Dancing Rabbit was a very good fit for me for a very long time.

I was attracted to Dancing Rabbit because it promised eternal change. We were growing a demonstration of whole new society. More than a life’s work.

I threw myself into this endeavor. I thrived. I relished the constant evolution and unpredictability, planning and envisioning that came from a never-ending evolving social and physical landscape.

I didn’t know it at the time, but moving to Dancing Rabbit would help me unleash my power. It was also at Dancing Rabbit that I learned how to wield that power, learning the skills of harnessing that power (and the emotions that fed it) so that my energy could be put to best use for the greater good.

Years later, as my children grew into young adults and the community settled into the next generation of family-making, I longed for something bigger, bolder, more alive to wrap myself up in. So I ventured away from home, and led myself into open waters.

Moving to New England was not an easy transition. Culturally, I’d just come from a place where a high value is placed on welcoming newcomers, and where deep connections are supported and encouraged. It was hard to adjust to this cool and reserved social structure, one where busy-ness dominates the consciousness and communities of social interactions are separated by dozens of miles.

I set out to understand this new place. To get a feel for the vernacular of the region. It took a long time for me to begin to understand the patterns, to feel comfortable in this new place. To build a relationship to this new landscape.

3 years later, I am still learning.

Inherently, my work is place-based. In order to design and build, I need to understand this place – how the sun moves across the sky – How the land is shaped, shifts, and evolves – and I must build a relationship to all of the elements; rock, plants, water – I must understand what the land yields to its inhabitants, and how those resources influence the architecture. There is so much to learn.

Anyone who has solidly stepped in the shoes of foreigner probably understands what I’m saying. There is so much that we take for granted about learning, and knowing, our own culture. It’s not until we are expected to integrate into a different culture that our assumptions become apparent.

For Example: Why are the bulk of 200 year old houses in this area some rambling 3,000 square foot endeavors, while the neat brick post-WWII era homes I pass in Lincoln, Nebraska have only 900 square feet and reside on postage stamp lots? Both homes likely have the same number of people living in them. Which is more sustainable? Which is more resilient? Learning how these buildings came to be, how they are used, and what potentials there are for these homes in the future – this is the inherent understanding that (architecturally savvy) native would have. And this is what I must learn, in order to do justice to sustainable architecture in this place.

In my view, Do what you do well, or not at all. Thus, I strive to learn. To understand.

Dancing Rabbit helped crystallize my priorities. I value deep and meaningful engagement. I long to be part of group that is doing something worthwhile. I want to feel cared for, valued. I want my contribution to matter.

Thus, I am choosy about where I place my time and attention. Where I place my life energy matters. There is an abundance of opportunity for sustainable architecture in New England. By focusing my energy, I’ve found a place for myself in Natural Building. Architectural Vernacular. Ecological Design. Community. Doing so, I have found meaningful engagement, my current definition of home.


I’ve been on the bleeding edge of sustainability for nearly as long as I can remember. It’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, I feel alive with purpose and meaning, and I live a life that is vibrant, alive, and ever-changing. On the other hand, I often feel a bit disconnected from my fellow humans. It can be hard for others to understand where I’m coming from or connect with my drive and impassioned speech.

Nature always finds a way. Why fight nature when working with it makes more sense, takes less energy, and harmonizes what is inevitable?

About a year ago, I started honing in on the word resilience. I see what’s coming: a disrupted climate that seeds chaos in my fellow man; the unending fear that everything we worked for was for naught, and in it’s place, the sharp pain of realization that what we’ve built our lives and societies around is a house of cards. We have lost the capacity to self-sustain, and our global supply chains are on treacherous and shaky ground.

Around the world, communities are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis. For them, the crisis has already descended. Change is surely coming to us as well. So what are we going to do about it?

Twenty years ago, the world was more ignorant and hopeful place. A small collection of us picked up the baton of sustainability and pleaded for our communities, our societies to consider the future of our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Time passed. We’ve entered a new age. Instead of worrying about the fourth generation of my future lineage, I worry about the lives of my teenage children. We have passed beyond the age of sustainability and entered the age of resilience.

I don’t expect you to believe me. This isn’t my first rodeo. When I moved to radical sustainable community in 2005, nearly everyone thought I was ludicrous.

Fifteen years later, the lessons I gained there have prepared me to see what is coming, and what must be done. We need to become resilient. Interdependent. Connected in real and meaningful ways. Simply so that we can hope to survive.

You don’t have to believe me. But I invite you to suspend judgment: wait 15 years and see what the world brings.

Musings of a Timber Frame Guild Newbie

I think it’s really interesting to see the intersectionality of the building world when I attend specialty conferences. I thought you might enjoy reading my takeaways. 

I have fallen in love with the TFG. I’m a green timber framer, who has just joined the Guild. I attended the TFG annual conference this past weekend as my inaugural event. They are an awesomely connected and caring group of people. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and was delighted to sense almost no machisma, and reveled in meeting so many talented people! There was a gentleness to the group that I can’t quite describe that felt really sweet, the way I think of natural building gatherings. 

While I was there, I observed where the TFG community is at with carbon. They are in a similar place as the rest of the industry, but it’s an easier pill to swallow for them, since their fundamental construction material is mass timber. I think many people in the industry feel squeezed, so maybe that translates to it being hard to rally energy. Tim Krahn, the Canadian engineer I’ve told some of you about, presented at the conference, and unfortunately, I had to miss it. We chatted throughout the conferencen, and Tim assured me that I already had heard the essence of draw down carbon thanks to the good work of Chris, Ace, and Jacob. Regardless, I was disappointed to miss Tim’s own musings, insights, and perspective on the draw down movement.

I was impressed by Tedd Benson. As you may know, Tedd is a timberframer who entered the manufacturing world in a big way. He’s at the extreme end of mechanized timberframing, but his roots are steeped in counter-culture, back to the land, hippee movement (which is near and dear to my heart). He was part of the early wave of passive solar and energy efficiency folks, and developed greater timber framing acumen by working with traditional craftspeople from Japan, Germany, and France. When Tedd spoke yesterday, he communicated the urgent climate crisis message as fervently as I would have. He has the passion for it, for sure. His tenet is: Architecture is not neutral. It either harms or it heals.

I liked the way Tedd spoke of his employees. He always communicated in a way to express gratitude for their talent, contributions, and dedication. He introduced and shared the presentation with two others in the company, his shop foreman of 36 years, and a framer and modeler of 20 years. I got the impression that Dennis, the shop foreman, held a significant leadership role in the TFG for many years and is well respected for his knowledge and care for others.

Someone in the audience asked if Tedd was talking to big companies and he said yes. That his message was the same to them – use sustainably sourced wood + capture carbon = save the planet. He described being a headline feature speaker at a building conference that attracted the likes of the big 5 construction companies in North America. He said that when he spoke about the climate and the need to change our business practices, most people looked at their plates and laps. 

Tedd is sophisticated in his thinking about ecological impacts, and is thinking at a large scale. It makes me curious whom he considers his peers and co-inspirers.

Given the clout that Tedd brings to bear, given the achievements they have made, he is a respected and trusted voice that has the power to influence. It makes me wonder how he might hone his message to be a more effective communicator. What convinces people to act? How do we, as leaders and activists, communicate imperative messages that inspire change?

I met an entire small company called Heritage Natural Finishes. Everyone knew the owner, Autumn Peterson. She’s on the TFG board and is a significant conference sponsor. She hand-makes small batches of natural finishes, and is well established in the timber community. I spent an evening with her crew. The most defining part for me is that a colleague from Dancing Rabbit works for her. Ziggy is a natural builder that I trust with material choice and engage with for best practices in traditional methods. It was nice to see a product I could so readily rely on be associated with the Guild.

I observed that the top sponsor for the conference was Foard Panel. Their panels use eps, xps, and polyiso as insulation. They are obviously a trusted company that supplies high end timber framing projects. Who is talking to Foard Panel about the importance of switching to plant-based? Who’s offering to collaborate? This seems like a great opportunity to introduce plant-based solutions into an established and trusted company. 

I’m glad to have found a community of folks who want to share knowledge and craft, and who are inherently doing work that is in line with the carbon dilemma. Yes, we can always improve, and this seems like another great group of people to build carbon solutions with!I hope you’re also finding community and inspiration in whatever it is that you’re doing.

Where’s home?

I am still considering a return to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, but quite honestly there’s 3 factors that are making me hesitant.

The first is that global warming is ramping up at a much faster pace than most scientists were communicating, and I worry about the future of Northeast Missouri. Some people think that I am too extreme in my views, but I’m pretty terrified by what’s going to happen to the heartland.

Second, my professional career has never been this exciting. There’s a lovely sense of place and rootedness in buildings here. Perhaps it’s all the stone and the mass timber. There are wonderful folks who are experts in their field and masters of their craft. I have found mentors and inspiring people to work alongside.

Third, roots are inevitably starting to form out here. My daughter has fallen in love with Maine and think she might want to stay there for the rest of her life. I started to finally acclimate to New England culture. I’ve even fallen in love with the landscape and climate (it helps that it’s summer right now). So I’m starting to be able to imagine myself here in a way that’s as beautiful, although certainly different, then my life back home. 

New England feels resilient. I’m finding all this depth of traditional knowledge and deep pride and sense of place that really enhances this area’s resiliency. 

In many ways, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage feels somewhat like a security blanket for me. But I recognize that the longer I’m away, the more it changes. I’m a pretty different person than I was a few years ago when I moved out here. And my sense is that Dancing Rabbit’s a pretty different community than it was when I left. I recognize that if I do return to Dancing Rabbit, I need to let go of any preconveived memories of the community it used to be, and learn who it really is these days.

So I’m exploring communities and developing relationships while staying really open to the idea of living out here long-term. I’m not quite closing the door out to my home in Missouri, but I am starting to look at it from an outsider’s perspective.

I’m returning home for a week, possibly longer, in October, to apply lime wash to my house, visit friends,, and get a little window into who DR is.
We’ll see.

Coming to terms with loss

I haven’t really admitted this to my friends back home because I don’t really want it to be true. But, I am gravely concerned that I have to make a choice.

And that choice feels unbearable.

I feel loss due to climate change in multiple ways. One key way is place-based resiliency.

At the moment, I live in Shelburne Falls. In many ways, it feels like a magical place. The town itself is stunningly beautiful, and wonderfully charming. It’s postcard perfect. It also hits several of my resiliency matrices. 

Precisely, I live just a little way down the road from the town proper, and the road to my house lies close to the Deerfield River. So swallowed at the banks with trees, I can only hear the constant dull thunder of falls both upstream and down. This is an important waterway and water source, and local power generation to boot. Beyond the river is the Southern edge of Mt. Masseumett. A train slowly passes just in front of my house as I type this. I love it. I feel connected to the cycles of commerce; two cars are filled with what looks like recycling. I’m perched up the hill a little ways; high enough not to worry about river water even in the worst circumstance.

But I’ve been on this road before, twenty years ago. Back when I had even more energy. With a 2, 5, and 7 year old in tow, I sold our house and we traveled the country for 2 years while we envisioned and searched for the best place to live sustainably, resiliently. We chose Dancing Rabbit, to steer toward, and to put roots.

It was a good life. And now, that good life is in peril.

Studies published by well-funded agriculture companies (who want to protect their investments throughout the Heartland) and the US Government indicate that the little oasis we created in Northeast Missouri is destined to become much hotter, more humid, and is forecast to be dominated by severe weather events. This in a place that is already prone to tornadoes, strong thunderstorms, flooding and drought. Climate change is predicted to be a disaster for the bread basket of the United States, and the sustainable home and resilient community I helped build is smack dab in the middle of all that.

As a result, I feel terrified. Sad. Humbled. I know that ultimately, that means starting over. I feel like a climate refugee, even though as I type it, I don’t think others would agree. My house still stands. Vegetables grow in the garden I built. The community is bustling with activity. But for how long? I am in the uncomfortable position of seeing the writing on the wall, before the evidence is unmistakable. This must be what the climate scientists felt like in the late 20th century.

Likely because I’m not living on the land at the moment, I can take a broader look at the situation. I can assess clearly because my day-to-day is not steeped in it. Perhaps it seems I’m being a bit alarmist, but I don’t think so. Each day, I read a handful of articles that illustrate drastic changes happening around the world, attributed to climate change. The rate of change is alarming scientists, who predicted a more moderate rate of decay and disruption.

We’re on a ticking time bomb. It’s in my nature to want to root, to want to integrate to my community. I’m tired. I don’t want to keep doing this again and again. Yet, this is in the cards for roughly one in three of us here in the United States. That figure is both terrifying and mind-numbing.

I wish I had more answers. Where to go, what to do. For now, mostly what I have is sorrow for what I will leave behind. The silver lining, if I can call it that, are the many lessons and skills I gained while living in community in Missouri. These I carry with me to any and all communities I become a part of. Maybe we’ll meet someday. After all, it’s plausible that we’ll both be one of the 100+ million US citizen climate refugees in our lifetime.

The Climate Crisis is Big.

In my head, it’s all-consuming. I think about climate disruption morning, noon, and night. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and think about it.

I suppose that I have done this to myself. For over 20 years, I’ve been building a life that was supposed to make me prepared for this. And yet, here I am, on the brink, and I feel lost, overwhelmed, and ultimately unprepared for what is to come.

Google’s news feed allows me to highly customize the data I see. I’ve honed this feature such that in 32 offered stories, roughly half are specifically about climate change, and the other half are largely topics that are tangential or related to it (at least in my mind). This runs the gamut from ticks and refugees to soil, aquifers, permaculture,and regenerative agriculture, from waste streams and zoning regulations to real estate and building codes. Unless it’s a story about paper straws, I don’t read a whiff of Trump. Which is a good thing, except that it’s not. His absence from my feed is reflective of his engagement with the biggest existential threat we have ever faced. We’re at a critical point in time. It’s a damn shame there is such poor leadership coming from the executive branch of the United States.

But largely, I tend not to focus my energy there. Washington is going to do what Washington does, with or without me. I feel a responsibility to at least be minimally engaged, yet largely that engagement feels for naught. Where I do feel a difference with my impact is closer to home. As a matriarch, that began at home. I’ve run a tight reduce, reuse, and recycle household all my adult life, and I raised my kids in a small off-grid cabin. Years later when we did have running water in the house, it was because we’d built those features into the house ourselves. We’ve relied on continental trains to visit family or travel to school.

Quite honestly, it was a really sweet life.  

I began carefully choosing how to invest my life energy – both in terms of time and the money spent. I learned to appreciate, and deeply value, the simple things. I joined an ecovillage and made it my mission to teach myself and others how to live sustainably. Spoiler alert – living in community is immeasurably rewarding, and the second hardest thing I’ve ever done. I gave up freedom and autonomy for the greater good, and learned how to navigate my way through that intra- and inter-personally.

Looking back, I realize that I foolishly made a deal with the planet; I’d do my part to live sustainably and help others do the same, and in return, I’d be safe. Funny thing though, the planet is letting me know that it doesn’t work that way. I feel fundamentally unsafe; for myself, for my kids, for my communities, for our very existence. Climate disruption is showing its presence faster and harder than most of us expected, including me.

This is Necessary

Fear can be a friend.

This is not how I commonly think about Fear, but it’s true. I feel fear deep in my gut, on the left side to be precise. I haven’t always known where fear has lived in my body – I had to pay good money to learn that fact from a life coach. How has it served me, you ask? Well, now I can identify when fear is alive and well in my body, and trying to get me to notice. From there, it’s a matter of connecting my thoughts to my body sensations.

But I digress…

Fear has kept me from make a fool of myself. It has been the warning sign that I could fail. Thanks to fear, I haven’t taken on a level of risk that has rendered me dead nor unable to procreate. My kids have thanked me.