Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reality Meets Fantasy at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

The following will appear in the Novermber 11, 2011 issue of the Memphis Democrat.

If you had asked me, when I first moved to Dancing Rabbit eleven years ago, what I thought life here would look like, I probably would have waxed rhapsodic about a simple life – relaxing in front of the fire in the winter, growing vegetables in the summer, taking long leisurely walks in the fall. I imagined spending a lot of time chatting with friends, lounging in the sunshine and reading, baking crusty loaves of bread to be topped with home-made jam, and generally living the good life.

In the years since my arrival I have found that reality is often in conflict with my vivid imagination. I have also learned that compromises are required in virtually part of my life, and that the simple life requires a lot of work.

While lounging and relaxing are certainly a part of my Ecovillage life, they are just a teeny little smidgen part. Unlike life in well-established towns and villages, members of Dancing Rabbit spend an inordinate amount of time creating structure for ourselves. This is enormously time-consuming, but also enormously gratifying. Imagine being able to have a say in every decision made about your community – from roads (where they go, what they are made of, where the drainage is, what they are named), to cemeteries (what will they be like – rows of markers or a more natural conservation area? Do we allow embalming? Who can be buried here?), to energy policy (should we start planning for a huge wind turbine?), to pets (how many free-roaming dogs are too many? What about cats and songbirds?), to social events (who is hosting Thanksgiving this year? What will we do for New Year’s?). We do it all. And it takes hours and hours and hours.

Additionally, when something happens here at Dancing Rabbit, good or bad, we are the ones we call. Is that downpour flooding the road and the Community Building? Then we had better all get out there with shovels to divert the flow, since we can’t exactly call MoDot. An outbreak of chicken pox among the children, and we have a pregnant member and several members with compromised immune systems? We had better figure out a way to keep everyone safe and healthy while taking care of the little itchy ones. So-and-so’s dog snapped at someone? We had better evaluate what happened and take appropriate action, since we will not be calling Animal Control. Maikwe’s roof just blew off? Well, let’s get over there and cover up the hole so the rain doesn’t get in.

We all serve on at least one committee; most of us serve on several. There are committees for virtually everything: Long Term Planning, Kids, Pets, Vehicle Co-op, Land Use Planning, Tree Team, Outreach, Development, Oversight, Goals & Priorities, Membership, Land Clean, Donations, Infectious Disease, Roads, Parking Lots, Conflict Resolution, Mem Dem column, Retreat Planning, Decision Making…

In addition to all of this we are raising much of our own food, chopping and hauling firewood, building homes, educating children, running businesses, and trying to demonstrate that it all can be sustainable.

What do I like best about our chosen way of life? We get to live here, with people we respect and admire. We are living lives that feel true to our values, even if we might not have everything figured out yet. We get to observe the seasons changing on 280 gorgeous acres of rolling hills and prairie that we are restoring and stewarding. We get to watch our children and the children of our friends grow and flourish. We have a community with which to share the triumphs and celebrations, as well as sadness and disappointments.

So in this season of Thanksgiving, I would like to express gratitude to all of my fellow Dancing Rabbit members, both past and current. Thank you for all of the time you give to make this a better place to live. Thank you for the hours you spend on committee work. Thank you for all of the little things you do to improve our village, working behind the scenes, that no one ever knows about. Thank you for all of the things you do that feel unacknowledged. You are making a difference. And you are appreciated. Thank you also to all of the families and friends of Rabbits, whose support is invaluable. Thank you to those of you in the wider community who have become friends over the years – you help to make our lives here rewarding and full. Thank you all!