetime spent in mild California. As I told many people: “I don’t know what I don’t know, so if there’s something different I’m supposed to be doing, point it out to me.” I took an academic approach to learning to build fires in my little stalwart wood stove, figuring out how to warm my cottage but prevent it from becoming sweltering, especially up in the loft. I looked at the weather report throughout the day, comparing that with my body’s experience when I went outside, trying to get a feel for what that kind of cold is like.
The population at DR dwindles in the winter as people leave to visit friends and family during the holidays, and when I got back from my own trip to California, I suddenly had an urge to attend community potluck and dinner, which I had been mostly avoiding up until then. I have a terror of small talk the way people who can’t swim fear deep water. But with the cold and the dark, it suddenly seemed appealing. I got so many welcoming smiles! I felt emotionally warm on my relatively long walk back to my cottage.
With fewer people here come more responsibilities to cover for others, including washing dishes and making coffee at the Milkweed Mercantile and baking desserts for pizza night. I continue my own cooking job, creatively overcoming the limited access to fresh greens and veggies and trudging carefully through the snow and ice with food boxes to be shipped to my client.
Activities have continued here despite the low population, such as five rhythms dance, qigong, and group meditation. The latest to start is a study group on nonviolent communication (NVC), a cornerstone of conflict resolution at Dancing Rabbit. It will continue for the next 15 weeks. One of the reasons I had wanted to move to DR was to improve my ability to communicate with others and the chance to become fluent in NVC. I look forward to the insights to be gained there.
The winter is a time for stillness and reflection and every winter I struggle with wanting to saturate myself in this and with the demands of a modern world where we are expected to continue at the same pace no matter what the season. This clash makes me irritable, makes me feel that I’m not being true to myself, that I’m not learning valuable lessons from the rhythms of nature. This year this feeling is combined with the village-wide feeling of resting up for the next busy visitor season ahead and the importance of having some private time for the community after our spring, summer, and fall of sharing our lives with so many.
I woke this morning at my now usual 5:30 and trudged carefully over to Thistledown for my now routine meditation sit with Christina. For the first time in my life there is no resistance to this routine, no arguing or complaining to myself or others, no self-congratulation. Just doing. Several inches of snow has fallen overnight and I see that I am making the first human tracks on the path. But there are signs of life all over the fresh snow. I try to identify them: rabbit, mouse, bird, deer. Then suddenly human boot marks appear. Because I know everyone who could have made those tracks, I try to imagine who it might be: who gets up early, who has feet that size, who would be coming over to my neighborhood. It is a typical Rabbit curiosity. It makes me smile to myself that I have picked up this way of thinking.
The last few weeks I’ve looked for opportunities to sit in my easy chair in the warmth generated by the wood stove, reflecting on the events of the last year, to see what I think of all that’s happened to me, given some time and distance. And so I leave you with some words from Jaya the Trust Coach, my latest favorite Wise One. This reads to me like a how-to for cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for all, whether we live in community or not, and can be applied to the present moment or to reflections on the past.
“Make little of how maddening the quirks and flaws of others can be. Make much of the crazy adorability factor in all. Make little of how others inconvenience you or interrupt your life (where there are others, there will be that). Make much of your capacity to choose, to say yes or no truthfully – make much of your willingness where you are actually willing. Make little of how others make you uncomfortable. Make much of your capacity to recognize, speak and hold YOUR boundaries. Make little of how others don’t get you. Make much of how well you get yourself, how willing you are to get them. Make little of being stuck with anyone. Make much of self-permission to move away from incompatible or meh or not-good-for-you others. Make much of your ever-healthier capacity to move toward those who easily stir up love and magic with you.”
Come experience the “crazy adorability factor” here at Dancing Rabbit during one of the 2018 visitor sessions or workshops! Check out all we have to offer and make your plans to come see us in person soon!
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.