I’d have never guessed that on the first night of my ecovillage excursion, I’d be sitting outside a rehearsal of Grease! the musical. Indeed, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (DR), put on the production yesterday (day 2), accompanied by a cadre of musicians and a "crew" consisting of one busy man with two large flashlights.
I arrived at DR on the afternoon of Monday, June 21 just in time to walk with Ted – my host and work patron—to the “land day” celebration of Red Earth, another ecovillage to the northwest. “Land day” is the anniversary of land purchase, and Red Earth is five years old. A short hike through the woods, and we arrived at a large, man-made pond, on the edge of which sat a small wooden pavilion filled with 20-30 people of all ages drinking homemade mead (yes, the age old drink), homemade blackberry currant tea, a mysterious drink called “rainwater w/ alkohol” and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I knew from different communications with Ted that nudity was something I’d encounter here. Didn’t think I'd experience it within the first ten minutes, however. Everyone swims nude here. When walking between the pond and their home- also nude. I have yet to do this, but I think it’s only a matter of time.
Dancing Rabbit, Red Earth, and Sand Hill are three distinct ecovillages. They share similar missions and, on Tuesday nights, they share food. Ted informs me that the land for DR (founded in 1997) was chosen because 1) it was near an existing village (Sand Hill came first), and 2) in a county (Scotland County) with minimal land use restrictions. It was actually chosen over some place in Illinois, but I’m still not sure where. Only one of the founding "Rabbit" still resides here, although several members have lived here for quite a while.
There is a hierarchy of sorts amongst the people living here. There are MEMBERS, who pay dues, own land, and can construct buildings on it. There are RESIDENTS, who live here indefinitely but don’t pay dues and don’t build. There are WORK EXCHANGERS (or “wexers), like myself, that stay from one to many months under the hospices of a host that feeds them and provides them tent space. Many of the current members were wexers at one point, arriving here, working, loving it, and deciding to stay for the long haul.
My tent and formal place of residence—courtesy of the Bangert family—is set up on an elevated platform hidden in some trees and brush, but exposed from the north and west (from whence storms come, uh oh.) I’ve been assured that a good tent setup can withstand pretty brutal weather and Ted has helped assemble a resilient tarp structure supported by surrounding trees. My commute to work involves rolling out of bed and walking about 100 yards along a creek to Ted's house.
I’ll have to be brief with this entry, and the reasons are very illustrative of the lifestyle here. You see, it’s been cloudy here for the past few days (granted today is quite sunny). Most buildings here are solar-powered. Less sun = less energy on reserve. The common house in the village's central square has a large chalk board with color-coded energy notifications. Today we’re on “orange” meaning we’re using more energy than we’re creating. This is just one of many ways that life here is very dependent upon the weather and other natural conditions. I'll elaborate during sunnier times, but for now I must sign off as not to compromise well, all things electrical in the village.
More updates soon to follow!