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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reverb10, Day 7: Redefining Community

Todays prompt is: 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?

Prompt Author: Cali Harris

My definition of community includes, but is not limited by those living in close geographic proximity to me. It includes friends all over the world, my family, groups I belong to and my neighbours, colleagues and community members. Some of these people I see daily. Some I see monthly. Some I only see once a year, and some I have not seen in many years. I stay connected through the phone. Through Facebook. Through old fashioned, hand-written letters. Some people I even drive across the continent to connect with!

My friends and family have always been very important to me. Maybe because I am an only child, I'm not sure. When I was younger I thought there was no way I would manage to keep in touch with most of the people I have met, but somehow, years later, I still maintain close relationships with far more amazing people than I would ever have thought was possible.

Over the last year, the amazing diversity of my community has been highlighted. As I crossed the continent, visiting friends, I realized how much I consider these people to be my family even though I had not seen some of them for going on ten years. Spending time with them in person made me reflect on how fluid community really is today. One minute I am on the other side of the planet from my friends, and the next minute I am hiking through the desert with them, sitting and writing together under a wide open blue sky.

This spring I went on pilgrimage to the Baha'i Holy Land in Israel. My pilgrim group was composed of people coming from all over the planet. I had only met one of two of them before arriving in Israel, but spending ten days immersed in the blissful state of prayer with these people transformed the group from a random collection of individuals into a unified community. I have kept in touch with a number of these people since returning to the US, and because of the nature of how I got to know them, the relationships formed during my pilgrimage will always hold a special significance to me. An example of how long these seemingly random connections last is a chance encounter I had recently with Mitra, a woman who was in my pilgrim group the last time I was on pilgrimage, in 1998. She and her husband and their daughter just moved to Sacramento, and I met them through friends. Although Mitra did not remember me, I immediately felt that we had a connection, although I could not remember where we had met. After some time I finally remembered having met her in Israel so many years earlier. Reconnecting so many years later, and the fact that at some level my heart knew that I had shared something very special with Mitra made me realize how connected community is, and how relationships are a vast interconnected pattern of interactions that keep circling around and back on themselves over and over.

Since arriving in Sacramento I have made a new circle of friends from all over. Many of us are only here for a short time, but we have still managed to create our own little community. I have also managed to re-connect with old friends who I had kept in touch with from a distance while I was living in Canada, and have been able to deepen these friendships in new ways. I have been missing my closely knit community in Canada, but we have kept in touch by phone and email, supporting each other and sharing our lives from a distance. Strengthening these friendships across the distance has deepened them in ways that I had never considered when we were living five minutes away from each other. The distance adds new dimensions, and makes me realize how precious the five and a half years that I spent living in the same physical community with them were.

In trying to develop my writing, and find my career path in life, I have joined an online community called Loving Inquiry, being facilitated by Ahava Shira, a good friend of mine who recently finished her PhD, and is discovering her talents as an educator, poet and facilitator of women's workshops. This group is made up of women I have never met, a friend of mine from Sacramento who is exploring her path in life, and a friend back on Prince Edward Island. It brings us all together in a creative, welcoming space in which we can share our writing, our art, our reflections, and our life experiences and questions.

There are so many communities that I consider myself a part of, many of them interlocking and overlapping. There are also communities that I would like to join. One community I am only just starting to explore is the community of fellow writers. I am writing more and more regularly, but I have yet to join a local writers group, which I think would facilitate my creative process, and help me to improve my writing. I have also not read publicly here in Sacramento, and I think doing so would get me off the page and bring my poetry and stories to life in a new way. I miss having my hands in the soil. Joining a gardening or farming group would encourage me to get back outside planting and nurturing life again. A few weeks ago I went for a hike with a group of total strangers. It was a day of pure joy. I would love to do more of this, and create a community that thrives on being out in the natural world like I do. 

There is so much to look forward to. Community is always changing and growing. Moving does not necessarily mean loss -- it just means accepting that my relationships will change and grow in new ways. I am looking forward to continuing to grow within my expanding, fluid community as I move into a new year. To meeting new faces and to experiencing new things with old friends. What communities are you a part of? What communities do you want to connect with?

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