December 7 – Community. 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?
I really love this question, and I’m going to answer it backwards.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream. In it, I had rented a space in one of Tempe’s community centers - just a small one, for about twenty or thirty people or so, and, along with some friends, was decorating it for the night’s event. Sweets and hot tea were set on tables near the back of the room, colorful tablecloths were taped across utilitarian tables, and the chairs were set in a circle in the center of the room.
As women entered, they smiled and laughed and drank a bit of tea. They set their belongings - bags of wonderful, amazing art supplies - on the tables against the walls and pulled out fabulous pieces of art - from paintings to jewelry to large, colorful quilts - to set along the wall in the front of the room, just under a chalkboard that said:
Welcome. Please be you. And take a seat.
When everyone had arrived, I was sitting at the top of the circle with a basket in my lap. It was simple, but lined with a shimmering blue fabric that looked like flowing water whenever I shifted nervously. Inside were tiny organza pouches, the kind used for favors at a wedding, holding something I’d crafted by hand.
They were clay pendants with simple drawings carved into one side and words on the other. Mine was decorated with stars, and on the side close to my heart, said, “I am worthy.” Each was colored with paints and shined in sunlight. And silk ribbon acted as a chain. These were free gifts for each of the women.
The basket was passed around, and as each person said their name, they drew a necklace from the basket. Fate showed them what they most needed to hear. When everyone had said their name, we all stood, sisters now wearing simple words around our necks. These are magic, I thought, a special magic that can never be sold, only given.
When friends saw these pendants, they asked where the women had gotten them, and the women would bring them along the next time. We’d meet once a month, and after introductions, we’d pull the tables into the center of the room and create. Nothing structured, just laughter, creativity, strength, teaching, tea, and magic.
Last week, I bought a length of silk ribbon.
I knew I needed to create this space for artists to blossom and create. I knew there was a reason I had this dream, moved to this place, met people. Such a simple little dream to have, but one I feel I must bring into reality.
It is a community I want to create.
I’ve never told this dream to anyone, at least not in this much detail. There was a stirring deep inside me as the dream flowed and grew - soon, we had to move spaces to make room for everyone! Men began to attend, receiving bracelets instead of necklaces. We had art shows and classes and coffee dates under the stars.
For a woman like me, working as I do, community is everything. I was fortunate enough to stumble onto the Art Journaling Ning group, and from there, I met new friends, watched Ustream shows, and got into stamping! I attended CHA with a woman I’d only just met, her having moved to Chicago from Arizona (yes, we recognized the irony!).
And when I arrived out here, I already had a network of friends and acquaintances to visit, who helped me figure out where things are, who nurtured my waining, tired creative spirit, who felt like old friends when we’d only just “met” in person. Instead of feeling isolated, lost, and alone, this online community I’d grown to love and depend on so much was right there for me, helping me along the way.
What was truly magical was how quickly I met and befriended my neighbors at my new home. While I’ve lived in dorms and furnished apartments, I’ve never truly lived in a community such as this one, and after only two weeks here, I was outside in the evening, creating art, sipping margaritas, and chatting with so many people, we had trouble moving about my neighbor’s patio!
Since then, I’ve had doggie play dates, random trips to the art store, visits here and there, help, food, great listeners, and so much more. I’d missed that, living in the suburbs of Chicago, where no one really talks to each other. That true sense of community, that spirit of giving and openness I can’t wait to have in my life in the coming year.