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Rachel Katz

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I have found that life is a much more unpredictable journey than I would have imagined. I was born into an upper-middle class family on Long Island, New York. I thought I was heading towards prominent, fantastic things, like being a scientist, astronaut or senator. I went to Stanford University in the San Francisco Bay Area. My budding critical thinking was nurtured there and I determined that I wanted to pursue a life directed by my values and beliefs, which veered strongly to the left.

I also met my life partner there, Tony. I was independent, freewheeling and certainly not looking for a partner, but the universe had its own plans. After graduating, we were living in the Bay Area, working in the heady internet boom and various activist projects. Building Dancing Rabbit was a dream of Tony's and when the time came, I reluctantly packed my bags and joined the group headed out into the unknown of the Midwest.

It has been a rocky journey learning to love Northeast Missouri and Dancing Rabbit, but as with most things, once I love it, I love it intensely. Now I find it sort of painful to tear myself away from here to visit friends and family, because I love witnessing the daily and seasonal natural transformations that occur here. I try to spend as much time as I can learning about our local flora and fauna, whether through walks on our land or the pages of books. This love led me to return to school to study ecology. I received my Master's degree from local Truman State University and studied the effect of management on grassland birds.  I learned a lot, which I continue to apply formally and informally at Dancing Rabbit.  I am part of the group responsible for managing Dancing Rabbit's land. I have been organizing tree plantings and controlled burns, building erosion control structures, battling invasive species and helping people educate themselves about the flora and fauna of DR.

I also enjoy the time I spend reaching out to the local community. Northeast Missouri has about the friendliest people I've met. I work to build bridges with local folks through my column in the Memphis Democrat, our annual open house, Saturday tours, inviting neighbors to dinner, and any help we can give. And I have been repaid in spades with friendship and help.

Like many people at Dancing Rabbit, I work on a variety of projects and odd jobs.  I have a part time job telecommuting to a nonprofit in Kirksville doing GIS (Geographic Information Systems).  I am trying to put together some sort of fund that will help people at Dancing Rabbit protect themselves from the high cost of major medical expenses.  Additionally, I had such a good time when I traveled to Guatemala with Tony, that I intend to go back the winter of 06-07 and work with sustainable development organizations in remote communities.  Perhaps it can be the start of a longer term exchange between Dancing Rabbit and indigenous communities in Guatemala.

Dancing Rabbit is a wonderful and challenging place. People become family and I have been blessed with friends both at Dancing Rabbit and in the nearby community that I value highly. But I continue to struggle with the unique challenges that living in community brings: the conflict from tightly interwoven lives, the lines between public and private, setting boundaries, and finding meaningful work.

I live in a small load-bearing strawbale cabin called Allium. It is my special little place, with a quilt on the bed, paintings and sculptures of plants on the walls and skulls of animals on the windowsill. I'm busy trying to landscape around it with fruit trees and bushes and native plants. I have a rain-fed and wood heated outdoor hot tub. I also rent out half of Allium as a guest room for visitors and guests for up to two weeks. It is a quiet and temperature-controlled haven.

Rachel 6/06

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