Liz’s proposed permaculture project site, with her friend the silver maple tree, and a view of Dancing Rabbit’s Old Pond.

Since I moved to Missouri from California almost two years ago, I have had a tendency to look back and compare my experiences with each turn of the season. Whenever I can recall a memory of Dancing Rabbit instead of California, things feel a little easier. Liz here, with an update on the new year from Dancing Rabbit.

Last winter I traveled back to California three times for various reasons and it was hard being split between two homes. While there, I had my first Christmas with my young adult kids, but without my estranged partner of 34 years. I sold my house in Berkeley and hauled one last load of my belongings across the country to my Missouri home. This winter my kids are living at Dancing Rabbit and they’re both doing well. As I let go of each strand of my past I feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders and more joy comes into my life.

I have been very excited about a permaculture project I would like to do, and because I’ve already talked everyone’s ear off about it at Dancing Rabbit, I decided to sign up for an online course through the Permaculture Women’s Guild. There I get to learn more, have access to the student forum, and meet others who are launching permaculture projects around the world.

A permaculture concept new to me is habitat edges. Edges are areas where several habitats meet. This overlapping area usually supports a diversity of lifeforms that take advantage of two or more habitats and form a unique combination of the areas. The edge is where, according to many permaculturists, the juicy, most productive growth happens. I’ve been thinking about how living in an ecovillage can be like living in an edge habitat, with people co-creating sustainable ways of being.

It was pretty quiet here on New Year’s Eve, with collaging and dream boarding, (an artistic process where people collected pictures and created a visual narrative to describe their dreams for the coming year). There was also a gathering at Ironweed Kitchen where folks toasted to Finland’s new year, which happened at nine o’clock Missouri time, allowing residents an earlier bedtime without missing out. Those who stayed late mixed drinks to celebrate the new year in each time zone and played fictionary, a game in which players make up definitions for uncommon words and vote for the ones they think are best.

Melany and Zach had their wedding and reception at Dancing Rabbit on New Year’s Day. Alline and I rolled up our sleeves (figuratively), cooked the reception feast and served it at the Mercantile with festive lights and cedar boughs on the tables. There was chicken saltimbocca, green beans almondine, and home cooked rolls. Zach’s mother, a cake decorator, brought the multi-tiered wedding cake with her from Texas.

I’ve often been visiting the proposed permaculture site this winter, to watch it change through the seasons. Near an old pond there’s a silver maple tree that looms large in the landscape. Recently I walked up to this tree and asked myself what a relationship with it would look like. Almost before I was aware of what I was doing I reached up while placing my foot in the lowest crook of the tree. Of course! As a kid I had been an enthusiastic climber of trees. But now I’m 56, and I hadn’t climbed a tree since my teen years. Would my body be able to lift me? Would my body remember how to work with the structure of the tree? Would I be able to climb down?

My hands reached out, my eyes calculated, my feet found their footholds. I even remembered to brace my back between its two trunks for leverage. The tree accommodated my body perfectly. Pretty soon I found a branch to sit on and stretch my legs out, back against a trunk, with my body facing the winter sun. I caught some movement to my left and saw my nearest neighbors watching me with concern. I waved and smiled; they waved and smiled back. (Later Jason would tell me how wonderful it was to see me in the tree.) I closed my eyes and leaned my head back. For a moment I savored the warmth of the sun on a cold winter day, and the stillness. I was grateful to rest my body on this living being for a moment and drink in that we were there together.

I’m noticing how content I am to have a holiday come and go with a minimum of festivities needed to make the day special, and the same things in it as any other day, such as meditation, coffee group and taking walks. This helps me understand that my life is just as it should be.

For me, this new year is about moving forward, dreaming of possibilities, and considering new plans. I leave you with firm advice from Jaya the trust coach:

“The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when it’s time to thrive. Get out of survival mode. New habits, new life.”

Some us strive to make every day a celebration. If that’s your style, come and join us for pizza night at the Milkweed Mercantile on Thursdays from 4pm – 8pm. Their handmade desserts are worth the trip. (Last week Alline made butterscotch brownies, chocolate caramel thumbprint cookies, and a decadent chocolate raspberry tart.) Check google maps for the best directions from your location, and call ahead to make a reservation: 660-883-5522.