Sunday, April 21, 2019

Checking In at 70%

Well.  Where have I been, and what am I up to?

I left DR on March 28th a day earlier than planned to visit family.  As you know, I’ve had recurring trouble with dizzy spells which continue.  I have finally seen an ENT specialist, 2 audiologists, and a physical therapist specializing in balance disorders in an attempt to feel better and be able to be more active.  As I have no hearing loss (yay) they are ruling out Meniere’s disease which is great.  Nobody knows what exactly is going on which is sort of what I expected.

So far the results of physical therapy are mixed.  I’ve had some of my better days in the last few months, and I had another very dizzy day after my first day of physical therapy for the problem.  It is interesting to me that the physical therapy involves provoking the symptoms so my brain relearns to accommodate certain movements but not to provoke them so much I get very sick.  In my efforts to hold still more and rest more over the last several months, I may have been making things worse.  We’ll see how this approach goes over the upcoming weeks as I continue physical therapy a time or two per week.

I have “gone down the rabbit hole” at two websites which I’ll share with you if you are interested:
Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism

I’ve meditated for over 25 years and been engaged with the Buddhist Dhammapada for the last several years.  These resources are furthering my understanding and experience.

And speaking of rabbit holes….  As of this moment, I do not know when or if I will return to Dancing Rabbit.  I told the community that I would not be returning as planned in May as I am unable to engage there in the way I planned.  The medical resources and family support I have available to me staying here with Mom and Dad are preferred to what was available at DR.  Will I return?  Time will tell.

It has been quite an interesting year.  I suspect the next year will be equally interesting.  Big family Easter gathering today next door at my Aunt and Uncles’.  I’m taking Grandma to pick up her friend and chauffeur them back and forth to the gathering.  It is nice to be able to be useful even as I don’t feel 100%.  I feel about 70%.  After being at 1% on a few occasions, I’ll take 70% with gratitude.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Covenant 6

6. Waste disposal systems at Dancing Rabbit shall reclaim organic and recyclable materials.

Dancing Rabbits agree to abide by 6 ecological covenants upon becoming official Residents and Members.  The covenants are short and sweet and cover many areas of daily life to assure more sustainable living.  It is the bedevilment of the details, as with many things, that scuppered my peppers this week.

The implementation of Covenant 6 especially challenged me this week.  On first glance, Covenant 6 seems straightforward enough; it succinctly directs me to “reclaim and recycle.”  Easy.  I wouldn’t expect anything less.  I already helped build a new compost bin for kitchen scraps that sits right outside the SkyHouse Kitchen door where I eat, and it is working wonderfully for reclaiming kitchen scraps.  I usually take out and sort the recycling from the kitchen as well.  Easy.  So what’s my problem?

This week, for the 3rd time since I moved to DR, I hauled six 5-gallon buckets of people poo and pee to a huge pile of people poo and pee (PPP), dumped the buckets, cleaned the buckets, and hauled the buckets back to be reused ad nauseum - haul, dump, clean, haul.  You see “humanure” as PPP is euphemistically referred to is undeniably organic.  Since it is organic, per the innocuous sounding Covenant 6, it is reclaimable and “Rabbits Shall Reclaim Organic Materials.”

I don’t know if it’s because I’m still a novice when it comes to “doing a Humey Shift” as it’s called, or if I was just having an off week, but it did not go very smoothly for me.  In the interest of helping the next new person that comes along and finds themselves doing a Humey Shift, I’ve decided to put together a list of Do-s and Don’t-s.  If you’re telling yourself this will never be relevant in your life, I’m happy for you.  A year ago, I did not think I would need this information, but look what happened.  You never know!  Forewarned is forearmed.

When hauling, dumping, cleaning, and hauling 5-gallon buckets of human shit:

DO be careful the lids do not bounce off when going over a narrow bridge

DO NOT get too close to the sides of the narrow bridge (you will have 2 inches of clearance on each side FYI)

DO NOT remove the buckets from the front of the cart first.  If you DO, you will create a Humey Cart Catapult as the weight shifts faster than you cans say, “Who flung poo?”

DO NOT step into the large bin thinking it is still frozen so you can more evenly distribute the deposit even though you were explicitly directed to evenly distribute the deposit

DO use the shovel that is sitting right next to the bin for deposit distribution (provided you see it before stepping into the bin)

DO wear your tall, rubber boots like you knew you should have instead of your tennis shoes

DO NOT believe the voice in your head as you prepare for your Humey Shift that says “tennis shoes will be fine.  Wear the tennis shoes.”

DO wear the big rubber gloves provided at the bin

DO NOT be disappointed when you find the gloves to be wet inside

DO keep your mouth closed when dumping water from one bucket to another during cleaning

DO keep your mouth shut when using the bristle brush to scrub the buckets of Klingons

DO throw out the water you just cleaned the buckets with downwind NOT into the wind

I hope this helps.

At some point in the future, I’d be happy to answer your questions about the how-s and why-s of this Humanure System, but for now, I’m really just open to receiving hugs and gentle words of encouragement that everything is going to be okay again some day.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Not Again with the Vertigo

I thought getting the ear boogers out had fixed my vertigo.  Think again buffalo breath.

You might remember I postponed moving to DR in July due to having a bad dizzy spell with lingering vertigo.  Those symptoms have been manageable since, and I’ve been able to do much of what I want to do here at Dancing Rabbit until last Saturday.

Saturday was my big road trip down to Columbia, Missouri where my nephew Clayton is a sophomore at MU to see a basketball game with him and my dad.  The trip down was fine.  If 10 is being so dizzy and sick that I’m stuck in bed dryheaving and 0 is no symptoms at all then most days I’m about a 2 or a 3.  I have to take things slowly.  My field of vision constantly seems to be wanting to move.  I try not to jerk my head around too fast because I think that is what caused my most recent bout of severe dizziness at 4am a month ago.

I’ve had about 6 decent months between bad dizzy spells which I am grateful for, but the road trip to Columbia turned out to be too much.  It was the walking into the arena and something about the visual depth and angles of the inside of the arena that was too much for me actually.  A similar thing happens in the grocery store or other big stores.  I’m great when I’m driving or riding in a car interestingly.  Driving is the time I feel the most normal.

I was fine at the restaurant having lunch before the game.  We met and ate at a place right next to the stadium which was packed with black and gold clad Tiger fans.  We left in plenty of time to park closer to the arena.  It was a little stressful finding a parking spot, and we had a decent walk to get there.  I noticed a faint tingle in my lips.  No problem.  I’m fine.  I haven’t been getting out much lately so by a “decent walk” I mean 3 blocks.

Dad and I had already wondered how I would feel going into the arena.  Dad has been dealing with similar vertigo issues for 25 years.  For some reason, spaces like the arena tend to fire up the vertigo, and in my case, this time it did.

Going in the massive glass doors at the front of the stadium - fine.  Walking thru the turnstile and getting my ticket scanned - fine.  Finding our section and going down the cement corridor - still fine.  Emerging onto a landing with a full view of the arena -NOT fine.  Dad asked, “How you doin’?”  I said, “Fine.” 

I took a deep breath.  I steadied myself walking to our seats and did not look down toward the basketball court but stared right at the next seat in the row which I grabbed for balance.  (We had the wrong section on the first try and had to move.)  A couple weeks ago I did finally go to see my new doctor about these symptoms.  It does not seem like they are just going to go away on their own.  My doctor told me about a guy he had as a patient with vertigo problems who was a roofer.  The roofer would spontaneously throw himself to the ground thinking he was losing his balance when in fact he was not.  This is a problem if you’re roofing anything other than dog houses.  Lest I hurl myself over the stadium railing, I leaned way into the seats as I made my way up and down the row.

I eventually got settled in alright.  I looked around.  I kept telling myself, “You’ll be alright.  Breathe.  Breathe.”  Ever since my stroke a couple years ago my lips go tingly when I start to get anxious.  As the announcer got louder and loUDER! and the lights screamed just as loud my lips got to tingling.  “Try to make it to halftime.  You can make it to halftime.”  By the time I’m trying to just make it another minute I know I’m not going to make it.  Not one to suffer needlessly, I told Dad and Clayton I had to go, and I would give them a call when I got to my truck so they would know I made it okay.  I imagine they were surprised, not surprised.  I assured them I’d be fine and did not want to ruin the day for them.

I made it out of the arena and about a block down the sidewalk headed for my truck which was about 5 blocks away.  My legs got shaky, and I got woozier.  Shit.  Worse, I was afraid of getting dizzier and falling down or having to lay down.  I did not want to make a scene.  I’ve made enough scenes in my life, and I don’t like them.  Better not to make one.  I leaned up against the fence next to the sidewalk and took some deep breaths.  “I’m fine.  I’m fine.  I’ll be fine.”  My lips were numb.  “Relax.  Relax.  Shit.  Relax.”  I headed back to the arena without a plan except to get around people who could help if something happened.

I got to the entrance to the section where Dad and Clayton were sitting, but I couldn’t go in knowing things would get worse if I made it to the end of that concrete tunnel.  Not a chair in sight so I squatted against the pillar holding up the stadium and texted Clayton.  He came out.  I just shook my head.  Clayton went back to get Dad, but in the meantime, I needed to find somewhere to sit so I found an usher who eventually led me to Guest Services where Clayton and Dad found me.  I felt a little better sitting down and just tried to relax.  Inside the arena,  it was half-time.  Some guy made a half-court shot to win $5,000.  I’ve seen a lot of these half-time events over the years, but I’ve never seen anyone make that shot.  Just my luck.  The crowd noise celebrating the shot made me wince, but I was happy for the guy.  Dad and Clayton walked up, and Dad said, “A guy just made a half-court shot for $5,000!”  “I heard,” I said.

Clayton went and got Dad’s truck and pulled up close to the arena where I got in.  Oddly, again, I was much better riding in the truck.  We went back to the restaurant we had left an hour earlier and sat down to make a plan.  I felt bad for making us leave the game, but I didn’t have a choice.  I guess I sort of made a scene anyway.  Damn it.  Our decision was to leave my truck parked at Clayton’s fraternity house, and I would go home with Dad to rest up.  He could bring me back to pick up my truck the next day.

As it turned out, Dad brought me back two days later after resting up at the house with him and Mom.  I was fine driving, but I was very tired when I got back to DR, and I’ve been sleeping an inordinate amount which seems to have helped some.  In the last 24 hours, I feel like I’m back to that 2 or 3 on a 10-point scale I mentioned earlier.

MU lost the game at the end after having a big lead.  That guy did make the $5,000 half-court shot though which is cool.  If I could get back to mostly 1 or even 0 on that 10-point scale, I’d feel like I hit a half-court shot for $500,000.  It would be amazing.  I will be so grateful.  It’ll happen.  (And it is happening as I write this just 3 days later.  Don't worry about me please.  I don't want to make a scene.)

Friday, March 8, 2019


I know you’ll be proud of me.  All the trash that I sent to the landfill for the month of February only took up half a bagel bag.  How do I know?  I saved all my trash last month.  My personal garbage for the month of February weighed 4 ounces.  4 ounces is the same weight as couple swigs of Diet Coke if you’re really gettin’ after it.  4 ounces is not much.

(See more about average Rabbit trash here )

The average American is estimated to throw out about 4.4 pounds of trash or 72 ounces per day which is 2,016 ounces for an average February.  4 ounces is about 0.2% of 2,016 so good for me.  I wasn’t even trying that hard.  It is amazing how living in a community of folks that are consciously consuming less, reusing creatively, and recycling aggressively makes it so much easier to cut down on my landfill contribution.  Like I said, I wasn’t even trying that hard.

I did generate other sorts of refuse, but it’s not going to the landfill.  I composted some stuff, mainly used tea bags.  The foil wrappers those tea bags came in is a large part of what is getting hauled to the landfill though.

My eating coop has been in discussions about buying loose tea to avoid the boxes and wrapping and tea bags, and we agree to it in theory but have not yet made the loose tea purchase.  We plan to use up the bagged tea  we already have, 500 boxes or so?, then switch permanently to loose tea some time in the year 2086.  The road to the landfill is paved with good intentions even in an ecovillage, alas.

The biggest contributor by weight of my trash is the bag that the box was wrapped in that contained my new boots.  My old boots gave out after less than a couple months as I climbed around in wood piles and slopped through our mucky village during short-lived thaws this winter.  Those boots were not sturdy enough to climb out of bed.

Also going to the landfill will be four orange, used earplugs.  I can’t think of an upcycle here.  I do know I could buy reusable, custom-fit earplugs which would be pricier but “greener.”  I got a deal on the little orange earplugs -  a box of 1,000 pairs for $30.  I’ve stashed a few pairs here and a few pairs there so I always have them just in case.  They come individually wrapped, uh oh, so those wrappers are also landfill bound.  I do have big, heavy-duty earmuffs for working outside, but I don’t think I could sleep in them.  Maybe I’ll try though for the sake of the environment.

I’m throwing away a pen that quit working.

I’m throwing away a disposable dust mask I was wearing for fire tending.   I don’t think the mask really did much so I’m just sticking my face into the boiler with only my beard and God to protect me.  I got my beard trimmed up a little last week so God is going to have to kick it up a notch.

The rest of the landfill-bound trash seems to be packaging; plastic wrap from a roll of electrical tape, a muffin cup with some muffin left on it, a Spiderman baggy that had my favorite white chocolate yogurt covered pretzels, and the windows from envelopes.  About the envelope windows, I’ve seen other folks just throw the whole envelope in the recycling bin, but somehow I got it in my head that the little clear, filmy window of the envelope is not recyclable.  I carefully tear them out.  I’m embarrassed as I type this thinking how untrue that is likely to be, but my heart is in the right place.

“What about your food coop? I bet you’re not counting the trash you threw away there!  Gotcha!”  You got nothing.  Everything there I’ve been involved with has been recycled or composted except wax paper the butter came in and drippings that have fallen on the floor.  I do sweep up the floor every couple days and that goes into the landfill bin, but guess what.  I put a dustpan full of that stuff into my bagel bag representing my portion of floor drippings so it was also included in the 4 ounce total.  I imagine there was some dried carrot shavings or potato peels in there plus some good ol’dirt.

I’m also throwing away some used dental floss.  I have a couple upcycle ideas for used dental floss, but I want you to keep being my friend so I’m not going to tell you about those ideas.

I was curious how this trash level might compare to other Rabbits.  Am I a special Rabbit trash-wise, or just an average Rabbit trash-wise.  A fellow with a doctorate named Josh has done some research here at DR and found Rabbits send about 0.2 pounds per person per day to the landfill.  I sent .25 pounds for the month of February.  You do the math, it’s late.  You might like reading Josh’s article.  It covers trash and car mileage and electricity.  Overall, my takeaway from the article is that Rabbits are thriving on about 1/10th the inputs and waste as The Average American.  The article has more detail and graphs.  Graphs are nice.  I like them.  If you like graphs, you should go read the article too.

Another way we try to keep things out of the landfill here at DR is to see if anyone else wants our stuff before we recycle or trash it.  Rabbits often bring items like this that are Up For Grabs (UFG) to the Week In Preview (WIP) on Sunday afternoons and put the items on display for all to enjoy and perhaps take home as their very own.

Last Sunday I could have procured a nice green ceramic piggy bank with a nature motif.  Last week, I got a bright yellow, long-sleeved shirt with black writing that I will wear to the MU Tiger basketball game this weekend.  The black writing does not say “MU Tigers” but I hear many of the students there don’t care much for reading anyway - kids today.  A few weeks ago, I got a shelf which is exactly what I needed for my tea, headlamp, as yet unopened mail, peanuts, pill bottles, and earmuffs.  I think someone made the shelf out of pallet wood.  It’s pretty nice for a DIY pallet wood shelf.  I’ve seen worse.  It has some blue paint on it.  I like blue.

I almost forgot.  Someone was giving away a toothbrush at th WIP Sunday too.  Nobody picked that up.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

There there.

The Best There Is

In order to learn to be truly content here, you have to practice being truly content here. And that means giving up any notion that there’s something better just around the next bend.

—Brad Warner, “Goalless Practice

Hi friends.  Today I'm just going to sit here and be content for a few hours while also meeting my outside obligations.

There is no there there.  Gertrude Stein

Sunday, February 24, 2019

DR Retreat 2019 and Ear Boogers

Well, we wrapped up the DR Retreat 2019.  It began last Tuesday evening, and we took last weekend off.  What is the DR Retreat?

Generally, it begins at 9am with lunch and dinner at 12 and 6:30pm with sessions in between.  I heard the sessions were good.

I see a few purposes for having the retreat.  On the first day, we took a look at everything that was accomplished in the village over the last year.  We filled up 3 white boards with things; new buildings, new dogs, new residents, successful classes, and well-attended workshops.  It felt like a victory lap after a long and busy year.

Retreat is also a chance for folks to connect more deeply if they so choose.  I’ve written about it before, but I am amazed how easy it is to not see folks for days even though we are a village of only about 50 adults.  Retreat is a chance to connect in person.  I’m a counter, and I have counted about 17 to 25 people at the gatherings where we are all together.  We also break out into smaller groups, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Finally, we take a look at what is upcoming in 2019 and attempt to set priorities.  I say “attempt” as we never know what may surface.  Much time and energy has been unexpectedly but appropriately dedicated to helping folks cope with the village situation that surprised us all which I wrote about in my last blog.

Let me tell you a little about the sessions.

My favorite session was the Samba Dance Troupe -  daDa-daDa-Da-duh, daDa-daDa-Da-duh.  My foot is tapping just remembering it. If you have no morning Samba in your life, I suggest you get some.  Jason, an awesome drummer that just moved here a few months ago from Colorado, led the whole thing by demonstrating the instrument to be played and handing it off to someone in the circle and giving them the beat, daDa-daDa-Da-duh, daDa-daDa-Da-duh, until they caught on.  Castanets, cow bells, balaclavas, triangles, and rattles were represented.  I had a rattle.  Don’t judge.  Another rattle broke open during the ruckus spraying hundreds of little beads across the floor.  Very authentic.  I hear some of Carnival’s best Somba troupes will often break a rattle mid-dance.

Once Jason had all the instruments passed out, he sat down with a bass pedal next to the suitcase he had just taken all the instruments out of to distribute.  But this was no ordinary suitcase.  This suitcase became a bass drum. He also set up a snare drum and a cymbal.  For 15 or 20 minutes, we were the rockin’est Somba Dance Troupe in Rutledge.  You hear that Scotland County MO?  We were the rockin’est Somba Dance Troupe in Rutledge!

And now a word about drummer face.  Drummer face is the face I make when I play the drums or any other percussion instrument, the rattle in this particular instance.  Don't judge.  My drummer face is unlike any other face I make.  In fact, I can’t even strum my fingers on the table during dinner without making a wee bit of drummer face.  Jason most definitely had drummer face.  Drummer face is how I would look if I was cool.  Drummer face is the face I would make after getting off my Harley and stretching my legs after 12 hours in the saddle.  Drummer face is the face I would make if I ever got a strike in bowling.  As if.

And now for the worst transition ever written.  Drummer face is the face I would make after flushing a ball of earwax the size of a grape out of my ear.  Some friends and I had a conversation about these “ear boogers” on the way to town the other day.  For years, I’ve softened mine up with those ear drops that make tickly bubbles in my ears which I follow up with a vigorous, warm water irrigation via a small, plastic, squeeze bulb.  It is so satisfying when the water flows back out freely, and I know what’s coming when I look into the sink; ear booger!  We all agreed Q-tips are not indicated for such situations and actually act as ramrods packing our ears tighter and making them hurt more.  One friend suggested a curved device with a tiny scoop on the end, possibly Chinese in origin, that would do the trick nicely. 

The counterpoint to this suggestion was not letting a friend anywhere near your ear with such a device and only trust yourself if hazarding this modality at all.  In the back of my head, I can hear my mom passing on the advice her doctor gave her, “The only thing you should ever put in your ear is your elbow with a towel wrapped around it.”

So the great thing about flushing the grapes out of my ears is that my balance has been noticeably better.  I’m currently having almost no dizziness which I’ve struggled with since the beginning of July.  Granted things have been slowly improving as I’ve tried some other means to help get rid of the vertigo, but is sure seems like getting rid of the ear boogers has helped considerably.  Who knew?

You never know what you’re going to get in my blog so be sure and tune in next time when I cover the various disclaimers that have come with the food I’ve eaten since I moved here.

Sneak Preview:  “I made too much food for the dog, do you want some?” and, “If you don’t mind a little mold, ....”

Sorry.  I forgot about the other retreat topics;  firewood, conflict resolution, Kid Committee, what committee will hold what issues, Milkweed Mercantile, lunch, snacks, and dinner.  It’s in the notes if you want to know more.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Can't Breathe

A touchy subject came up at coffee the other morning.  Compared to my hopes, dreams and expectations how has my experience thus far at Dancing Rabbit measured up?  My answer - it depends on which hope, dream or expectation I take a look at.

I was taught well, years ago, that an expectation is a premeditated resentment, but I still hope for the best.  I still indulge in imagining a world that I think will comfort, satisfy, and entertain me.  I understand the world is not here for my comfort, satisfaction, and entertainment, but I do believe there will be a reasonable measure of such things if I align myself with the way things are, do a little work in the right direction, and don’t take myself, and you, too seriously.  And yes, there will be an occasional sucker punch in the stomach that takes my breath away.

I remember the first time I got the wind knocked out of me.  Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, and I were camping just south of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the country.  As I remember, the pond down there was newly built and the dam still had large chunks of earth everywhere that had not yet been worn smooth by the wind and rains nor had much vegetation sprouted. 

From the top of the new dam, I was making my way down to the campsite at the dam base.  As gravity and running had their way with me, in no time at all I was going way faster than my short four-year-old legs could carry me, and I fell face first hitting the ground with a dirt clod gouging me right in the stomach.  Out goes the air.  Out stays the air.  I think the experience gave me empathy for the fish we had caught and thrown on the bank earlier in the day, bullheads we called them.  I couldn’t breathe.

I have had the wind knocked out of me here at Dancing Rabbit.  A long-time Dancing Rabbit member was recently arrested.  I could barely breathe.  The community has been gouged in the soul.  I’ve felt scared and hurt.  I’ve been angry.  I’ve lost trust.  I’ve been disabused of the dream that “I’ll move out to the country to an eco-village where I’ll garden, read, meditate, go on walks, and generally help out around the place.  It will be a relaxed and peaceful sanctuary to regain my health and take a much-needed break from the everyday world and all its troubles.” 

Gardening is still going on thanks to the hoop house with all the lettuce.  I count seven books on the table next to me all of which I am enjoying.  Meditation makes up about an hour of my day.  I walked down to the pond this morning and cut some willow wands so that they won’t keep growing and degrade the dam over time.  I’m trying to keep the fireplace warm enough today so our baker can get the bread dough to rise.  And I found a way to keep the boiler going without getting so much smoke into the house which is a big bonus.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  This is typical of most days since I’ve been here at DR and meets my expectations.

But on one of these typical days last week, the sheriff was here to make the arrest.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to breathe again.  I don’t know when the community will breathe again.  We are gasping.  There are feelings of helplessness, rage, disbelief, and shame.  Will we return to normal or is this the end?

I never saw it coming, and it happened in an instant.  It changed everything here at DR.  I hesitate to share any of this, but it is the reality here at this time.  My burden is light compared to those most directly impacted.  I don’t have all the right words, but I feel not saying anything is not right either.

I look forward to being able to breathe again, and I aspire to be an agent of peace and healing here.