If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Drip, drip, drip. I can hear what used to be snow sliding down my roof and out of my gutters, onto the slowly thawing earth. The remnants of the snowstorm from a couple of weeks ago have sunk into the ground, leaving it a slick and muddy brown. I think I put away my muck boots too soon…
Prairie here, reflecting on the cycles of nature and the pace of my own internal cycles.
There is an erratic, yet persistent movement between expansion and contraction that I have observed in the natural, and my internal, world. Like a pendulum swinging to and fro, energy builds and expels itself, and then retracts and regenerates. I am thinking of the bustling summers here in contrast to our silent winters. Likewise, my internal switch is flipped on from April through October, our program season; much of my awareness and energy turns outward. During these cold months, I move slower and more introspectively.
And yet, expansion emerges, as it must. After the snowstorm that Liz spoke about in our last article, Grace announced a sledding party on a nearby hill dubbed Vista De La Moo. Unfortunately, Grace, Bill, and I couldn’t find any of the usual sleds that hang around Dancing Rabbit! We grabbed some cardboard from the recycling shed and a small snowboard and headed down the road. As you can probably imagine, the cardboard didn’t take us very far. Thankfully, our neighbors from the tri-communities arrived with plenty of sleds to share.
Even through nature’s time of regeneration, there is space and time for movement and aliveness.
Later that week, Grace hosted a music recording session at her home, Robinia, one of the bermed straw bale houses on farm. With Mark on the banjo, Taylor’s incredible bass guitar skills, Eric’s drumming, and Grace’s rich, alto vibrato, the earthen building hummed with something I like to call magic. During the last two takes, I lay on the floor at the center of the hubbub, allowing the sounds to wash over me.
The following Friday, Grace departed for a long-term filmmaking adventure in Nantucket. We all miss you, Grace! Thank you for spending the last year and a half with us!
The snow slowly, slowly melted as the temperature dipped and then rose.
On Thursday, I noticed that I found it difficult to leave the chair on my porch. It was a balmy 45 degrees, a sharp contrast to the frigid teens we experienced last week, and the sun was bursting through the trees at my back. There were so many things I could be doing, and yet I wanted to savor my desire to be idle. Even so, I could picture the stacks of wood outside of SubHub, the light, honey-colored grains reminding me that there are many cold nights to come; the half-melted sand pile positioned near the west side of the building, pointedly offering itself up to my plaster-covered shovel; the rows of clay-filled buckets awaiting a massage so that they might welcome in the water attempting to permeate them.
There is always much work to be done at Dancing Rabbit. And there is not always an equal yearning to do the work. Some days, much like that one, in which the sun was shining persistently, and the birds reclaimed the space that was previously silent, I wanted to do nothing but notice the warmth on the back of my neck and the simultaneous little chill against my nose.
That was a moment, I think, to pause and reconnect to the natural cycles around and within myself. I wanted it to stay warm like that for another day or two or twelve, just so I might remember that it is possible to be silent and still even when I tell myself I should move into action. In a country that rewards hard work and views stillness as laziness, I often find it challenging to let myself connect with what is helpful and kind for my body.
Looking out my window now, I glimpse sycamore trees, slender and serene, beautiful even without their leaves, and I remember that though they are not budding or growing above ground, their roots are hard at work searching for and retaining nutrients, allowing the trees to stand tall and firm while fully supported from below. In their necessary time of pause, they are exquisite.
So, it was after that moment of stillness that I walked to SubHub and finished preparing for the snowfall the following day. Twenty buckets of sand, fourteen buckets of clay, and a warm fire in our temporary wood stove beside the nearly finished masonry heater. Can you see the progress in the photo above in comparison to the one in the previous article?
Finally, I poured three buckets of sand onto a tarp for the cob mix I will stomp tomorrow in the sunniest patch of SubHub. Have you ever found your feet in a freezing mixture of clay, sand, and straw? Winter mixing is hellish on the toes for the first ten minutes. After that, the blood usually starts to flow again. I learned this after the first couple batches I made last week. Brrrrrr!
Happy new year to you, and may it be filled with all of the things that you hold dear.
Stay warm, friends!
Prairie Johnson has been holding down the fort over at SubHub for the last four days while others from the crew attend a masonry heater workshop in Iowa. She is helping us explore ways of plastering in the winter, even at the risk of freezing cold toes!