Dancing Rabbit Interview - Tereza (complete)

Interview with Tereza, a six-year resident of Dancing Rabbit.
Recorded May 7, 2006 at Dancing Rabbit, in her house.

NOTE: Questions/answers preceded by a * do not appear in the abridged version of the interview.

* B: When did you get to Dancing Rabbit and what was your situation before you moved out here?

* T: I came to visit in 1998 and loved it - totally wanted to come back, but there weren’t any buildings at all and I didn’t think I could handle it. I had always wanted to do peace corps and some other things happened that meant that I could, so I decided to do peace corps instead. I figured I’d be back in 2002. I went into peace corps and 6 months later ended up coming back to the states. I got back in March of 2000 and I came here in August. They flew me back to California - the Bay area - so I was there and hanging out with friends and sort of wrapping up my life and figuring out what to do and then decided to have it coincide with a women’s plastering workshop that was going on here, which I think was a good choice . So I started with a workshop and didn’t leave.

B: What made you seek out Dancing Rabbit?

T: Before I lived in DC - and I lived there for a year or two - I had been in the Bay area, California, where it’s a lot more liberal. People have a lot more consciousness about recycling and basic stuff that in DC I did not find. I was part of this horrible system. I’d get on the train and go to work and everybody looked the same. They just didn’t seem to give a flying f**k about anything except their little jobs and their little lives. I was going absolutely crazy and feeling more and more disgusted about what I was doing in the world, and not doing what I really wanted to do. I was involved with someone at the time and we thought we were going to homestead, so I was looking up homesteading stuff. I got really into permaculture and I put in a search for permaculture, and Dancing Rabbit - oddly enough - was the first or second search result. Because I’m a pretty social person I realized homesteading would never work for me. I need to be around more people and I thought it would be a lot easier to do with other people who had a similar idea. I did the same thing that numbers of people do which is devour the entire website and read every single page before I came. I was super-excited about coming. I really felt like I needed to not be destroying the planet and hopefully actually helping.

B: What did you leave behind when you came to Dancing Rabbit?

T: At the time, indoor plumbing (laughs) and a great deal of physical comforts - I was living in Bella Ciao [ed. note: a one-room building at DR]. Actually when I first came I was living in a camper - so cold. I had mice leaving acorns under my butt when I would sleep (groans). When people talk about how cushy this [house] is, I’m just sort of “you have no idea. I paid.” Bella Ciao didn’t have much plaster and it was cold and sand would fall on me while I was sleeping and - not a very good wood stove. Anyway, what did I leave behind? Since I’d been in DC for such a short time I wasn’t really leaving a lot of close connections there, but I think that I did have good friends in California and think I sort of lost touch with them more significantly than I would have I think if I had stayed. So, mostly sort of relationships. I didn’t have a house; I didn’t have a car. I’d gotten rid of almost everything before I went to peace corps, so I didn’t have a lot of stuff. Another thing is that I really don’t care for the weather here. That’s one of the things I thought would be hard for me and I was right. I frickin’ hate when it’s cold. Now I’m ill, and my illness is affected by the weather. So when it’s damp - which it is most of the summer - or cold - which it is most of the winter - I feel pretty shitty. So that does not help. The climate I definitely left behind, and I miss.

B: What are some of the things you left behind that you don’t miss?

T: Don’t miss. Oh my god. Name one. Living in the city. I never thought I could not live in a city and still not own a car. I did not want a car. So that’s amazing to me that I can do that here. I do not miss the traffic, the nastiness of cars - their smelliness, the honking, the noise, the overwhelming input - that is just too much. I’m one of those people that looks at things and thinks about - well who made that? Oh, probably someone in pretty shitty working conditions. I’m using it anyway and I got it for cheap because it was on sale. I think about the paths and where it came from and the whole sort of story of these things. There’s so many, so anywhere I would go I would sort of think - bus - what’s fueling this bus? How did I get on it? Who made those rubber mats on the bottom of it? Where does rubber come from? How come I never thought of that before? All those. It was very overwhelming. I do not miss having to question and feel like I’m destroying something that’s pretty precious to me with every single thing that I do. I don’t miss that.

B: You mentioned physical comforts - of those that you feel you left behind when you were living in Bella Ciao or in the camper - what of those do you still experience?

T: Not very many of them now. But we don’t own this house so it’s not like my comfort issues are solved forever. Most of those comforts are not a problem. especially since I have help. I have a partner, so Tom can keep the fire going. If I were trying to do that by myself I would probably be frustrated with it, but I don’t have to do all that. That’s nice.

* B: What have been some of the hardest challenges to living at Dancing Rabbit?

* T: At Dancing Rabbit or in community? I think some of them would be the same anytime you’re living with a group of people for an idealistic reason. The physical stuff was quite a bit for me - the discomfort factor. I really enjoyed working in the gardens and doing plastering and doing construction and learning about power tools. Especially in the early time. At that point there weren’t very many people here. I think there were ten members when I joined, and most of them were partnered. So at night we’d eat dinner and then afterwards people would be talking and then everybody would walk hand-in-hand with their little sweetheart back to where they lived. I felt very lonely in that regard and then just not having anybody who had known me before - that only knew me in this situation - was hard. I had become very depressed when I was in peace corps, in Ukraine. That was a part of why I decided not to go back. Struggling with depression in a place like this - even then when we were much more close-knit and much more in each other’s lives because we were almost all eating together all the time and seeing each other. So, dealing with the depression, not having the kinds of emotional support that I had been used to in the communities that I had been in before. Those things were hard. And then just learning how to deal with consensus process. Oh my god. I had no idea. I came here for the eco- stuff and the community was just sort of ok-whatever. But that has become more and more important to me and more and more valuable as I’ve been here longer and longer and learned more about it and been in other communities and read about it. I knew nothing about communities. This was the first one I had ever been to. I wasn’t looking for community. That wasn’t what my goal was, so finding it was a little bit of a surprise. Dealing with interpersonal conflict and other people’s interpersonal conflict and drama drama drama drama.

* B: How do you feel your quality of life has changed since you’ve been at Dancing Rabbit?

* T: That’s kind of a hard question to answer because I wasn’t sick when I came and so my quality of life is pretty shitty. But I think in a city, or not at Dancing Rabbit, it would be several thousand times worse. People come by to talk to me, people ask if I need anything - very supportive. My friends will come around and stuff. I think in the city I would have lost all my friends by now. I don’t think anybody would have come because they’re busy, but in a different way from here. So my personal quality of life has definitely declined in many ways, although I’m eating much better food. That’s great and I get much more fresh air. It’s not so loud - that part has definitely improved. So the things that matter to me are better.

* B: Do you mind talking a little bit about your illness and health care? I’m curious how you deal with health care and what sort of challenges there are.

* T: Sure. I actually had health insurance when I first came from my job through COBRA. I had very bad tendinitis so I was actually going to the doctor. It got expensive with the DRVC because I was going to doctors in Kirksville, so it was about $40 or $50 every time I even went in [ed. note: the Dancing Rabbit Vehicle Co-op costs $0.50/mile]. I have always been more into alternative stuff but insurance doesn’t pay for that. Now I’m on Medicaid because I spent all the money I had before I came. I took out all my retirement accounts. I’m basically broke. I can’t really work. I can’t have a job. I can’t ever know if I’m going to be able to do something or not. I have Medicaid and that’s frustrating again because they’ll pay for disgusting medicine, but they won’t pay for anything that will help me. They won’t pay for massage therapy or acupuncture or supplements. I take lots of supplements to try to help and they don’t pay for any of that. There’s lots of conventional medicine around here, and even some cool people. The college for osteopathy is just right in Kirksville, so my general practitioner is pretty great considering that he’s a western trained doctor. My doctors will say “oh you should be taking these supplements.” Meditation - my regular doctors have talked about that. So it’s there and it’s close by but it’s not my ideal.

* B: How involved are you in decision making, planning, visioning?

* T: Right now, I’m much more involved than I have been. I kind of dropped out of the process for a while trying to adjust to the change in my physical condition and I’m sort of getting back into it and trying to figure out what my limits are. I’m on the oversight team, which is a group that oversees the other committees and tries to pick up the pieces that fall through the cracks. The visioning stuff has always been important to me - something that I find interesting. So for example, the retreat - I can’t go to everything because I don’t have the energy, but I’ll try to specifically go to some - like there was one about planning town center. I love that kind of stuff. What can we do to make new people feel more integrated? How can we do this? I like that stuff and I feel like I’m fairly involved - especially now that I’ve been here longer than a lot of other people. People actually seek me out to ask me about those things because they think I might have good input. Sometimes I think they’re right. Actually I always think they’re right. (laughs)

B: Do you have a typical day here, and if so, what is that like?

T: Before I was sick, I would spend part of the day doing income work. At one point I was teaching English over the phone to people in France. It was a cool job. The hours were hard because, you know, they want to learn at their hours, not mine. Fussy French people (laughs). I used to do freelance editing, or construction - I worked for Skyhouse - various things like that. I would also try and work in the garden some every day. So yeah, [a typical day would be:] eat breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, hang out with people, sing, chat, talk about ridiculous things, watch movies, those kinds of things. Now I eat breakfast, and then - I get 10 hours a week of paid assistance - so I work with that person to sweep, do laundry, help me wash my hair, whatever. I listen to a lot of books on tape (makes snoring sound). People do tend to come by pretty regularly to hang out. I think people see me as a pretty good support person. A lot of times people will come by and tell me what’s going on with them. I have some meetings sometimes. Usually Tom will go and get me lunch and go and get me dinner if it’s been made at Bluestem or we’ll just eat here. Its all dependent on my energy levels, so some days I don’t get out of bed. Some days I do one thing. Some days I do two things or three things.

* B: Sounds like you are the recipient of a lot of support from the community.

* T: I think so in a lot of ways. Definitely, what I consider physically. There’s a lot of rotational chores that we have that I haven’t done in years. I haven’t done a humey shift [ed. note: emptying humanure buckets] in - I can’t remember how long it’s been. I felt horrible about it for a really long time but people have been so “of course you shouldn’t try to do that. Don’t even be stupid.” So in that way I feel a lot of support. People here have wanted to give me emotional support but don’t really know how and I don’t know how to tell them to do it. I feel like I’m sort of blocked off on that. But they want to. I just feel like I’m not getting what I need, but that’s not because of a lack of desire, I think it’s a lack of well, time and ability. which is partly my responsibility - to try to help them give me what I need, but I just don’t know how to help them do that.

* B: Do you feel like you are able to get more or less support here than you would in a big city, or is it just different support?

* T: Yeah, it’s different. I think it would depend on what you meant. I went to a lot of different support groups [in the city]. I used to go to 12-step meetings of various kinds, mostly just for the support, and they’re free. I had friends that did know how to give the kind of support that helped me at that point - so I feel like I had more of an emotional support network - certainly in California - and much less of a physical, spatial sort of common reality support network. I had lots of different kinds of friends in California, so I knew a lot of people and I was in all these different little small circles, but they weren’t connected, so I often felt very fragmented. I had a job and then I was taking classes at school and then I had a support group and another one - it wasn’t a coherent whole. Whereas here - sometimes it’s very annoying, because it’s like, “Get me out of here. I’m so tired of it all being connected!” - but I do think it’s better for me to have it be that way - to have my life much more connected.

B: What surprised you about Dancing Rabbit? In terms of what was different from your expectations?

T: (laughs) What *hasn’t* surprised me about Dancing Rabbit? When I first came I certainly didn’t know about the nudity, which was fine with me, because I had already kind of dealt with that in another context previously. I’m not even sure if it’s said in any of the information I got before I came that there might be nudity. I came with my boyfriend at the time and he was not ok with it. I liked it, but it was a surprise. I think I did expect more infrastructure than there was, so that surprised me. I think the biggest surprise was how frickin’ far away it was from the train station. I didn’t know that. I was so tired from being on the train and got in this big ugly van and I thought “are we ever going to get there I have to pee!”

B: Has it been difficult to adjust to more rural living?

T: I still miss really good book stores. I think it’s not  just rural living, it’s rural living in north eastern Missouri. Nothing would have ever for a million dollars made me live in Missouri. I mean, I hate this state. The fact that we gave John ass-croft - oh, excuse me. I hate that part of it - the conservatism and the bible belt crap and the discrimination and racism-whatever. Especially coming from Berkeley. We eat really great food here, but - Ethiopian - I want to go to an Ethiopian restaurant. Indian restaurant. I mean yeah, we make curry but it’s not the same thing. Or Thai food - yummy. So I miss book stores and food. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me, which is pretty much what I thought I would miss when I thought about it. Where my mother and relatives live now is the same sort of conservative/rural kind of thing, so I kind of knew what to expect. When I first came and I talked to [another community member], I said “How on earth do you deal with it?” because I knew she was from cities too - New York and the Bay area. She said “well, I figure when I go to cities - I go a couple times a year to visit family or friends or whatever - I pack it all in then. I eat out every single night and I go to plays and I do everything and then I’m all done and I’m ready to come home.” I thought that was a really great way to do it, and that’s the way that I did it back when I had money and I was able to do that - go and get my city fix and let me out of here! So that, I think, is a very good method if you can afford it, and are OK with the traveling. Survival tip number 7.

* B: In terms of what Dancing Rabbit is trying to do - how does this community fit into the larger goal?

* T: I’m one of those strange people who actually thinks that we could have an impact. I definitely talk to people here who think that’s ridiculous. I want to live here anyway because it’s nice. But I actually think we could, just not right now. I think in 10 or 20 years - well, especially peak oil and all the shit that I think is going to happen - going to be a lot of people wanting to know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and suddenly wanting to be our friends. I think that we could do more, but I feel like we’re doing pretty well at that.

* B: So you see Dancing Rabbit as kind of an example, an early adopter?

* T: Demonstration. yeah. I feel like we’re less early adopters than we were. I sort of feel like we came and people were working really hard and figuring all this stuff out and doing all this research and talking and talking and talking.  We were really on the edge of everything, and I sort of feel like we’re not really on the edge so much anymore. Partly *I’m* not doing that stuff anymore that I was doing when I first came, and I sort of feel like we’ve all sort of settled into it. I think maybe other people are, but I don’t see it in the same way. Thomas is always doing really cool research on different things. and Penn has just made the most remarkable stove ever, so clearly there’s some stuff there.

B: If you could have one thing or step for the community - what would you want the community to have? Physical or organizational, maybe some kind of acquisition or input or change for the community?

T: Besides moving it somewhere else with better climate like Costa Rica? (laughs) I want to say housing, but that’s not my heart answer, that’s my sort of practical answer, because I think we could get more people here. People wouldn’t have to come and do that themselves. I think my heart answer would be more people with skills in emotional support/emotional connection. Less mind- and more heart-people. I think that there aren’t as many of those people here and that’s a piece that feels kind of missing to me.

B: How do you feel that that lack manifests itself?

T: It’s mostly a feeling, sort of a vibe. We’re all connected by some sort of force or light or stream – whatever. And I feel that people here either aren’t conscious of it or aren’t willing to be conscious of it because that doesn’t make rational sense. This is my image: all of these people connected by these bright shining glowing strings or streams. And I feel like some of the people here are like “I’m not seeing that. I’m not seeing that. I don’t want to see that. It scares me to look at that.” I guess that’s what I would say. So, is that manifest? It’s something I personally perceive. I think practically how it manifests is people not always communicating very clearly or people holding things in that they should really be saying, people not being able to be compassionate with each other when things are hard. People are pretty good at it when things aren’t hard, but when things get hard it’s much harder to be in that open space of “wow, what’s going on for that person that they’re having this reaction?”

B: What do you think has been most important to the continuation and success of Dancing Rabbit since you’ve been here?

T: Really really really really hard work. And people being willing to work that hard to make their dreams come true. Not just physical labor, but the hard work of realizing that other people’s dream is different and trying to come up with some common dream. Which has been challenging at times, but I think people believing in their dreams - wanting to live their dreams and really being willing to do it - kinda whatever it takes - a lot of energy and focus. Definitely it’s the people, but it’s that aspect of them.

B: How do you feel Dancing Rabbit has changed in the 6 years since you’ve been here?

T: Oh bloody hell. There are buildings, that’s kind of exciting. We’ve lost a number of members and we’ve gained a lot of members. So there’s that - turnover - just of personalities and stuff. We’re much less full-consensus or whatever you would call it when every little concern gets discussed and hashed out. The whole committee decision-making structure where people aren’t as in the loop about just practical things that are going on. I think we don’t know each other as well, because we don’t have to spend as much time with each other as we had to before. There really wasn’t any place else to go but the trailer. As much as I really despised being in that trailer… Did you come to the sing-along in the library the other night? Partly that was for acoustics, but partly it’s because I miss that sort of cozy squished-together everybody-on-each-other’s-laps singing-thing which was how we had to do it in the trailer. We don’t do that in that big old common house, so the cozy feeling seems to be sort of, not quite there. I’ve been noticing lately how the people that have been here the whole time - how we’ve aged. Looking at myself or looking at a picture of Tom from then, or especially for [with the folks who’ve been here the longest], I can really notice those ways that their enthusiasms have changed and their frustrations have been channeled and how they’ve grown.

* B: Where do you see - both for yourself and Dancing Rabbit - in 10-15 years?

* T: I definitely think we’ll still be around. I have the pessimistic view and the optimistic view. The pessimistic view is that there’ll be like 20 people who all hate each others’ guts, all in their own little private houses and sort of but still sort of trying to make it work. That’s very pessimistic - I don’t really think that will happen. I think there’ll be a lot more people here. I think there’ll be more people who are older; there’ll be people that are sick; there’ll be people that are - babies. I’m so excited that we’re going to have our first birth - certainly on Dancing Rabbit land, and all these commitment ceremonies and weddings. I don’t know when we’ll have our first death on the land - of a human, we’ve had animals die. I think that will be a big progression/evolution for us. It’ll be interesting to see how we handle it. I think we’ll be a lot bigger size-wise. and people wise. There’ll be even more infrastructure. I think it will feel more like a village or a town. It’ll be a lot louder. I hope that we will have a lot more vigorous or vibrant workshops and interns and people really coming and seeing what we’re doing. Or [we’ll be] using innovative technology to get that information out. I think we’ll be much more of a resource than we have been, innovators maybe, and information sharers. I’m not sure I’ll be here. I hope I will be. I don’t want to leave. But if the climate continues to have the effect on my body that it’s been having, I don’t know if I can stay here. If we went to a city and Tom was doing a construction job, we could probably do a lot better financially than we can do here. If I need more medical stuff, that might have to happen. I hope not. Knock on many wooden things. I want to be part of that.

B: What’s your favorite thing about Dancing Rabbit?

T: One? I think my first instinct is to say the food. That’s the short answer, but it’s being connected to what sustains us and knowing where it comes from and knowing - even if I don’t like the person - knowing who grew that thing and who pulled it out of the ground and who washed it and who cut it and who turned it into something that I can eat and continue to grow by. That’s my favorite thing about Dancing Rabbit. I think the people are second. I think we have good people here and I really love and care about them a lot. Which is funny because when I left [Dancing Rabbit after my first visit] and wanted to go back, people asked me, “Why do you want to go to that place? It sounds crazy.” I’m like “the food is so good and the people are so nice.” Those are the two things I said before and all these years later it’s still true.