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Digging into Life with Both Hands

Dancing Rabbit

Are you cold? I’m cold, but I’m warming up a little as my village nears the next heat apex of this year’s winter roller coaster.

There were abundant sledding parties, game gatherings, frigid nights, welcoming fires, cozy get-togethers, and warm hugs over the last couple weeks that I, unfortunately, missed while I was away visiting family. But I have found it often takes a certain, distant perspective to deeply remind me why I make the choices I do, take specific actions, and root myself into particular places.

This is Prairie, now home, in whimsy-weathered northeast Missouri.

Why do I live somewhere melting hot in the summer and biting cold in the winter, where people attempt to grow their own food, build systems for water catchment, mix their walls up with their feet, observe the curvature and patterns of the landscape, and brush up against conflict through interpersonal dynamics?

I do wonder these things. I certainly received a taste of the mainstream alternative where procedures produce more food for less work and time, how one simply plugs into pre-processed water infrastructure, and electricity is cheaper and often more abundant, and where massive companies are hired to build houses with certain materials that assemble much more quickly than clay and straw mixes.

I found privacy more frequently in a large, but somehow isolated, neighborhood where the biggest conflict might just be about a nearby dog barking at odd times or the weird noises coming from the next house over; there is plenty of that around here, too. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you precisely why each individual found themselves here and why they continue to do so.

I can say that I found ample, poignant indicators of my own intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional, and social resonance with Dancing Rabbit. Somehow there is less zest in picking a plastic-covered cabbage from grocery store shelf, where I don’t know who grew it and what they put on it, than, say, recalling how much excitement I felt putting a certain sprout in the ground and the hours of watering I put into its growth.

The secure knowledge that the Earth partnered with my own hands to make this food a reality, and the memory of a brutal sun and pesky bugs fading away as I cook the vegetables, means a lot to me. I remember those sweat-soaked heat-of-the-day moments, my sore arms making friends with a broad fork, a shovel, or a hose. I hadn’t known pure satisfaction like that before Dancing Rabbit. I mean, filling my glass with earth-chilled water that was caught nearby and pumped right to me… there was little better than that, last summer.

Building is something I have had the pleasure of digging my toes and fingers into a handful of times thus far, and from those brief but fulfilling experiences, I can say there are few other creations in this world that  I can marvel at in retrospect, knowing the power of my own hands (and feet, if I was building with clay) put some life into that wall, bench, fence, trench, or whatever. Humans can do that sort of thing. Wow!

Not all of the abodes here are natural buildings, and most houses are connected to a local electric grid system with the goal of exporting twice as much power as they import; though with the copious increase in residents on farm in the last two years, such intentions have been understandably met with challenges.

As for my conflicts with people here, even in my worst moments, I know I could be worse off. I know — and I do forget being, most conveniently, a human being — that my little cluster of earth-lovers, fire-starters, apple-pickers, stream-finders, tree-climbers, heart-healers, problem-solvers, and love-feelers (and many other “er’s”) are my people. Less in the sense that they belong to me — more so that I belong with them.

If there is anyone I could get in and out of conflict with it’s the people at Dancing Rabbit, because we know it is going to happen in some fashion at some point. It still knocks the wind out of me when something challenging arises. It’s never perfect, often messy, and usually uncomfortable, to say the least. The surest thing about conflict, that I have experienced, is learning something new or even remembering something and integrating what I already knew! My communication style is not perfect or even effective sometimes; but what better place to hone it, and if nothing else, become aware of my style, than community?

The seemingly endless hugs I found myself in upon my return topped the elaborate, and continually growing list of reasons I love my home. I then heard about some wild sledding adventures on a nearby hill (dubbed Vista de la Moo in honor of the neighboring cattle herd) from the previous week, saw my friend Alyson on her birthday, slid and laughed with my friend Aurelia along the then-frozen paths, and took in the crisp, country air, settling a little bit more into myself. Six weeks away left familiar things brighter in many places.

The rhythms here took some re-getting used to. I did manage to cook for Ironweed (my current eating co-op) and Thistledown, with a few stumbles. In the winter, some co-ops here take breaks because people leave for the holidays, or just to evade the cold. Many people eat on their own or join a year-round kitchen, and often two kitchens will take turns cooking for everyone in both kitchens.

We might soon acquire, willingly or otherwise, even more snow, so I still have a chance to speed down Vista de la Moo. I can hear coyotes finding their voices in the distance, perhaps longing for spring with the rest of us.

I can’t say I am quite looking forward to gardening just yet, but the urge will come; and when it does, I know I will be in the right place, with the right people, and have just the right pair of hands for me to dig in.