An Autumn Romp

Dancing Rabit – It’s a quarter ’til ten, Sunday morning. The temperature is currently dropping past a balmy 60 degrees, and by the time I finish writing this, it may well be 40 degrees. A steady rain persistently falls. Yesterday was 75 and sunny. I saw rabbits in their t-shirts and shorts, working on one thing or another. Today is quite different. As I scan Crooked Root from the comfort of Lobelia, other villagers have clearly taken shelter in the morning’s storm, save for one lone figure in a poncho, spreading tarps and bricks over an earthen wall. November is here, and this will be my first winter at Dancing Rabbit to experience the transition from outside to inside, from warm to cold, from salad to turnip.

This is Ben at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, currently residing in an actual, completed house for the first time in quite a bit, house-sitting with my family for Bear and Alyssa. I have been back at Dancing Rabbit for less than a week, having finally returned home from a bicycle trip through northern Michigan and Wisconsin. On the final day of riding, as I passed through some of northeast Missouri’s quiet, sleepy small towns and communities, tucked between hills on county roads, I looked forward to my return to Dancing Rabbit, which I believed was still in the midst of all the activity that I had left behind. Little did I know that our little ecovillage would be just about the quietest, sleepiest community on my map that day. There are still many times when I am surrounded by family and friends throughout the day, and I don’t feel the loneliness and isolation that I felt out on the road during my recent travels, but there is nonetheless a sensation of quietness about the village that I have rarely observed until now. I can hear the prairie grass’ raspy crackle in the wind, catch a hint of woodsmoke in the air, and occasionally hear the echo of wood splitting or branch breaking, and the early mornings are now peppered with the pop of deer rifles.

Now, with the poison ivy in retreat and the chiggers dormant until next year, my three-year-old daughter Althea and I are free to trek through the brush all day if we choose, and it is quickly becoming a habit of ours to rush to our boots when breakfast is finished on the old wood stove. From my observations, a half-day spent tramping through the woods is a magical experience to a three-year-old, no matter how much science and reason I try to cram into our forays. I try my best to explain the natural processes that cause such changes to our landscape from season to season to Althea, but feel enchanted myself by the experience of walking out land at this time of year.

Being in our little yurt on the west end of Crooked Root, Althea and I need only march up and over a couple of hills until it feels like we are completely alone. But we aren’t. Three or four whitetail deer bound along an old fence line. As we hike down to the draw, our dew-dampened boots slide through an ever thickening blanket of oak leaves. Acorns yet unclaimed by bird or squirrel crackle underfoot. Althea beckons for me to turn another direction. She has found treasure- a wide circular nest of hedge apples beneath on old Osage tree. Althea believes they are actually hedgehog eggs. We stomp down to a dry creek bottom, pausing briefly so that I may carry Althea over the steepest part of the bank, and explore our way beyond the next crest of land, swishing back through tall grass. We pause to admire abandoned birds’ nests, earth star fungus puffing brown sporous smoke, buckbrush berries tipping bare twigs, and solitary grasshoppers rudely awakened by the afternoon sun.

Walking back into town, the stirrings of human life are apparent. My neighbors are preparing insulation for their chicken tractor. Others are busily working on the hermitage. Thomas gouges on some walnut, making wooden bowls. Returning home, Althea and I are both hungry again. I open the door, take a look around our cluttered shelter, and remember that even if we are transitioning to a quieter, sleepier season here at Dancing Rabbit, I still have a lot to get around to.

Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage is an intentional community and educational non-profit in Rutledge, Missouri, focused on sustainable living. We offer free tours to the public twice monthly from April-October. For more info you can visit our website www.dancingrabbit.org or call (660) 883-5511.