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This Thanksgiving, as a new resident of the tri-communities, I am thankful for many things in my life. As a Mexican American woman who grew up in California’s Central Valley, where industrial scale fields of almond trees, rows of grape vines, and large swaths of oil fields were the omnipresent and unavoidable landscape of my childhood, here in rural Missouri I find myself constantly marvelling at the natural beauty all around me. On any given day, I can look across the vast prairie that is my new home and see myriad squirrel nests resting in wise-looking trees, lively cottontail rabbits hopping around without a care in the world, and woolly bear caterpillars inching along to the nearest bush. At night, I hear the thunderous howls of packs of coyotes and can look up and see a night sky illuminated by an infinite amount of bright stars. While I grew up in a place often described as an agricultural marvel due to the human transformation of the naturally arid region into a globally consumed agricultural cornucopia, in my new chosen home I am experiencing a different relationship to the earth. Here, instead of human beings conquering the natural environment for profit, people are enjoying a mutual relationship with nature. Priscilla here, writing about why I am thankful to live with my family in a sustainable intentional community.
I first arrived at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in mid-June this year, and the draw for me was the simplicity of life here. After spending my twenties pursuing an academic career, and living in several major metropolitan regions including the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and New York City. I concluded that the things I valued most in life were not a fancy career, high social status, or the hustle and bustle of city life, but the simpler things that no amount of money can guarantee. Spending time with my family, swimming in a pond located in my own backyard on a hot summer day, learning to identify native plants, cultivating a garden that feeds my family, walking the land with a friend, are certainly things worth living for. While moving to rural Missouri was admittedly not something that I ever thought I would do even a few years ago, today I am proud to call this place my new home.
I live on a six-acre homestead with my small family, and with each passing day and season, we are learning to live a life that is not as harmful to the planet or other people. All of our electrical needs are met through our solar array system, the water we drink is collected from our rooftop, and we are keeping warm these days with the help of a sturdy wood stove. While it is by no means a glamorous life, and it does require an immense amount of strenuous labor, it is a life filled with purpose, deeper human connections, and small pleasures. Even in the frigid mornings, when our Central Valley born and bred bodies struggle to handle the cold winds, we can enjoy the scenic view of fallen leaves, frosted grass, and the occasional deer, all while discussing early morning musings. And even when we are busy working on a particularly arduous and uninspiring project, there is comfort in a collectively completed task that is a requisite for our continued livelihood.
I moved to the tri-communities because I sought to live more sustainably, but one of the things I have grown to be most thankful for during my time here is the community. My family and I literally owe our entire homesteading lifestyle to the countless tri-community folks who have donated their time, labor, and resources to us over the past several months. Had it not been for a partial scholarship from the Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture to participate in DR’s Women’s Retreat, a summer work exchange opportunity from Ben and Mae at Fox Holler Farmstead, and K* allowing us to reside in their converted school bus during our work exchange experience, we would never have made the long trek from California’s Central Valley to Northeastern Missouri. And as new residents of the region, we currently have a reliable solar power setup thanks to Ted, a wood shed to keep our wood dry this winter thanks to Jacob, Thomas, and Joe, and a literal roof over our heads thanks to Mark.
When my small family and I left the Central Valley, a region which my extended Mexican American family has called home for three generations, I worried a great deal about all that we would lose by moving here. Where else would I have reliable, on-call childcare, someone who would drop everything in a heartbeat to help me with a flat tire, a homemade bowl of caldo de pollo when I was sick, or an entire group of people who are always up for impromptu movie and karaoke nights? After my wandering twenties, I knew that the closeness, comfort, and security of family could not be easily replicated.
While my immediate family and I are certainly a long way from home, and we are still quite new here, I have found that the community here, for better or worse, is very much like a large extended family. Like a family, there are always the occasional small squabbles, and the inevitable interpersonal tensions that arise when groups of people live in close quarters. But in my time here I have also learned that when anyone is in need, or there is an emergency, there will always be a helping hand, or an entire army, ready to help. And just for the record, there is always someone available for a movie night (thinking of you, Squirrel)!
The people who live here are young and old, straight and LGBTQ, well-off and of limited means, people of all hues, and individuals with a wide range of lifestyles. Though no two people here are alike, everyone is part of a collective trying to live more sustainably. In a time when the world is dealing with never-ending social, political, economical, and environmental calamities, the people at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and the neighboring intentional communities are forging a sustainable and less alienating alternative for humanity. I, for one, am thankful to be part of this movement and community this Thanksgiving season.
November 30th is Giving Tuesday, an online event for donating to nonprofits. If it is within your means, please consider donating to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, a community which has given so much to me and my family. Every donation helps our community continue to provide educational programs for people from all across the country. Or, if you would like to visit this little corner of Northeastern Missouri, which is home to three intentional communities, check out our website. All are welcome to join the diverse movement of people living sustainably and in community!
Priscilla Flores is Development Lead for CSCC, DR’s nonprofit, helping us continue our mission of outreach to the world about living sustainably. We are deeply grateful for all of her hard work on our behalf. For more information about Giving Tuesday, go to www.dancingrabbit.org.