Winter is in full force right now in the Midwest. Liz here, with the latest from Dancing Rabbit. Friends back in California are surely thinking I’m a fool for moving here and Rabbits who have lived at DR for a while are surely thinking I have yet to see the worst of the winter weather. I wondered as winter approached whether I would feel blasé about snow and cold temperatures now that I’ve lived here through one winter. But then nature showed off last weekend and dropped four to six inches of snow with winds up to 25 mph in a nine-hour period. That was impressive!

It was not nearly as impressive walking home from my dinner co-op that night, swaddled in winter gear, my glasses fogging up, with snow blowing almost horizontally all around me, when suddenly both my feet dropped into deep snow. I had a flashlight with me, but everything looked almost featureless in the snow. I suddenly felt like I was in a Jack London novel and I wanted a dog named Fang to pull me out of the snow bank and lead me safely home. I pulled my feet out and took several steps in what I thought was the right direction but I ended up tangled in some thorny raspberry brambles. I stood still and took some breaths, noticing that my nostril hairs were freezing. I imagined a newspaper headline: NEIGHBORS FIND CALIFORNIA NEWBIE IN SNOW BANK, 20 YARDS FROM HOME. With a great sigh of relief, I finally arrived at my warm little house and closed the door on the gusting wind and swirling snow.

Winter in the village means a shift from running workshops and hosting visitors to more personal endeavors. For me that means returning to my meditation and qigong practices in earnest. I have joined a new practice group that meets every morning and after several weeks I’m finally settling in. Another new part of my day is to gather with friends at the Mercantile for coffee in the morning. There is a roaring fire in the fireplace (thanks T!) and we chat about any subject under the sun. It’s a great way to get to know people better and to get different perspectives on life at DR.

I have joined a new co-op kitchen for the winter, which cooks and eats at the Mercantile. We are only four members so far, so it’s pretty easy to do my two cook shifts a week. At Thistledown, I was used to cooking for 10-14 people over the summer and fall, so I’m having to pull back on food amounts. Cooking for a small group is more about creativity, since there is time for that, and I’m enjoying that aspect. And the Mercantile kitchen has always been a happy place for me.

Last winter I noticed that as soon as the cold weather sets in at DR, out come people’s handcraft projects. This winter I am determined to make progress on my cross stitch project. Katherine has been proactive in gathering us together and I enjoy the camaraderie as well as watching my son, Graham, learn to knit.

These days I find myself curious about sustainable systems for heating and cooling buildings. Our library has some great books on these subjects. My house has an attached greenhouse that adds passive solar heat to the building on sunny, winter days, but it adds unwanted heat in the summer without any effective way to vent the hot air. Winter is a good time for me to read, contemplate, and understand how various systems can be added to a building for heating and cooling, either as back-up systems or in addition to passive methods to get the job done. I’ve been reading about climate batteries, subterranean cooling tubes, bio-domes, geodesic domes, and the many, very cool systems used in Earthship houses. I’m also studying whether these systems can be adapted for very hot, humid, Missouri summers and cold winters. For every question I have, I have to learn about a new system. Good thing I have all winter to ruminate over these things!

And while DR feels like a comfortable cocoon to spend the winter in, I am still affected by the news of the world. Recently I was reminded of the two arrows story. The story describes how the first arrow pierces our hearts when we hear of sad or cruel events in the world or tragedies that happen in our lives. These events are most often completely outside of our control. The second arrow is our reaction to these events. Both arrows cause suffering. The second arrow is when there can be fruitful awareness and insight into ourselves and others. The second arrow can teach us that we can hold many different emotions at the same time, regardless of what is happening around us. And so I offer a quote from Jack Kornfield, a beloved, mindfulness teacher:

“In our hardships, we discover the courage not to succumb, not to retreat, not to strike out in fear and anger. And by resting in a non-contentious heart we become a lamp, a medicine, a strong presence; we become the healing the world so dearly needs.”

Go safely and with great cheer into the winter season, dear readers.