Wednesday, December 13, 2006

growing orchids in the desert

I was talking to my friend Chani a bit lately about building community in the community where I live, and why for all my efforts, I still feel so very much alone.

This came about when Chani mentioned her perception of my community building abilities in the blogging world, to which I deflected, pointing out that can't possibly be true since I have no community in "real" life - no village to help raise my child, no true and close shoulders to lean on, nowhere to curl up and safely cry. For me, it's always felt like this unhealed and childlike part of my soul that still yearns for mother. She reframed it a bit, speaking to how hard it may be to build a community in a place without the necessary ingredients. How does one grow orchids in the desert?

I still wonder which comes first. Is it the reaping that guarantees the sowing? Is it the earnestness with which you put out your intentions, hoping for like minded others to cosmically
intersect? Is it the patient and true of heart that slowly but steadily arrives to the communal fire when it's time for the burn?

I don't know those answers, and as I often do when I am answerless, tend to make it about me - if only I had more time for x, or was better at keeping up with y....but truthfully I know it cuts much deeper than that - to the place where I more deeply struggle - with expression, acceptance, love, and strength.

More often than not that reservoir runs dry, and again, I wonder which came first. The deepest parts of us need nourishing to thrive, too.

I don't have the answers. But I do know I long for a sacred place - where women come together, to debate, to heal, to grieve, to flow. A place where our truest selves can be put forth and honored like the incredible gifts they are. Where our idiosyncracies can be discussed and cherished. Where many women love my child.

And while I long for that place, I find tremendous joy in the blog world, the place where I have more honest exchanges with others than I often have in person. I wonder what my community would look like if you were my neighbors? What kind of potlucks would we have? Who would bring the wine?

I'd imagine our fire would burn long and hard. Or is that just a trick of the virtual world, that warts are edited and blemishes deleted?

I tend to think we would dance.


Anonymous said...

Well, I can only tell you my experience. Geography makes a difference because each geographical area has its own "culture" of sorts. You know enough of my history by now to know that I spent most of my life without any community. When you look at the objective aspects (the parts that are not about me), I suspect you'd agree that Los Angeles is not the place for a sensitive, non-competitive, painfully shy, socially phobic kid to grow up. We generally create the same situation over and over again because it's familiar. So.. in a sense, it is about you.. and in a sense, it is not. You can break the chain of your own repetitive methods.. but you can't change the culture of your geographic surroundings.

In the area where you are living, it seems logical that the only possibility would be in the progressive community. And even that is questionable. You live in a gilded ghetto where high assertiveness, selfishness and ambition are the highest values. (And it is creeping north, where I live.) That doesn't seem to be consistent with who you are ~ the person I know through blogging at any rate.

Sorry for the long comment. I got a bit carried away.



Mrs. Chicky said...

Yes, this is our village. And there have been many times when this virtual village has helped me raise my child. Now that I am a part of it I don't know what I'd do without it.

mrs.incredible said...

I have come to rely on this 'community' and look forward to any & all input I can gather here. You've been able to network more than I have, I wish I had your ability to do so.
Let me just say that I think my warts and blemishes seem to shine through in spades!! ;)

Anonymous said...

I think that maybe the people that tend to form communities on the web are so sparsely in the "real world". Through the look-and-click-and-read-approach one is able to sample more people than in daily life. And all of those are people who are a little bit lonely (or they wouldn't blog), who want to be creative (dito), and all of them know what a blog is.

I thought it was me, and in a way it is, because I often appear very arrogant in personal contact, but I have just decided that the kind of people I like are very rare. And they tend to cumulate on the net.

I found a couple of writers through NaNoWriMo. They live nearby but I would never have met them otherwise. Totally different jobs and such. One of them I actually had met before and dispensed as too young and not my kind...

(One of those complex problems again. I should write a blog post on this, not a comment.)

Of course I offer a virtual shoulder to lean on.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I finally replied with a post.. on my site. :)


swampwitch said...

The Indian legend says
that at the end of the evening
friends would gather around
a bonfire
and share their hearts
and speak of the good qualities of each other
and remember time shared.
As the embers faded,
their friendship was said to be sealed anew,
bringing them closer together.
As you sit with a candle lit
in the middle of your
it will surround and embrace all who is with
and bring good luck
to those who stay

Anonymous said...

Ah, Jen. We are actual neighbors. It's time for that cup of coffee.

acumamakiki said...

ahhhh, that dream of having my blogging community nearby, i might explode. i long for friends in my everyday life like i've found here in blogland......i feel blessed that i have this connection, even if it's not everyday and in person.

meno said...

I too have come to treasure the community that i have found through blogging. I know there must be like minded women who live geographically close. But where are they? What is keeping us apart? Why do many of the woman i know in person seem so distant? Am i distant? Why do i not fit in to the woman's culture i see around here?
Are we separated in person by the assuptions we make from looks and dress and age? I think partly we are.
I also wonder if a certain type of person (lonely, honest, observant..etc...) creates and maintains a blog, and so we are drawn to each other.
Good questions jen.
And i would bring the wine.

carrie said...

Most definitely dance, we would!

Even though I have a wonderful support system in the "real world" this post resonates with me too. I'd like to think that when we moved a few years back to a new neighborhood, it would be like an idyllic setting where everyone looks out for one another's kids and each other. Even though appearances look good, the neighbors are cold, distant and most of them are childless. The only kids on our street are VERY quiet, religious fanatic homeschoolers who totally unleash on the rare occassions they're allowed in our backyard, but still . . . I miss the old days of the kids making chalk runways and roads in the cul-de-sac, running through each other's yards, and taking turns raiding each parent's popsicle stash, while us mommies stood around and talked gardens, kids and husbands. *Sigh*


Anonymous said...

It would be a lovely neighborhood community. Kids would actually get to play outside without appointments; they'd be in and out of all our houses. And my contribution to the get-togethers would be nestle toll house cookies (how I miss them over her), very chocolatey brownies (with walnuts!), and berry salads in the summertime with fresh whipped cream (I've always had a fondness for them).

Momish said...

It would be truly wonderful to have so many intelligent, loving, inspiring woman in my living room on a routing basis! I have a wonderful support community in actual life, but really cherish the one I have been lucky enough to find on the web. Most of my friends either don't have children or their children are older, so I find a lot of comfort in the fact that there are other MOMS like me. It's that feeling of being connected, literally!

wordgirl said...

The friendships I've gained through blogging continue to amaze and delight me. I'm glad you feel the same way.

Anonymous said...

I think about community in terms of the ones we choose and the ones we're given. This blogosphere is incredible in that we've found each other. Then there's my neighbors. The nutty, nut-bag ones that I want to avoid, but then think that any real community with them requires me to be present to them, with them... even though I definitely didn't and don't choose them... hard work. Not fun. Beloved community is hard to get to from here.

KC said...

Oh, Jen. I heart you for this post.

I, as I'm sure all of your readers, would love to be your neighbor, your shoulder to lean on. Dropping by with our babes in tow for some soul-watering.

I think it can be hard to have a village when close family are not near, when dear friends live far away. But you and J-dog create such magic for M. And your expression, acceptance, love and strength will build community around you. I have no doubts.

I tend to disagree with some of the thoughts that those with blogs are necessarily lonelier, we just might enjoy reaching out from wherever we are in life to others. We bend that way.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot that has already been posted. I live in a very rural area, and I have "friends", but not many that are like-minded. For any intellectual discourse I have had to branch out. It is something that was sorely missing from my life since I moved here.

Most of the people I know IRL have children and I am always with them in the company of said children so it can be difficult to have a serious conversation with someone when they are constantly bein interrupted and asked for something.

I have enough room for dancing, and the MP3 adapter on the stereo, a fridge full of drinks and a liquor the garage. In the summer, swampwitch could build a bonfire by the pond in our firepit, meno can bring some wine, and ewe are here can bring some delectable treats. A meet up would be grand!

flutter said...

If I were anywhere close, I would make you tea.

ecm said...

I really liked this post and I wonder if all people don't long for community and long to belong. And yet real life community can have as many challenges as blessings (but I guess what doesn't in life!) Maybe there is a blessing in the community stretched across many miles that helps us to be more gracious with one another.

crazymumma said...

It has been what seems like ages, I have been sitting here reading and getting a bit choked up I must admit. My congratultions to you on your wedding. I WAS actually wearing black taffeta and a cowboy hat and kick ass boots, but you could not see me I was standing at the back. As you leftt he wedding inmy trans am did you love the purr of the motor?
Hearing about Ernesto was wonderful. In my minds eye he was a bit of an angel on earth...helping you to do your figuring.
As to community, it does come. I am blessed with a community of women who I have known since biggirl was very small. We met at a boring Mum's group and found each other to be edgy, irreverant and quite naughty. So, of course we loved each other. And we have danced, and eaten stinky cheese together and drunk lots of wine. And danced again. And our children dance sing and laugh together. I invite you and yours over to join us, I have a feeling it would be a grand village.

Oh, and JDog, any man who likes Sly and the Family Stone is an awesome man indeed. My fave is Everyday People....

Kisses Jen....I have been missing you as well.

Deezee said...

Oh, do I understand, relate. Too much so for a simple comment. A letter, perhaps. Or a cup of coffee. (Or apparently lots of staccato sentences.)

kim said...

Until recently I kind of felt this way about the blogging "community" like it was a secret club and I didn't have the password. And oh the pretention of the trickle down sisterhood that exists in the community.

I used to blame geography for my lack of community, but then I realized I was just looking in the wrong places.

Now that my children attend the neighborhood school we have met many people who share the same values. It is inspiring to see people who care about people and not BMW's.

Anonymous said...

Is there no room in your ideal community for men? I really identified with the direction you were heading - up until I found out that it was only a community of women you were longing for.

Several of your commenters seem to share your vision of utopia being a female one.

I am not so stupid as to think that there aren't differences in the genders that reach beyond the physical. But maybe I am too idealistic to think that men are capable of being nurturing beings, are capable of bridging that gap and are recognized as such?

Much is made of gender inequality in our society. I have struggled my whole life to eliminate that from my thinking/attitudes. But yet I find that when push comes to shove that women prefer the company of women and men prefer the company of men. Does gender equality mean separate but equal?

I spend a good bit of time thinking about roles in our society and what part gender (and race) had in forming them and how they are evolving - or not - away from being gender-identified. How much of the female-identified role of nuturer is tied to the physical bearing of children? How much of the male-identified role of hunter/gatherer/protector is tide to physical size and strength? How much do our DNA and biological origins dictate these roles? Human beings are the only animal capable of contemplating their existance, and therefore are uniquely capable to overcome these evolutionary roles. I just don't know if we are ready to.

Until we are, there will be those of us that don't see ourselves in either camp, but constantly looking over the fence wondering when we will belong - or when the fence will come down.

(I could of course be entirely overreacting here, I tend to do so especially when I find myself excluded from something I would like to be part of.)

jen said...


my community absolutely DOES NOT exclude men - please know that the primary community I've associated with here has been with women - but in NO way does that mean men are not included. I suppose i was speaking to the ongoing choir.

welcome. truly.

Anonymous said...

thank you.