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What does it mean for me to live at Dancing Rabbit? What is keeping me here? Where else could I be? What is it about this place that keeps me moving through the excitement, frustration, inspiration, chaos, and challenges that Dancing Rabbit offers?
Prairie here, with musings on returning to life in an ecovillage in rural Northeast Missouri.
I have found that traveling triggers a slew of questions about my placement in the world. My prior trips, since moving to Dancing Rabbit, have prompted only rhetorical thoughts such as, “Sheesh, why didn’t I move to an ecovillage sooner?” or, “How did the mainstream become so estranged from where our food comes from?” or, “Why would I want to live somewhere that requires me to flush at least a gallon of water into a sewer every time I urinate?”
This time away, however, I fell in love with the city of Portland, Oregon. After a week of highway traffic, restaurants, diversity (I am thinking of race and ethnicity in particular), affluent neighborhoods, wise trees, mountains, and my enthusiastic sibling, Sam, I felt surprisingly refreshed. Upon my return, I found myself questioning my decision to step onto the Village Council (our on-farm governing body) for the standard two-year term, which I was elected to join starting in September.
Am I truly in the right place? Am I missing something important in choosing to live here? Why am I here?
I carried these questions with me as I jumped headlong into the fourth visitor program of the year. The day after I arrived, I led a workshop on our humanure (human-manure) system, one of the most radical things we do at Dancing Rabbit, in my humble opinion. I immediately fell in love with the visitors as individuals and in the ways their group brought fresh, inspiring energy into my home.
Over the next week, I co-facilitated two more workshops for the group, wrangled them into the jungle that I cannot believe is my garden, and cooked for them. We also laughed in the grass, explored controversial topics while weeding, walked along the land, and played psychology games during lunch.
With the help of the tri-communities and one of my new visitor friends, we pulled off a game of ultimate frisbee that led to a serene, refreshing pond dip.
Amazing, I thought as I waded into the cool water. This place is free, accessible, and beautiful! The sun was moving along its trajectory toward the western horizon and the lush green foliage surrounding the pond seemed to glow with life.
The pond jumpers quickly transitioned into potluck mode. It was a colorful and robust gathering with the help of the visitors and folks from Red Earth; the serving table was brimming with fresh veggies from prolific, local gardens.
I finally got it while relaxing in my cabin, partially surrounded by woods and my jungle-garden: Oh, right, I live in this place because I find abundant beauty in simplicity and intimate human connection. Tree limbs made patterns in the sunlight as it filtered through the glass door and windows on the south side of my eight-and-a-half by twelve-and-a-half-foot house. I smiled as I remembered the warm welcome home from everyone I encountered upon my return. I especially savored the hugs and smiles from my on-farm kitchen mates, Danielle and Grace. Ironweed kitchen feels like a second home to me, and the people I eat with are akin to a second family.
Inner Sustainability was the final workshop I co-facilitated for the visitors. In it, Nathan and I personally demonstrated one of the tools we frequently use to process and shift painful and outdated meanings that we attribute to our experiences. I shared openly and vulnerably and walked away from that workshop with a solid reminder of the power of group attention to heal past hurts. The action I took to cement my feelings of empowerment was to open a safe, compassionate space for conversation and story-sharing on our socialization around sexuality. As I listened to people socialized as females share their experiences, I realized that this is a step in the direction of feminism and equality. I looked around the room and noted expressions of empathy, resonance, love, and curiosity.
Unique experiences impact people’s lives. If I can leave a legacy that contributes to the healing and enrichment of the lives of hundreds of people I only get to know through a short visitor session, then I know I am in the right place for myself and the world.
Yes, the bunnies continue to eat my green beans and sweet potatoes, the squash bugs have amassed, the cucumbers died, and a third of the towering, volunteer sunflowers have toppled over, blocking most of the paths between garden beds. Yes, the humidity index drives me bonkers, and I do not have an AC unit. Yes, I have a lot on my plate here and the to-do list does not have an end in sight.
Dancing Rabbit is not perfect. It’s not Portland. And it needs, like any large, extended, multi-experiential family, a lot of work, dedication, and patience. And… it is my resting place like nowhere else.
To visitor session number four: thank you for illuminating the wonder of my home. To Ironweed kitchen: thank you for being my family as I question, learn, and grow. To you, dear reader: thank you for following us along this wild journey. It takes a world to build and maintain a village and you are part of this world. To Dancing Rabbit: thank you for being my home.
Prairie Johnson has a hand in many things in the village. She is a powerhouse of energy and accomplishment. DR is lucky to have her as a member. And she’s right about Portland being a very cool city.