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In my early adolescence, when I was busy trying to separate my meaning from my mother’s I found a church-going family who helped me in this task. They -like I- were quick to point out her sacrilege: her poverty, her politics, her single parenting (they did not know, like I did, what the alternative would have looked like). And I, like them, became spitefully critical of the church she’d taken me to when I was a child: A place marked as irreverent for its open willingness to negotiate through the beauties and follies of a number of faiths.

I borrowed the criticism of the Unitarian Church, like I borrowed the criticism of my mother. I refused her christianity, and so she made a new round of it, refashioning her faith in a new space that I did not snub at the time (though I wouldn’t put it past myself now, knowing my history).

I began looking too, sure that the “real” church could provide what I needed in a community and faith, if it was so self-assured and critical of everyone else. After years of looking around, blinking dumbfounded at congregation after congregation, often as numbed and insensitive to me as I was to them, I came to question the right for religious institutions and their spokespersons to point fingers.

It has been a long time since I’ve stepped into a church building. In my time away, I have let my imagination run wild with the grotesque possibility that all churches– indeed the buildings themselves–would represent everything I wouldn’t want a church to be: exclusive, apolitical, self-protective, anti-humanistic, gold-plated and in the clouds.

I walked in this weekend to wood. To the smell of it. To walls, darkened in places with old oak knobs and lit with the honey of split planks. There was a wooden rocking chair in the tall ceilinged meeting room– in case someone like me, wandering in, would want to keep a small child with me, rather than turn her over to strangers. And in all that crafted wood, and the murmur of forested voices, there was a whisper of worship at the pulpit- but worship, identified in working hands and good rest, in the richness of the land and the possibilities of music.

The man picked up that old book, laughing, laughing and proceeded to tell us the things in it that he found useful: A young prophet, politically radical enough to have been executed by the state. A message of peace and disarmament; the pounding of weapons into ploughshares and scythes.

This is not the first time I have realized a need to restitch myself to a history I rejected in my youth, but its the first time I’ve considered that task to be spiritual. Something in me feels deeply drawn to the idea of building a community in a place that wrestles (faithfully) with environmentalism, human rights, and peace, in ways that have been instilled in me since my childhood. I see room here, not for me to agree with everything, but to set a course down, and learn from others, in a community of people who hold on to whatever point of religiosity seems to make the most cultural sense to them, while still insisting on sharing a conviction that there’s something spiritual about the loves and joys and politics that we might live together.

When I arrived home, I called my mother, to tell her I knew something — some little thing– of what she’d lent me in life. and to apologize.


Juliana and I swelled up, last year, in time. Our daughters were born the same month. We shared a midwife, and I was secretly apprehensive that we would go into labor on the same day, and the midwife would miss my birth. We’ve shared a few play dates and dinners since our daughters were born. The girls have aged enough at this point to acknowledge one another’s presence long enough to take each other’s things. I’m not sure we should call this playing. But we do.

Since I’ve know Juliana she’s talked about leaving. The first thing I knew about her was that she was moving to North Carolina. And for this reason, I’ve been a not very wonderful, half-committed friend.   Living in a transient space like Bloomington, I tend to warm up most to those who buy houses and plant asparagus. I don’t care for the feeling of being left.

Juliana is leaving. And she is leaving to do a lot of the things I say I would love to: to build a yurt in the woods and write her demons away and her pleasures into being. I haven’t figured out how she manages to write at all with a child the same age as mine, but its what she’s got planned for the year, and I can’t help but be envious of the way she sees possibility in her approaching time.

Juliana is also someone I respect for her commitment to writing in community, something I tried once, but felt disheartened by and have not done again. She attends and leads workshops in town, and sets up writing prompts in her public journal to encourage her more distant writing community together. Just now, she has posted a self-portraiture prompt at her journal.

I’ve always been both too proud and too puzzled to do much with writing prompts and I almost snubbed my nose to this too.  But I got to thinking about how many photographs I’ve taken this year in which I am a prop, a balance. Here a child leans against my leg, here I hold her at her waist. You can see my arm in this one. It feels indicative of my year. My body has become secondary to hers, acknowledged only for the fragmented ways it maintains her: It feeds a child, holds a child, puts a child to sleep, cleans, dries, guides, protects, changes a child.

I wonder what an intentional movement from the blurred background to the center of a photograph would do for my sense of self.  I wonder what making time to reflect on a body, a little less small and round, and a little more my own, would allow me to discover.

I am afraid to find either a poor unnecessary pride or a violent shame. Or worse than both, perhaps, nothing at all of the self that was before her.  This project, if I’m honest, is a crying out. The sort of call you make to mountains, waiting for an echo. And I wait for this: I need a reconfirmation, be it only a hallow reverberation of the hullabaloo I make,  that something about the self I knew before was not forced to be forever buried now that someone else’s needs dictate mine.

And so, I’ll be taking this snapshot project up. I’ve impregnating the undertaking with a little too much planned self discovery. And I’m apprehensive for reasons it seems, a little different than the other women who are also committing to self-photograph. They seem afraid of their beauty value, I am afraid that the photographs will be a sham, an imposter’s depiction of a re-centered self. Because what I am really after is not the image, but the centering.


On the rare occasion that we come upon a holiday with a good history I firmly believe that we should refuse the halmarkization and do something productive with it. We, of course, had little time for any great rallying around mother’s day. We had a potluck brunch today with neighbors, and I shared this moving piece, the original “Mother’s Day Proclamation” By Julia Ward Howe:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace. 

I hope to make time to approach and participate in a mother’s day modeled on this proclamation. It has been 140 years since this was published, and to my knowledge, no such international meeting of women has taken place. nor any such commemoration of the dead.  Yet we are still riddled and run by international wars. and I’m puzzling over how we might celebrate –truly celebrate– mother’s day in the midst of this. As our family learns how we want to engage American cultural traditions we can recognize that there is something here to be held on to, pressed, and pursued. While I snub my nose to the  slew of commercialized holidays our country prizes, I would like to think about ways to reawaken holidays such as may day and mother’s day, to rally up, to think about what we stand for and how we celebrate and reclaim these convictions and days.


We have had houseguests for the week. B’s brother and brother’s girlfriend shared our time in the garden, in our favorite eateries, in our little home.

And the space, which sometimes does not feel like enough for the three of us, fit the laughter and conversation of five just fine. It made me remember, after a long closed-in winter, how precious community is. And how we must welcome it into our space more frequently.

With houseguests now gone, the house feels empty like it hasn’t before. Debris that I did not notice under the collection of travel paraphernalia that covered it, now stands open, uncovered, marking the absence of visiting things. We sweep up, we collect the odds and ends, we erase the evidence of the visit and replace it again with the polished every-day.

I love the quiet of a clean space, but am forced to reflect on the value of a wilder one, filled with the murmur of more life than we have on our own.

We miss you.

And we take the challenge you have left us: to join the world, to love better, to laugh more, to tell stories, to read aloud, to listen.

The spring, necessarily, invites this. Our neighbors, white faced from the indoor lighting, are out in their yards, as we are, working beds and reddening their skin up. And we greet each other, finally, and lament together over the long winter that kept us apart. And we hope together, for the waking up of spring things and the time we will share in each other’s company.

When dusk has solidly settled in, and graced us with a black-skied spring rain, we are finally convinced away from the budding smell of greening things, back in to the dry quiet of the house. And we fall into it, to sleep, exhausted in the richest of ways: from company and the turning of soil.


I’ve decide to provide a monthly review for family and friends who decide to follow this blog and are interested in the actual goings-on in our life, rather than my less practical musings.  I have divided our month into categories, and provided the highlights. This means that you can not complain that I never get to the stuff of it in this journal.

life with a little one:

i) Andjoli and I still do not sleep for more than two-hour windows. I am resigned to this. B sleeps six to eight hours but often still looks less rested than I. We all need (and take too few) naps.

ii) teeth hurt- both for her, and for anyone who gets too close to her mouth.

iii) Andjoli is slightly obsessed with the cat, Ossel. She gets the jitters when she is in close proximity.

iv)The little lady made it through RSV, and is now breathing again like a normal person. It is amazing what a blessing a steady breath is.

v) She has grown out of everything she used to wear this month- diapers, diaper covers, pants, boots. I’ve done my best to hand make or alter new clothes to fit her. My favorite creation is four pairs of recycled wool longies, balaclavas from her old (now too small) hats, and new booties. perhaps I’ll post pictures for anyone who cares.

outside:

i) I have yet to complete my winter sowing. I have all of these containers saved, but haven’t found time to actually get my hands dirty.

ii) some of the early bulbs that are in our front yard are poking their green heads up. spring buds are bulging on the trees and bushes.

iii) all of the fruit trees have been pruned. or butchered. I’m not sure how, exactly, to express what it was that i did to them.

iv) we have not winter mulched or prepared the beds. this spring smell is making me anxious.

v) we have too much green matter and not enough brown matter in our compost from the winter, and as it warms, it is looking more pitiful and soggy . .  we need to track down some leaves or waste wood chips to remedy our compost slop.

inside:

i) we spend more time here than we should when it is dreary outside. I look forward to having a more hardy little person next winter so that I can drag her out in weather like this.

ii) B finished laying the wood floor in the addition, and we are deciding if we should just go ahead and stain it and forget about sanding it. We’d prefer a more natural look over an even look anyway, and since we are using an osmo non-toxic stain/sealant rather than polyurethane I don’t think it needs to be perfectly level . . .

iii) the front cap to our juicer cracked. They will replace it, but mailing replacements takes time, and  I currently don’t know what to do with myself in the kitchen. How do you, for instance, make flour, nut butters, sauces and juice? I did not realize my dependence on the machine before this.

iv) having a laundry room upstairs is exceptional.

creation:

i) I have started this journal, which I suppose counts as “writing,” but I’m not writing well enough or consistently enough to satisfy my desire. I’d like to get something publication ready. hopefully I’ll have something positive to say about that in future monthly reviews.

ii) We have been limited to creating functional things: wool diaper covers, lullabies, breads, sauces and juices from ugly organics (local waste produce that is slightly too unattractive to sell or eat fresh), etc.  there has been no painting, no real music, no poetry- no simple extravagance. this must change.

my perpetual schooling:

i) no I am not finished. stop asking.

ii) A proposal for my second master’s thesis is due March 1st. It was not accomplished by the last day in February.

iii) I’m looking for impressive literature from authors who use their writing as a forum for dissent. Suggestions? (This does not need to be limited to the US, but does need to be available in English or French)

iv) We should deflect: B is finished with school! That might be old news to some of you, but all the same, you should congratulate him.

work:

i) I prepared this month to start teaching a short intensive course at the University on Food and Industry. Starts March 8th. Should be exciting.

ii) B is learning about translation software and getting his name out in the translation world, and he is also hosting weekly neighborhood Spanish classes in our home.

iii) We are both considering summer work, but our criteria makes it difficult: we want to work in a place we believe in, where we can learn useful skills and support useful growth. We do not want this work to take the place or time of the rich and rewarding experience of being part of a family and a community, nor do we want it to strip us of the time necessary to create and self reflect as individuals. Because of these standards, it currently looks like we may not be working, or, I should say, we may be working on things we love and not making much of an income.

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