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Working Within My Circle of Influence

With one last half-hearted dump of snow on April 20, winter finally lost its grip on us here in northeast Missouri, and spring has settled in for the moment.

Liz here, with the latest on ecovillage life at Dancing Rabbit.

I’ve been watching the weather closely, waiting for the night temps in the 30’s to consistently climb into the 50’s. I’ve been waiting for plastering weather. The crew and I over at the SubHub straw bale building project have been working full tilt since March on the upstairs lofts. Working  with reclaimed pallet boards, we’ve been building the gable ends of the building to enclose the upstairs. Most of the ceiliing insulation is installed and some bead board panels to cover it. Walls and ceilings are painted. Gable end eave boards are up and the sleeping ledges are almost done. The next step for the lofts is to inject cellulose in the wall and floor cavities for insulation and soundproofing.

It is a first for me to manage the workflow and supplies needed to keep five people working. And now that there has been some gel-ing of the crew and the weather is cooperating, we will all turn our efforts to making lime plaster and applying the finish coat to the exterior of this large (for DR) building. The finish coat is a little less than a quarter of an inch thick. After the finish coat dries for several weeks, we’ll paint it with a lime wash paint in a brown olive green color, meant to help it blend into the landscape. Most everything we do right now is new to Prairie, Grace and Idan, and sometimes to me and Graham as well. This experience is a study in patience and organization.

We had a cold spring this year, with one last day of snow on April 20. The days are warmer and the breezes softer in the last week or so, and I find my body starting to relax from the cold contraction of the last few months. I’m also starting to relax into routines I had before the pandemic, now that I am fully vaccinated, such as using the Common House for showers and laundry. There are also now more community activities being scheduled that used to be common here, such as poker night, meditation group, and song circle once a week. 

After another round of community discussion, it was decided that DR would be open for a visitor program in May, with a natural building workshop in June. I’ll be assisting with the natural building workshop, offering SubHub as a site for some workshop activities. Students will be helping to finish the subfloor in the kitchen, pouring cob plaster over tubes for radiant floor heating. Warm water flowing through the tubes in the floor will release warmth into the kitchen.

Last week we had another mini retreat, with the community gathering to discuss where we’ve been as a community and where we’re headed, and to form seed groups for various activities. Retreats are for coming together as a group and spending time together, as well as checking in as a group and generating ideas and plans for new 

In the last few weeks there have been more new faces around town, as community members host guests and work exchangers. I will be hosting a work exchange person to work at SubHub for a month. Hosting work exchangers is a great way to introduce people to our way of life and culture.

Spring is a time when I often take stock of what I did last year and what I would like to do differently this year. I subscribe to a few motivational people on line to keep me inspired and motivated, and I came across a concept that continues to be relevant to me, so I want to share it here. Lisa Nichols, a life coach and motivational speaker, brought up a reminder of two concepts found in the book, Seven Habits for Highly Successful People. She said that in our lives we each have a circle of concerns and a circle of influence. The circle of concern includes anything that we care about, but don’t have a direct effect on. For example, this can include political issues or other people’s behavior. Our circle of influence includes things that we can have a direct effect on. People who create change in the world (called movers and shakers), spend most of their time focusing on things that they have a direct effect on.

In a place like DR, which I like to think of as a big playground because there is so much that one can do here, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and sometimes discouraged about just how much change we can make with things that are important to us with the time and energy that we have.

If I feel overwhelmed and I’m trying to sort out where to put my energy and attention, I can use the concept of whether something is within my circle of concern or circle of influence to prioritize which things to focus on (assuming that one wants to be a mover and shaker in the world).

And now I leave you, dear reader, with a forward-looking quote from author Ursula La Guin:

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, who can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries—realists of a larger reality.

Right now we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. We live in capitalism, and its power seems inescapable; but then, so did the divine right of kings. Resistance and change often begins with art. Very often in our art, the art of words.”

Liz Hackney aspires to be a mover and shaker in the world through the SubHub subcommunity that is slowly forming at DR. She has tried her hand at cooking for visitors at the Milkweed Mercantile, ushering new residents into DR for three years, helping with natural building workshops, building a straw bale house for the subcommunity for the last two years, being a Village Council member, leading qigong classes, participating in retreats, restoration circles, women’s groups, and so much more.

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