i do not lack community, and yet…

The Prompt: “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?” (Author: Cali Harris)

Chances are good that you’re reading this because I tweeted a link or posted it to Facebook. If that’s the case, then you know a little bit about me and how I’m just a wee bit embedded in some virtual communities. [With all due respect to my friend Mark Sample, I claim there’s something to community-building and generation through Twitter.] I even wrote an entire post about how social media got me through five years of graduate school (and beyond). From these virtual communities come smaller virtual communities (the ProfHacker community for some time, the DH Answers community, etc) as well as some hybrid communities (folks who go to THATCamp(s) but maintain close ties between events, for example, and physical-world communities (of teachers, students, etc) spill into the virtual world, and so on and so forth. What I’m trying to say, poorly, is that I can look around at any given moment and see a number of communities I can reach out to when I need help, or jump into when I have help to offer.

Really. Name the subject, and I have people who will have my back and I’ll have theirs—regardless of where we actually live, or where we stand in some academic hierarchy, or whatever. I should know, because I’ve had occasion to call on people in several areas over the last few months: personal, pedagogical, professional…all the biggies. And never has my community (whichever it was at the time) failed me. I hope I haven’t failed them.

This has been a theme for me over the last 20 years or so: I’ve always been a member of a virtual community (or twenty). What I’ve sucked at is being a member of a local community. That’s what I would like to change in 2011.

It never really occurred to me until these last few years that being a contributing member of (some aspect of) a local community might be a good thing. I find this to be strange because I come from a small town in which one side of the family had been there for 400 years and the other side for almost 100—a place where people not only know your family but they knew several generations of your family, and they ask after you even if they haven’t seen you for 25 years. You’d think “local community” was in my genes…or maybe I really am just that rebellious. Whatever the reason, I never thought about myself in terms of my locale (or, as anything more than a visitor).

friends & food & farmers 2/3When I began thinking about doing more in my community—or at the very least understanding and supporting my community—I was living in Pullman, WA. I knew that I wouldn’t be there for more than four years, tops, and indeed I was only there for three. In those three years, though, I tried to focus on one aspect of the community that I could learn more about and support in some way. Since lord knows I love to eat, I started with a concerted effort to buy locally-grown or locally-produced food. This meant weekly trips to the Moscow (ID) Farmers’ Market, which was small enough for me to identify and have some sort of relationship with the farmers of the area. The photo here is of a woman named Leah, from whom I bought leafy greens, huckleberries, picked beets, and jam for two years.

It’s not like I just bought stuff from Leah. We talked; she told me about the farm, her family, what was growing well, what wasn’t, what she geeked out about (my words) in the garden, and so on. I asked questions—about the farm, about pickling (I love pickled things. the end.) about where to find the best huckleberries (and when), how long they’d been farming, changes they’ve seen over the years, etc. You can accurately assume I did the same thing with a few other vendors—I got root vegetables from a different group, fruit from yet another farm, and beef from yet another rancher. That was my food community, from whom I learned a little about the greater local community.

Now, I’m certainly not claiming that my weekly trips to the farmers’ markets are the same as being an active part of a community—they’re not. But, it was a start for me, who is (was?) someone who doesn’t tend to stay in one place for very long. Look at me now—six months in Victoria (a place where I have felt wholly uncomfortable the entire time—I might be the only gay person to be uncomfortable in Canada!) and I’m headed off again, to a place where I intend to put down roots and stay for a good long while. If I don’t embed myself in the community in some way, I will be very disappointed (with myself).

[This post is part of Reverb 10 “an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.” This is my post #7.]

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