Friday, June 14, 2013

Thoughts as I Leave Dancing Rabbit

I'm pretty glad I came here.  I've gotten numerous tick bites and had to share my tent with ants, spiders, and pill bugs, but overall the experience was positive.  In addition to workshops on DR's ecological agreements, consensus decision making, deepening communication, alternative construction, alternative energy, and, of course, land use planning, we've also had workshops on permaculture, humanure, their co-op fee structure, and their alternative currency.  We had a session devoted to 'inner sustainability', which is their term for various techniques to keep yourself going--including NonViolent Communication, ReEvaluation CoCounseling, and Restorative Circles.  We later learned more about Restorative Circles in a discussion group about conflict resolution at Dancing Rabbit.  There was a useful session on the whole communities movement (with a tool that I liked to compare communities as well as figure out what you're looking for) and discussion session about 'community economics' which tied together a bunch of the earlier workshops (like co-op fees and alternative currency) and provided a good framework for looking at how people manage at DR.  I liked the blend of focus on technical stuff (construction, energy, land use, and economics) with ways of connecting and taking care of yourself (communication, conflict resolution, and inner sustainability).  Obviously some people here are aware that there's more to community than building houses and growing food.

We also had a bunch of work parties--some of which were cancelled due to the wet weather and other problems, but we did get to help finish a living roof, help build a straw bale wall, help mulch pathways in a vineyard, help stake out pasture land, and help work on the foundation to someone's house.  The hands on work was a nice supplement to all the lectures and workshops.  I also attended a men's group, several Quaker meetings (which, for some reason, they hold here on Saturdays), and a Five Rhythms night of dance and music.

The people at DR were very welcoming and helpful.  We were hosted at different people's houses for dinner and lunch and so got a chance to talk with many of the folks here.

I did get to talk with Tony Sirna about what happened to Skyhouse, the income sharing community that was part of Dancing Rabbit until last January.  He told me that there were three other people he'd been doing it with for years.  At one point, one of them (another founder who Tony was close with) left to go on to other things, and when the couple that was left decided they wanted to raise a child outside DR, it left Tony to start a new group.  He told me that he really likes income sharing communities but didn't have the energy to keep Skyhouse going because his focus right now is on building DR and guiding it through the next stage in its process.  So, right now, he is renting rooms in Skyhouse and there is no income sharing community at DR.

Which brings me to my biggest difficulty with DR.  Dancing Rabbit is not an income sharing community.  As I wrote in my post on Red Earth Farms (6/4/13), "at DR there's a strong sense of 'this is mine' and 'I need to make sure I'm being paid for what I do'".  It can be a bit much at times.  The alternative currency discussion focused on their electronic currency and made me feel like they were trying to reinvent capitalism.  Still, I do believe there is a need for many different types of community--I don't believe that income sharing is the only way to go.  The problem, as it became clear in the discussion on community economics is that it makes it easy for some people (especially those with jobs where they can 'telecommute') to live here because they have worked hard to make the place affordable, but for others, they are barely making a living trying to work from the land here.  Unfortunately, they seem to have reinvented economic classes as well.  I heard from some people who talked about who had power here and who didn't--and made me aware that those who were barely scraping by did not have time to be involved in decision making groups, even if those groups are open to anyone (at least in theory), let alone take any leadership. 

Please, don't let that last paragraph turn you off of Dancing Rabbit.  Like any other community, DR is a work in progress.  None of the communities I've visited has been even near perfect and I'm very glad they all exist.  In fact, because DR is still growing and early on in their community building, I think I've learned more (at least from the point of view of someone who wants to build community) here than at any of the other communities I've visited.

Which leads me to my last insight.  I have made some nice connections here and it feels really weird to be leaving never to return.  I had thought of visiting other communities (like Earthaven in North Carolina and Heathcote in Maryland) and now I'm rethinking that.  Twin Oaks and Acorn were fine, because I intend to keep returning there, but I don't want to just hop all over the communities circuit--perpetually visiting places and leaving.  Besides, I hope I will be actually building community with others soon.  (More on this in the future.)  It's good I got to see DR, Red Earth, Sandhill, and the PA, but I've had enough of traveling.  I'm headed home.  I will be going to the Communities Conference again at the end of the summer but aside from that, I hope to settle down for a while.

Quote of the Day: "In addition to being a wonderful home for us, DR is a model for social change. Outreach and education are integral to our mission. Rather than isolating ourselves completely from the mainstream, we promote DR as a viable alternative. We enjoy sharing discoveries and ideas of sustainable living with people who have a wide variety of lifestyles." - from the Dancing Rabbit website


Austan said...

Very interesting piece, Moony. I have observed many alternative models that recreate class systems in a small scale. Isn't it odd that we do that in the macrocosms we make? Our local coop is a prime example of that. What began as a buying club for people who wanted to eat well and cheaply has become an upscale grovery store we can't afford to shop in. Ah well, if humans were perfect there'd be no progress. x

MoonRaven said...

Unfortunately, very true. This is why I favor egalitarian communities--I think most people, even innovators, tend to duplicate what they already know. Only when we are pushed (and sometimes hard) in a new direction, do things change.

Thanks, and I appreciate you pointing out this is how we make progress.