The Community We Mostly Ignore
What is a community to you?
Is it those who share your beliefs?
Is it those who share your home or your extended family?
Is it the people of the street you live on, or the population of the town or country you reside in?
My community feels at once very vast, and very small.
It includes you and the people I meet in classes, folks I meet at networking events, my family, and my friends, many of whom live quite far from me in countries halfway across the world.
It includes authors and experts I admire; teachers and leaders – many of whom I haven’t met, but who I feel connected to through our shared interests and values.
My love of my human community is real. But it isn’t the end of where I consider myself belonging.
My community also includes my cat, my houseplants, the garden along our walkway, the forest that shifts and changes with each season and surrounds our home, and the many birds, slugs, insects, squirrels and other creatures who call this place home, too.
It includes developing relationships with the family of crows that nest in our back forest in the Spring and recognition from the herd of does and yearlings that migrate through the trees in the mornings.
It includes two turkey families that spend a great deal of time in our yard in the summer.
It includes the shade of oaks and beech trees, the line of the sun passing in summer and winter, watching the moon rise and curling up in a blanket underneath the skylight in winter to watch a partial eclipse.
It includes the quarrel I have with the woodpeckers who keep striking on our siding and poking holes in our house. Not every relationship is smooth, you see!
It has been deeply comforting to me to find love and connection from these creatures and this physical place I live when my relationships with my human friends and family have had to change so drastically.
For the last half-year and more, most of my interactions with that community – my human community – have been virtual. Phone calls, video chats, and social media. Occasional walks with masks outdoors with neighbors or my parents. For now, that has had to be enough.
What has allowed me to still feel cared for and important in the moments where I can’t get a hug from my best friend is this sense of really being a part of the life around me that I can still touch, breathe in, and contribute to.
Making my sense of community larger by focusing on this smaller realm – that of my yard and my physical home – has been incredibly nurturing.
It makes me so curious every day.
What is changing outside?
What do the trees know about the coming winter that I have yet to understand?
Will the crows go out of their way to say hello today, or are they too busy with something down the hill?
I seek out the new scents.
I seek out the changes as the trees drop leaves and acorns. As the squirrels raise yet another brood and they chitter at each other and me and bury hickory nuts all over the front lawn.
There is so much to seek out and appreciate even just here, in our small space on this earth. So much I can be a part of and learn from.
And it is very grounding. It is not swept up in my human community’s politics, disease, or economics.
What I do in this space is felt immediately by every other thing living here.
If I mow the lawn, toads and moths and sometimes rabbits are set to terror as they race to the tree’s edge.
If I plant a new flower, I nurture and witness that life grow. I see what comes to pollinate it, and what comes to nibble on its petals.
What I do has impact. And what the others do has impact. We are all a part of this place.
Being present in this small and yet vast community of life humbles me.
It encourages me to remind others that where they are matters. That the life around you sees you and feels your impact. And that the life around you wants to be seen and felt, too.
Don’t let your world feel small, even in a small space.
The world needs you.
Truly, it needs you right here, where you live, connected to your place, connected to the space around you and the lives being lived around you.
Ask it how it’s doing.
Let it in on how you’re doing.
Just be there.
We can expand our personal definitions of community.
Because when we feel we belong to a community, we are empowered.
Our care and love grows.
And with that, we can live lives that are full of meaning, connection, and possibility.
May you feel connected to your place and allow it to support you as best it can. May you support your space as best you can, too. May your community be ever-loving and expansive.
With appreciation to you for being a part of my ever-growing community,
PS - I discovered a family of SNAILS living in a potted plant I had for years this past week. There is stuff going on all around us all the time that we don't even know about! AMAZING!