Tuesday: finding connection

April 13, 2021 @ 8:17 am | Filed under:

Singing with my friends at Low Bar Chorale. Photo by Meerah Powell/OPB, July 2019.

I’m saving white space for last because it’s the item on my “things to include in every day*” list I struggle most at making room for.

*”Every day” is more aspirational than practical. “Things to make time for over the course of a week” is more realistic. Or a shorter rolling time span, say two or three days. I’m not troubling myself with fastidiousness here. These ideas are more like recipes for a healthy diet. Reminders of nutrients I want to make sure I’m getting enough of.

Connection—you’d think it would be the hardest element to include right now, given the 13-months-and-counting we’ve been living in semi-isolation. Even though most of my family received the Pfizer vaccine in February, we’re continuing to be cautious because Huck and Rilla were too young to qualify. Until the 12-16yo version rolls out, we’ll keep playing it safe. As more of my local friends pass their second-dose-plus-two-weeks mark (oh hooray!), I’m beginning to anticipate some backyard hangouts. For now, though: I live quietly at home.

Zooma zooma zooma-Zoom

But I haven’t felt isolated—and I don’t just mean because I live in a very full house. 🙂 I know a lot of folks are completely Zoomed-out, but not me. I love the connections that platform has allowed to thrive all year. Four days a week, I open a coworking room for my Patreon subscribers. There are usually three or four of us in there, working with our mics off for 50 minutes, then unmuting for a ten-minute check-in chat. Over the course of the year, I’ve witnessed the creation of books, art, and all sorts of projects. I’ve written hundreds of pages of Brave Writer literature guides during these sessions, among other things. The work is easier in community, but it’s the check-ins I treasure: the laughter, the shared challenges, the warm support.

Singing in community

I’ve dearly missed singing shoulder to shoulder with my Low Bar Chorale community—when I think about a post-pandemic life, that’s where my thoughts go first—but I’m astonished and so proud of the way Low Bar has endured and even expanded during the past year. Our song leader, Ben Landsverk, began hosting weekly or twice-monthly livestreams where he sang—often accompanied by a video composite of our whole band—and we sang along from home. Not just our Portland singalong community, but people from around the world! Perhaps you’ve seen the videos I’ve shared here.

(We’re making another virtual chorale video this month! Ben will announce the song at tonight’s livestream, and guide tracks for the high, middle, and low parts will be posted on Facebook and Youtube tomorrow. You should sing with us!)

So—I can’t wait, CANNOT WAIT!, to be back in our space at Revolution Hall, singing in harmony with a crowd, but I’m thrilled that the community has remained connected during our year+ of isolation. Regular Zoom chats have allowed me to get to know a number of singalong pals better, and my social media work for the group keeps me in conversation with the rest of the team.

Unconventional (get it?)

This will be another summer without San Diego Comic-Con (there’s going to be a scaled-back version of the convention over Thanksgiving weekend, but LOL no, we’ll be sitting that one out). I miss that annual point of connection like crazy—a chance to catch up in person with artist and writer friends who are scattered around the globe. Here again it was Zoom to the rescue; occasional chats have kept us connected, and no one had to push through a sweaty crowd to get there.

Not the same as in person, but not negligible. Face to face conversation in a quiet room is, for me, a truly satisfying form of connection. It has its distinctive perks: I’m curled up in my favorite chair, in comfy yoga pants, perhaps with a bit of stitching in my hands. It’s a lot cheaper, too!

Turns out I was already living this way

But then I suppose I was already deeply engaged with Zoom-based conversation and connection before the pandemic. Helen McLaughlin’s wonderful Get-It-Done Days; Holly Wren Spaulding’s poetry workshops; regular update chats with small groups of friends working on their own creative projects. And of course I’ve been finding friendship and community in online spaces since, gosh, 1995, and here on the blog since 2005. I mean: hello friends!

But I get it: I don’t live alone; and I’m an extrovert who finds a Zoom conversation just as satisfying as an in-person visit, in its way. The year was a wholly different experience for my friends who live alone, or my introvert friends whose batteries are drained by video chats.

Funny how much time I spent in coffee shops, considering I don’t even like coffee

My big struggle with the isolation wasn’t so much about personal connection (except at a remove, aching for Huck who sorely misses his friends and his co-op classes), but with the inability to work in coffee shops and pubs. Until I couldn’t walk down Fremont to one of my favorite writing haunts, I didn’t know how much I relied on the low-key stimulation of a coffee shop to remain focused! And nope, the Youtube videos of ambient café sounds don’t work for me as a substitute. It was the people, the human connection, the just-right amount of visual stimulation and variety, that kept me focused and working. For a rabbit-trailing mind like mind, it’s key to find just the right kind of distraction.

I’ve focused here on the human-connection part of connection. There’s another part, of course—the connection of ideas that is so cherished by homeschoolers and creatives. That’s a whole different post, and I’m out of time!

How about you?

Instead, let me ask: what has your experience of social connection been like this past year? Have you struggled? Found yourself actually enjoying the excuse to stay home? Which half of the Holderness couple are you? (Scott and I laughed like crazy at this gender-swapped depiction of the two of us.)

What is this about?

• encounters with beauty
• encounters with living books
• meaningful work
• imaginative play
• big ideas to ponder and discuss
• connection
• white space


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Comments

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  1. Susanne Barrett says:

    I agree with the love of Zoom! Our wee Anglican Church which started in Alpine and moseyed down the hill to El Cajon as the SCAIR (Southern California American Indian Resource) Center on Main Street in downtown El Cajon across from the courthouse allows us to meet for free on Sundays as long as we all sign their register. They receive government credit for our warm bodies visiting their storefront, and we get a free place to worship. Win-win, all around. (Although no real candles — and NO, battery-operated candles do NOT cut it — and no incense, my favorite part of worship; I am literally a “smells-and-bells” girl all the way. At least bells are a-okay.)

    But not having to make the drive from Pine Valley into Alpine for Friday Morning Prayer and farther into El Cajon for Sunday services is lovely!! And we meet five days a week on Zoom: Evening Prayer Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Friday Morning Prayer, and Sunday Morning Holy Communion with Pre-Sanctified Host — I **LOVE** it!! Plus, on Sunday afternoons, we have our 4-5 hour Dungeons and Dragons sessions with our Pine Valley neighbors on Zoom; as soon as we’re all vaccinated, we’ll return to live meetings (only E has not been vaccinated yet; T and I had our first shots last week, and E can try to book her appointment starting tomorrow).

    And do I ever miss working at the Alpine Starbucks!! I love the scent but hate the taste of coffee, and I don’t care for Starbucks’s teas (I bring my own teabags and purchase a cookie so that I don’t feel guilty for mooching their hot water and WiFi.) I made friends there among the regulars, plus so many Pine Valley people stopped in that I usually had a couple of brief conversations to keep me focused on my Brave Writer classes.

    Perhaps stopping in today since I need to update my CV; PLNU seems to have some openings for adjuncts, and it would be a nice way to supplement my BW income now that it seems that I am heading for singledom. :/

    Looking forward to your newest Low Bar Chorale song!! 😀

    Warmly,
    Susanne 🙂