Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Community

Reverb10: Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Work — My office walls are a pale lavender — a color my office-mate and I chose a couple of years ago thinking it soothing, particularly in summer. Though we weren't thinking of it as a liturgical color (purple is Advent and Lent,) it seemed the pale hint of purple seemed to fit with our liturgical jobs. With this soft hue surrounding us, we have shared our stories, our ideas and our work space. Parishioners stop in to visit — and occasionally to share a pastoral need — and if it's their first visit, they look around at the walls and say, are these walls purple? Yes, we say, and we invite them in to experience what purple can do for the soul.

Lee and I, and my other friend who inhabit the office wing of our parish, usually share lunch on Tuesdays. In the last year, this ritual has become much more important to me than just food for the body. Those who tag along each week might be different, but as we commune over soup or burgers or the special of the day, as trite as it sounds, we fill ourselves with soul food. Over lunch we've solved creative quandaries, built each other up, laughed and cried, encouraged and consoled, returning to our purple room quenched and ready to start again.

I worship where I work, and when I come into the church on Sundays, kneeling as I come into the pew, I look up, then around at those entering the church. The first time I came to my church, I honestly prayed: God, is this the right one? So hungry I was, new in what had been my college town, seeking community somewhere. (I have written about this before.) When I rose from the pew that day 21 years ago, the first person I saw was a woman I had known from my childhood, the older sister of my brother's best friend. My past community, reaching out to this new one, and I stayed. I raised my family here.

Writing — Nothing fuels my work more than sitting down with other writers to gnaw a little while on words and ideas. Dawn and Jane and Elaine, Candy and Diane, Miriam and Lynne and Melanie are just a few of the folks that spark my writing energy. Years ago, I had no sense of community in my writing, simply toiled away alone at my bedroom table, hoping one day somebody would know me. I first met Dawn after answering a notice in the NC Writer's Network Newsletter for people who wanted to join a writer's group. (Who knew there was an entire COMMUNITY, just for writer's in our state?) 
Dawn and I have been critique partners for about 15 years now, both of us working as professional communicators during our days, our nights and weekends spent noveling, when we can. Though that original group no longer exists, writers come and go, depending upon their place in the writer's journey. We met Jane at an NC State workshop. She writes wonderful stories, and in a lot of them people are driving places. It seems to be a metaphor for Jane, who is going places as a craftsman of words. Elaine is new to our group, young and committed to this thing that for all of us has pulled since we were small. My other writing friends, CDM&L, meet semi-regularly for supper and support, and when we met last week, we laughed at the fact that when we first began these suppers, we spend all of our synergy talking about our craft. Now, some 10 years later, we talk about our hearing loss, our cancer, our grandchildren and those we hope for. But we always leave our discussions filled with a new power.
Melanie has not yet owned the fact that she is a writer, not yet. But she will. The mother of three young girls, she is a keen observer of what living a life of faith and raising children in it is all about, and she is just trying to get it write.(yes, I did mean it two ways.) She casts daily life in lyrical phrases, tossing them like softly spun silk against the wind for others to catch and twist around their fingers for a little while. Her stories inhabit you, they are that good. You can read her latest piece here. (click on December, and read page 8). 

Living within this writerly community keeps me whole, even if I can't manage to write so much as a grocery list, I know they believe in me, even when I don't.

Cloos' Club — I can't complete this post without writing about the folks at Cloos', a place on the other side of town where some of my friends and I gather on Fridays to commune over the most awesome French fries in these here parts. We've been gathering for about 10 years I guess, crunching on those fries and giggling, mostly, about friendship, husbands, church and sex (yes, at Cloos' Club we can mention that in the same phrase). I've been writing a novel based (loosely) on our Friday experiences for what seems like a lot of years... I so close to finishing it's scary.

Cloos' Club all dressed up!
I might not be a part of this group if it weren't for Sandy, (shown above with the fabulous Charlotte) — the most inclusive person I know. She invited me to lunch some years ago to meet her friend Greer, because we both like books, and when our venue was torn down, we moved to Cloos'. Along came Trina and her sister Anna, then Sidney and Walker joined us later on. Sandy has a song for every moment, and she can play a mean nose guitar, even when she isn't asked. Cloos' is the kind of place where if they really do know your name when you walk in, and often your favorite thing to order. It's a real community, the people who come to Cloos', and it is not just about the food. When I turned 50, the entire place sang Happy Birthday. What a wonderful moment that was.

The community I'd like to connect with more deeply next year? Family.