March 16, 2009

What is real*

holly_daniel.jpg
Holly and Daniel, my adorable neighbors upstairs, Berkeley, Canon Rebel Xti

Where the heck have I been? Some of you have been asking me this lately, sending sweet little emails like, Are you okay? Or, Your blog sounds, I don’t know, different.

It's true that I've been hiding out a little. Mostly, what I have been doing for the last several months is searching for what's real in my life, what nourishes me most, what grounds me most powerfully in the tangible now of my life. I have been pruning, trimming, whittling away at what what no longer serves me, taking stock of all the blessings, choosing powerfully and intentionally what I want to keep.

Only some of this was self-inflicted. Sometimes the universal pruning shears come out and you are the unsuspecting, naked, bony tree shivering in the wind. The process can be painful, but I now see how essential it is for growth. Letting go of what no longer nourishes us leaves room for new fruit and stronger roots.

I am grateful for it, if not a little disarmed by the process. Growth can feel violent, like that line in Rumi's Guesthouse about the crowd of sorrows: Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

In the wake of my clearing, I had the sense that my energy was too far-flung, dispersed in too many directions, that I had been tending too many things I couldn't touch and that I was out of balance in some fundamental way. I realized I needed to bring my focus in closer and tend things much nearer to home. And when I say this, I mean really close to home, like my actual home, my family, my neighbors, my body, my heart, my community right here in Berkeley. I had to look hard at what’s most real and true in my life.

And of course, how do you reconcile being a blogger, surfing Facebook, emailing, texting, phoning, twittering when you are on a quest to ground yourself in what is real in your life? How do these things fit in? and what am I giving up by spending countless hours checking email and blogs and weather reports and celebrity gossip columns? What am I not creating in my life as a result of all of the life force I give to my "friends" in cyberspace?

And this is where it gets tricky to talk about.

I have a lot of friends in cyberspace. I know you do too. We love them! They are like us! They are kindred spirits. They are creative, they care about what we care about. We wish they were in our hometown. Sometimes we graduate to phone friendships and these connections deepen even more. Still more rare and wonderful is when we get to meet them in person and confirm, Yes! you are real! and you are even better in real life. These are incredible blessings.

And yet, I realized that part of that far flung feeling was due to how many of my friendships were far from home. At least for a while, I needed to anchor myself in the realness of people I could serve tea to, whose kids I could watch, who could brave Ikea with me or help me rearrange my furniture. I put a very unofficial call out to the universe, a prayer that went something like this: Ground me in what’s real. Help me find a community here. Help me feel connected in a new way.

And very soon after that, some magical things started to happen. My upstairs neighbor Holly asked if I'd like to cook with her every Tuesday night. Matt and I started going to the park in the evenings with Ben and getting to know all the dogs: Chuy, Fat Boy, Eddy... New friendships found me, other moms living merely blocks away. I noticed how often my neighbors just hung out outside waiting for a glimpse of someone to connect with, or to usher Ben into their house to play the guitar or pet their dog. It's not as if I didn't have these things before, but my attention was not there, I was not ready to appreciate them.

Some of the brightest spots in my week lately have been the nights when Holly and I cook or Wednesday nights when we watch Lost on our neighbor’s tv (we got rid of ours a while back) This sense of community is giving my heart stronger ground to stand on and a new place from which to create my life. It feels very basic, very elemental, this sharing of meals and borrowing of bread crumbs. And I don't know about you, but I've never had this.

The other day, a new mom friend and her two year old were at my house playing. As we walked up I introduced her to my neighbors on both sides who happen to be outside their houses. A few minutes later, Holly knocked on the door to borrow our car for the last items in our recipe for the evening, Christina wheeled up with her baby in a stroller to see if we wanted to go to the park and Matt peeked his head out from our home office. Surrounded in that moment by literally ten people I adored, I could finally see it: I had built a community. These were the people in my neighborhood.

How do you find community? And how do you create balance between your online community and your actual life?

p.s. A great article from the NY Times Magazine yesterday by Peggy Orenstein: Growing up on Facebook


Posted on March 16, 2009 11:36 AM
Comments

Hi

I got to your blog via LobotoME blog...this post strikes a deep chord with me (and obviously with a lot of people!) It's weird to view someone as a "friend" if you've never met them face-to-face, and yet they can give you so much support. While I don't spend too much time online, I need to put more effort into my REAL LIFE friendships.

Posted by: Kirwin at April 6, 2009 07:27 AM

Thank you for so eloquently communicating the very thing I have been working on lately... all of the computer time, facebooking, twittering is just too much on top of owning a biz, raising children, being a wife...etc. We are trying to get back to the basics around here! Take good care - xo, jenny :)

Posted by: LobotoME at April 5, 2009 05:18 PM

I love this post so so much.

Posted by: teaworthy at April 1, 2009 08:26 AM

Thank you. It's exactly what I needed.

M

Posted by: Michelle at March 31, 2009 08:58 PM

I came across this through a link on Ali E's blog and was glad that I did. What you wrote really resonated with me especially since we just moved into a new neighborhood and I've been thinking about how I can consciously go about building relationships with my newfound neighbors. Your article has given me a boost which I will need when I get out of my comfort zone.

Also, serendipitously, my word for today was 'growth' and I really liked what you said about it. So I've taken the liberty to post the link on my photo blog, www.wordspixelated.wordpress.com. Thanks again for sharing.

Posted by: Ervina at March 31, 2009 08:38 PM

Hi there! I just found you and your lovely blog via jen Lemen! I Love this post so much. I am a single mom and writer who spends much too much time in her head and alone, but I TRY TRY TRY to make time and space for human connections, especially with soem of the dear people who live right around me. I, too, feel very lucky to feel strongly planted in a specific place with kind, generous people of all stripes. Thanks for putting it all so well. And thanks HUGELY for that lovely Rumi quote.


Posted by: Jennifer New at March 31, 2009 12:24 PM

Hi there! I just found you and your lovely blog via jen Lemen! I Love this post so much. I am a single mom and writer who spends much too much time in her head and alone, but I TRY TRY TRY to make time and space for human connections, especially with soem of the dear people who live right around me. I, too, feel very lucky to feel strongly planted in a specific place with kind, generous people of all stripes. Thanks for putting it all so well. And thanks HUGELY for that lovely Rumi quote.


Posted by: Jennifer New at March 31, 2009 12:24 PM

Bravo to you. Sounds simple, but you've done what so many cannot do. You found a whole community while finding yourself. Right there in front of your nose...isn't that always the way? Sometimes we just have to stop and let the world in. Thanks for your words and it's a post like this that makes it essential for you to turn the computer on and speak to your cyber peeps, even if only briefly.

Posted by: debbie Mac at March 31, 2009 08:44 AM

I would love to do what you've done. It can be lonely out here in cyberland.

Posted by: Debra E at March 31, 2009 07:24 AM

I've just discovered your blog this morning thanks to a link from Ali Edwards and this post is such a gift to me. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing these healing words.

Posted by: teaworthy at March 31, 2009 07:03 AM

I remember many years ago, when I first moved here, grocery shopping alone on a Saturday evening. I had a few acquaintances but no friends. That evening, I saw a group of folks laughing and talking one check-out line away from me. They had bundles of produce and bottles of wine - clearly the ingredients for a meal they were about to cook and share together. And I wanted to LAY DOWN AND DIE I was so sad and lonely.

Then I made some wonderful friends, women and men who are truly like sisters and brothers. A small handful.

Then I was going to start graduate school, and I knew I did not want to live alone during that busy, isolating time. Through word of mouth I met two women looking for a housemate.

That was almost eight years ago. I still live in the same building, and those two ladies still live upstairs. My goddaughter and her parents live around the corner. I met my husband at a mutual friend's birthday party.

Community is about showing up repeatedly over time. My husband and I joke about all the painting "parties" we have attended; the dozens and dozens of potlucks; the repeated loading and unloading of moving trucks. I would not trade it for anything! This sweet, intimate community, and the larger one that also surrounds me, was ten years in the making and is still growing! It is heaven.

I have refrained from developing much of an on-line community for this reason. I LOVELOVELOVE the blogs I read (many) but for connection, I focus on my physical surroundings.

Posted by: Kathleen at March 26, 2009 06:49 PM

thank you for this! it's so comforting to know we're not alone. xxx, a.

Posted by: amy at March 25, 2009 09:58 PM

Richie sent this to me, as I have just moved and am super lonely. I am that person who throws dinner parties for 30 people at the last minute...I love having people around. This gives me hope. Thank you so much. If I could stop crying, that'd be good too. :-)

Posted by: april johnson at March 24, 2009 10:28 PM

a superhero smiles out into the universe
the universe smiles back
love brings change

Posted by: Steve at March 23, 2009 10:19 PM

Andrea,
I just want to say something in a small quiet voice: it's ok for you to stop blogging, if your ready. It really is. I would miss you, a lot of us would miss you, but if it's time, it's time (remember your old post about bees swarming?)

You know I've been reading you since the beginning (or the beginning minus three months) and your life has changed so much since then. I know, because my life has changed so much since then. I am now where you were then, and that's huge. So if you are ready to stop, that's fine. Maybe you want to write this all down in a book? Maybe you don't.

I don't want you to stop, but it's been sounding to me for awhile like you needed permission. So, permission granted. From the universe. I'm just transmitting.

xo
Meg

Posted by: Meg at March 23, 2009 05:13 PM

I clicked on a link to your web site via Sark's journal. I had to laugh at the grand synchronicity of the universe. I just read in a book called foolsgold by Susan Wooldridge that poem by Rumi. I even just minutes ago typed it up and sent it to a friend via email. Then I scrolled down and saw the dandelion photo and smiled. I posted a photo I took of a dandelion just a couple days ago. Wonderful blog and I loved your thoughtful musings.

Posted by: Michelle at March 23, 2009 02:16 PM

Look at all your comments!
Well first, how lovely. How grand. How perfect and right. There is nothing at all that compares to a knock on the front door and the opening of new friendships and community. I am so happy for you.

And like some others it is something I struggle with amidst work and child, community is missing. A shared meal, an impromptu walk,...things I yearn and really ache for. So thankyou for sharing your new world. I love it. It is possible. Everything.

Posted by: crystine at March 23, 2009 01:09 PM

Ugh...I wish I could find what you have found in this post...I know it took awhile to create, but that community of people is something I"m missing...part of it is my fault I'm sure, I'm not the total outgoing type, but another part is where I live...i red area when i'm a blue heart...and while i should not and do not sterotype all...it does make a difference...i envy your community that you have found and am so happy for you!!!

Posted by: shawn at March 23, 2009 03:40 AM

What a beautiful, beautiful photo of Holly and Daniel! You really capture their love!

Posted by: Juli at March 22, 2009 10:52 PM

What a beautiful, beautiful photo of Holly and Daniel! You really capture their love!

Posted by: Juli at March 22, 2009 10:52 PM

Written by Anthony Doerr, from Orion Magazine...another great article. :)

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4234

xoxo, ~ M.

Posted by: Mariella at March 22, 2009 08:23 PM

Thank you for your honesty Andrea, it's what draws most of us to your blog I think :)

Enjoy the neighbours, the community, the joy of being able to see your friends smile, hear their laughter, smell their cooking; and all the other wonderful things that come from being in the 'here and now'. I refuse to sign up to Facebook because it will suck too much of my energy away from the group of friends I cherish in my near vicinity. Not that I think everyone should do that, but I think reigning in the activities that distribute your energy 'far and wide' is a healthy process.

I hope you establish the right balance for you, so that you can nurture both online friends, and physically present friends.

Posted by: Laura at March 22, 2009 06:10 PM

This spoke to me so much. I think this is the third time I've stopped by your blog, just for this entry. I've really been struggling with my sense of community and friendship lately. Someone who I thought I could trust with anything has shown me numerous times recently that I can no longer trust him as such and all efforts to cut him out of my life have been to no avail.

I have been turning inward a lot lately and it has been a difficult path, one littered with obstacles of all kinds.

Posted by: Brianna at March 22, 2009 05:20 PM

Thank you. You have said out loud what I have been feeling for many years. After being married at 20 and moving from NC to Boston, then Atlanta, then back to Boston, then to Utah, I have felt lost and ungrounded. I've been in Utah the last 5 years and have just started to reach out to neighbors, while hanging on to my other-place friends via cyberspace with all my might. Always hesitating to start over. I have ordered some of your jewelry today, and as I wear it, I will remember to ground myself, to weed out the unnecessary, and to reach out to the real. Thank you for your thoughts and inspiration...I needed it, and you were just in time. Thank you for providing the signpost I was looking for in my life at this time. Mahalo!

Posted by: Fran at March 22, 2009 08:13 AM

wow how very blessed you are. this sounds like a magical fairy tale. i struggle with this daily. i have so many online friends. but i now live somewhere i have NO real friends. in the flesh. it has been 2 years. 2 long hard years. so i cling harder and harder to the online connections fearing if i lose that what am i left with? that is what drove me to my photography as well. something i could make pretty through my lens. if not in my life. i have tried play grounds and play groups. i have many great real friends but they all live 500 miles away now. it makes me ache.

Posted by: kristin at March 21, 2009 09:18 PM

I truly appreciate you taking the time to share this . Look forward to more posts from you

Posted by: Simonn at March 21, 2009 05:16 PM

I soooo get this. In the NE we have fewer neighbors/neighborhoods so I had to join playgroups and drive to parks.

But it was a very very good thing to do-I still struggle to balance the two worlds once in a while but the day to day face to face relationships is sooooo very important.

I am happy to hear you are forming a "family" close to home....I cherish mine soooo

Posted by: Thea at March 21, 2009 05:32 AM

i am inspired. thank you for sharing this story about the magic you conjured up for yourself. i love it. it sounds wonderful.

Posted by: tracey at March 19, 2009 06:58 PM

I suppose it's ironic to reply to this post as someone who's read your blog for a long time but rarely, if ever(?), posted. You don't me...not even through cyber-space. But I wanted to thank you for this post because you have articulated the exact feeling that has nagged me for months. I am happy for you, to have become present with the community that was always there - waiting patiently for you to notice it. And I'm inspired to direct my energies toward that same end for myself. I have a hopeful suspicion that my wonderful little neighborhood is alive with possible connections, just waiting for me to see them. Thanks, Andrea!

Posted by: Samilja at March 19, 2009 06:42 PM

I couldn't survive a day without my actual physical community - the neighbour across the road with whom i do 6am yoga salutes with before her children wake up and whose chickens eat my kitchen scraps, the friend up the street whose baby i like to play with while she gets some time to herself and i get out of my head for an hour, the women who are enthusiastically embracing my new weekly community yoga class, the three friends with whom i sit in meditation on thursday mornings - as much as i have gained from my online connections i have never been able to feel whole without a strong connection to the people who are physically in my neighbourhood. i guess that is why i'm drawn to villages more than cities. i applaud you for finding those connections in a city! you are a wonder. xoxox

Posted by: Marianne at March 19, 2009 04:41 PM

*

Posted by: brofe at March 19, 2009 03:09 PM

Amazing. Every time I come to your blog you speak the words I need to hear. Hope you don't mind that I've written down your pray. You give such gifts. Thank you and Namaste!

Posted by: elfini (Dawn) at March 19, 2009 10:35 AM

Wow, this really hit home. May I quote parts of your post in a blog post of my own? It will be in German, the quotes will remain in English.

Posted by: Stina at March 19, 2009 06:02 AM

this is EXACTLY how i have been feeling lately. i grow more and more concerned feeling as if the internet and the good friends i've made there have become my life. it's disturbing on so many levels to receive updates on my friends' lives through twitter or myspace and facebook. i sat here the other day wondering where all my real life connections went. it feels like a funk i need to get out of. get out of this house and away from this computer and connect.

Posted by: christine at March 19, 2009 02:41 AM

I've wondered the same question for many years. I feel the beauty of technology to connect us to people we may have not connected to otherwise may actually lead us to lose connection of the real things that matter.

For me, I try to keep balance. Many of my online connections are stemmed from my real life connections... As far as community, I have been so blessed in my life to always manage to find community when I put myself out there and allow real connections to occur, form, grow...

Plus, I stay super close to my mama who doesn't use technology at all. She keeps me grounded and allows me remember what is real.

And so true about growth feeling violent.

Posted by: Sheila at March 18, 2009 11:49 PM

hi. missed you.

but very very happy to hear of your new community, your connections.

i have scaled back and re-evaluated my 'not in real life' world lately. it just gets to be so much to be so invested in so many lives. but here, i always find something i need, so you, girl, will stay in my google reader forever.

i live with 10 people most of the time, so there is a strong sense of that in my daily life. lately i realize i need to take steps to connect outside of my home, this is being reclaimed slowly but surely. garden groups, sewing groups, farmers market, there are so many possibilities.

thank you, as always, for your sharing.

Posted by: mamie at March 18, 2009 10:53 PM

I loved reading this. I also feel like I'm getting increasingly scattered due to my compulsion to log on and read about other people. Perhaps a break is in order.

I saw you walking with Matt on Monday as I was leaving Totland. If you would like to have coffee/tea in Berkeley one day, let's do it!

Posted by: RookieMom Whitney at March 18, 2009 10:09 PM

I love your words and fall more inlove with you each heartfelt post you write.

Your words are often ones I feel myself.
Thanks for sharing.
Bxo

Posted by: Bek Vavic at March 18, 2009 09:44 PM

*Beautiful Words*

Posted by: Jamie at March 18, 2009 08:53 PM

*Beautiful Words*

Posted by: Jamie at March 18, 2009 08:53 PM

I have recently discovered your blog and I really enjoy your words and pictures.

I read this post with a sigh of bittersweet longing, as I have had to head in the other direction over the past several years. Instead of focusing my energies and my world outwards which is how it used to be, I have had to turn to a softer, more inward focused life. Because of a chronic illness, I have been forced to build a community online via my blog. I don't facebook, or twitter or anything else, but I do blog. It began out of necessity and loneliness, and as a way to express myself. I am a wife and the mother of four daughters, but they are all teenagers and twenty-something now, so I am needed in a different way. As my illness became more debilitating, I had to reorganize my life, and like you, I had to make some choices about what to hold on to.

I think that what you are doing is fabulous! But I just wanted to provide another perspective from someone who used to have a large community on the outside, but then was forced to turn inward. Some by choice and some by finding out which friends were only there for what I could provide. Good for you for finding what you need and then finding a way to make it happen.

Be well.

Hugs,
Debbie

Posted by: Debra at March 18, 2009 04:12 PM

I have recently discovered your blog and I really enjoy your words and pictures.

I read this post with a sigh of bittersweet longing, as I have had to head in the other direction over the past several years. Instead of focusing my energies and my world outwards which is how it used to be, I have had to turn to a softer, more inward focused life. Because of a chronic illness, I have been forced to build a community online via my blog. I don't facebook, or twitter or anything else, but I do blog. It began out of necessity and loneliness, and as a way to express myself. I am a wife and the mother of four daughters, but they are all teenagers and twenty-something now, so I am needed in a different way. As my illness became more debilitating, I had to reorganize my life, and like you, I had to make some choices about what to hold on to.

I think that what you are doing is fabulous! But I just wanted to provide another perspective from someone who used to have a large community on the outside, but then was forced to turn inward. Some by choice and some by finding out which friends were only there for what I could provide. Good for you for finding what you need and then finding a way to make it happen.

Be well.

Hugs,
Debbie

Posted by: Debra at March 18, 2009 04:11 PM

i resonate, so much.
my heart is filled reading these words.
my eyes are filled feeling your peace.

in my quiet space, creating the same.

love,
d

Posted by: boho girl at March 18, 2009 03:20 PM

i with you. i too get overwhelmed with facebook, the blog, anything except being creative and centering myself. sometimes mindless time is great to get lost on these sights, but it's so easy to let it take you over.
i appreciate your honesty...thanks for letting us in your world, it reminds me that we are more alike out there than one would think

Posted by: Juneau.Eco.Mommie at March 18, 2009 01:41 PM

I hate the new facebook. yay! I am taking this as an opportunity to build more circles of community in my physical world. I love what you had to say about this. Universe, I need community around me too.

Posted by: Braidwood at March 18, 2009 10:21 AM

I hate the new facebook. yay! I am taking this as an opportunity to build more circles of community in my physical world. I love what you had to say about this. Universe, I need community around me too.

Posted by: Braidwood at March 18, 2009 10:21 AM

A quick hello to my fav Superhero...have been a stranger due to a bunch of good and not-so-good things happening but I just wanted to send some love your way.

Hope you, Matt & Ben are doing great!!! :)

xo glo

Posted by: glo at March 18, 2009 07:02 AM

I admire you for taking care of your center.

The spiritual path, as Meister Eckhart observed, has more to do with subtraction than with addition. It is not so much a matter of adding all the active virtues to one's practice of living as of relinquishing everything that can possibly be abandoned. How much can you leave behind?
— Belden C. Lane in The Solace of Fierce Landscapes
To Practice This Thought: Survey the activities you do most days. Abandon one that is selfish and energy depleting.

Posted by: Abby at March 18, 2009 06:43 AM

Wow! Thank you for this! Exactly what I needed today, right on and thanks thanks thanks!

Posted by: Christie at March 18, 2009 06:08 AM

this is a GREAT post. I am going through a similar thing - in that - I am home all day and night with a 6 week old new baby Max and learning what that is all about and in between feedings every 3 hours and diapering and all of that I go directly to the computer - facebook ,blogs, e-mail to connect with the outside world.
I LOVE that community and NEED it right now. But I CRAVE having what you describe. A community in your home town!
I joined a group of mom's who are in the neighborhood that meet with their kids for playgroups on a weekly basis but I cannot go for another 2 weeks when our baby gets the clear from the pediatrician. Our baby has Down Syndrome and there is a play group on Fridays for kids similar to him that I plan on going to so I can meet other parents with similar situations and have max get a variety of friends in different situations.
I live on a street that have older families living here and I feel like an outsider. Different backgrounds that I don't feel connected with and don't want to. I would not walk my baby on my own street. It's too.....well I wouldn't say sketchy....but it's just got bars on windows, trash, graffiti, exhaust from busses and cars, etc. I have to pack it up and go just a short drive to a nicer part of town. Our area was "flipping" and now it's not.
anyhow - I can see a community in my future...but the fact that you Asked for one helps me to see that I need to take a few moments and really think about what it is I want - what I want it to feel like - and how I want my life to look now that everything is brand new and anything is possible....thank you

Posted by: Catherine at March 17, 2009 10:56 PM

Your post hits home in so many ways. I feel the lack of community deeply. When I am working, I have a two hour commute, making my free time very precious. So over the years I have lost touch with most of my friends. Today I spend a lot of time online surfing and reading blogs, looking for a connection I think. Fortunately I haven't fallen completely into the Facebook trap and I don't understand the reason for Twitter but I still do not have a community to call my own. I have no kindred souls close to home, no one that gets me, but no connections online either. My goal is to get myself out there, be it in my town or online and start connecting. My soul feels the emptiness and I must fill it up.

Posted by: Deb at March 17, 2009 10:06 PM

Such a quandary. I actually turned to blogging because I had tried for 2 years to find my community (tried to get involved at church, tried to organize play groups, tried to have the neighbors over for dinner) only to be feel rejected again and again. I was depressed and lonely and in desperate need of a friend and of finding a creative outlet. So I wrote one little blog post. Then another. And another. It was like a flood gate was opened. I felt the pent up writer in me coming out. None of what I wrote was any good. But it was writing, and that was something.

Now, a year later, the pent up writer is starting to feel all dried up and I don't have enough time to feed her and keep her creating and even though I've "met" a lot of people online who inspire me in so many ways (including you!!!!) I still don't feel truly connected. I don't have somebody I'd call when I'm having a bad day and just need a shoulder to cry on. I long for a local community. I cheer your efforts to find your own local community and applaud your courage to do what you need to do to feel happy and real and grounded. Way to go!

Posted by: Nicole at March 17, 2009 08:07 PM

Hello Andrea and thank you for your honest post and hurray for you! :)

I love the community I'm able to connect with online - it enables me to keep ties with the wonderful women I met at Squam last September.

That being said, I try to balance it out by getting to know my local artistic community too: meeting for coffee, discovering the local scene, or renewing local connections.

Plus I monitor myself and try to be aware of any behaviour changes due to too much time online - or even too much time living vicariously through others - that may mean it's time for me to get out and away from the computer!

Warm wishes to you.

Posted by: Steph at March 17, 2009 06:12 PM

Oh Andrea... there you go again, reading my mind.

I just found out that I have been accepted into a graduate program in New Mexico -- and I am thrilled to be relocating -- except that I can't take my circle of friends -- my network -- with me.

I am positive this is the right move, but I am not looking forward rebuilding a community... I am trying to find strength to face this new challenge.

Posted by: Anna at March 17, 2009 04:49 PM

Thanks A! You have a great way of knowing what others need. I think it's evident in the comments that your online community comes from a similar place inside of their hearts.

This was nice...and inspiring.

Warmest regards!

Posted by: wn at March 17, 2009 03:44 PM

Hooray for you!

And THANK YOU for this post! I sense so many of us are feeling exactly the same way these days.

Back to basics. What we can feel, touch, see, smell...right near home.

For me? I am now planning gardens and growing seeds (2nd year in a row) with a friend/neighbor. And, as an unexpected blessing for both of us, I am now serving as a nanny for that very same neighbor's adorable 3 month old girl :-)

Slowing down. Staying close to home. Venturing to new and yes, even sometimes familiar places; but seeing them with new eyes.

At the same time, keeping my blog connections/friendships alive and continuing to delve into them when the time feels right. Relishing the kindred spirits I meet there, too. However, all in balance and with good boundaries.

Enjoy your new-found bliss :-)

Posted by: Nerdy Renegade at March 17, 2009 02:56 PM

Super duper yeah for you, Matt, and Ben. I think it's wonderful that you have stopped to take notice of those who are so near to you, physically and emotionally, as it turns out.

What a blessing to break bread with neighbors and watch them turn into loved ones. What a blessing for your family and for all those around you.

I love that you go somewhere else to watch tv - what a great way to hang with neighbors without having to bring the tv to your place. Imagine what our communities would look like if more of us got rid of our tvs - even just to watch with neighbors! Even the dogs in the neighborhoods benefit from more community life.

I hope that dinner tonight is fabulous.
Again, yeah for you and yours!

Posted by: GailNHB at March 17, 2009 02:27 PM

you might like the poem "bare tree" by anne morrow lindbergh. it's about being strong even as you learn to let go of things, to experience loss and gain courage and wisdom. it's one of my favorites.

here it is:


"Bare Tree"

Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
Stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
Of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
A frame through which another's fire may glow,
A harp on which another's passion, blow.

The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
Spread on the sky, to others may impart
Its leafless mysteries that once I prized,
Before bare roots and branches equalized;
Tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
Are all the same; shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
There's nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.

Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
So fragile and so fearless have I grown!

Posted by: paula at March 17, 2009 02:03 PM

Wow! This is something my friends and I have been talking about, mulling over, debating, and some even gave up for Lent (and they're not Catholic). This really hits close to home.

Posted by: amber at March 17, 2009 01:03 PM

this is on my heart too andrea

Posted by: A at March 17, 2009 11:34 AM

Just wanted to say that I totally get where you are coming from and that I very much hope to have what you have gained sometime soon. We live in a rural area with neighbors very spaced out and while we do know a few of them quite well, they aren't a part of our lives on a regular basis. We are trying to sell our house and while it isn't the main reason for moving I have always craved what it is you are talking about, and I don't think I've ever really had it either. The scene you described of having a friend over and a couple of other friends popping in is EXACTLY what I would love to have. Time to call out to the universe... If you have any tips on doing that I'd love to hear them too!

I'm very happy for you!

Posted by: sparkyd at March 17, 2009 10:29 AM

I totally get it and I thank you for sharing. I suspect many struggle with this, it's a beautiful thing to be able to take stock of your life with so much love around.

Posted by: Jacki at March 17, 2009 04:45 AM

OMG...Andrea.. I didn't know you were listening to my head, sitting inside my brain. I crave real, face to face, warm connections.. warm and genuine. I am afraid of the superficial ones. I shrink away from those.

But I do love you my cyber friend.
As an Indian American, I find it very hard to integrate into society though.. I mean.. in a real way, in a way where I could tell I had a place, "Sometimes I want to go where everybody knows my name". Nobody's afult.. it just is hard.

Posted by: suganthi at March 17, 2009 03:32 AM

I haven't looked through all the comments so this may have been shared already. There's an article in an old Mothering Magazine issue about creating Tribes. It's a bit different than what you're talking about, but it's powerful and similar enough that I thought you'd appreciate it. I find it by going to the Mothering web site and put in "tribe" in the google search window. The first article to come up should be the one.

Posted by: heidi at March 16, 2009 08:07 PM

Andrea, this is so me.....blogging, facebook, etc, has been fun in so many ways, but it can not replace real, touching relationships, real community, people you can see face to face. I deal with this all the time, the pull to spend time at my computer, or spend time on my block getting to know my neighbors. I want to do both well, Sammy

Posted by: Sammy at March 16, 2009 07:58 PM

HELL YEAH~
i love it.
i get it.
:)

love,
mccabe x

Posted by: mccabe at March 16, 2009 07:58 PM

i think it sets us apart when we commit to choosing what nourishes. like we're going against the grain. thank you for leading the way, andrea.

Posted by: emily at March 16, 2009 07:45 PM

I had to laugh a little at this...as I just assumed everyone knew about and was present for what I call the driveway community. When the kids were little, we lived in our driveways with all the neighbors...we set up orange cones to slow down traffic that might come to fast and everyone knew and protected everyone else. We even closed off the cul-de-sacs and had neighborhood parties with bands and line dancing and water balloon throwing contests...oh those were the good times.
Now that only the baby is home and is 17 we still find ourselves in the drive-way....with all the adult neighbors who quickly gather when someone is seen outside talking to someone else....it's like a magnent this community thing and I'm so glad you finally have it/get it/love it/....and live it !!!

Posted by: beth at March 16, 2009 06:19 PM

Such a grounding post Andrea. I think this is such a good question for those of us who spend so much time in internet~land!

I can't say I've really found that balance at all. I've been in a really solitary space for the last few years and haven't really reached out as much as I would like to in either circle, online or in real life. But this post has me thinking about being clear and with intention about the community I want to create.

Also, I've found Magpie Girl's Soultribe posts to have wonderful insights into these kinds of questions.

http://www.magpie-girl.com/soultribes/

Posted by: vivienne at March 16, 2009 06:12 PM

Loved how grounded you are in this post. And by the way you described the community around you, it sounds like you've created such a cozy nest! And how lucky am I to be somewhat near you? Just knowing that makes me happy. And no matter how frequently you write or how much, the inspiration is just the same. Posts like this only help illustrate the true and beautiful flow of life. xo

Posted by: gypsy alex at March 16, 2009 05:57 PM

That's funny. Just today I was tempted to write, "Remember when the next, next, next thing was your next-door-neighbor?" Perhaps real is the new virtual. Good for you.

Posted by: Karen Maezen Miller at March 16, 2009 05:53 PM

I read this and realize now that this is what I'm feeling, or at least part of it; this feeling of not being able to put a finger on what's been not-quite right.

Thanks for the energy you put into the community online; and especially warm thoughts for the hugs that you can share, right there, right now.

Posted by: Wendee at March 16, 2009 05:45 PM

this really resonated with me today. most of my dearest friends are living in other cities or countries at the moment. i need to find a way to make and nurture connections closer to home as well. thank you for sharing this.

Posted by: amy at March 16, 2009 05:26 PM

hello - i recently discovered your blog and this is my second time to comment =)
i was quite thunderstruck by your statement that this is the first time you have a community to 'share meals and borrow bread crumbs' - is this really true?
as a native Angeleno (Los Angeles or LaLa-land as it's also known!) i know that finding community can be extremely difficult and retaining one equally so, but i think the thing to keep in mind is that making friends (no matter where you are) can feel scary and intimidating and it's really just another muscle, so to speak, that needs to be exercised in order to keep it's strength, like any skill you may have in your arsenal (painting, writing, riding a bike).
i am glad that you have been exploring this aspect of your life and sharing your discovery with your online community - keep up the great writing!

Posted by: M squared at March 16, 2009 05:17 PM

wow... your words so resonated with me. i've been thinking a lot lately about time on line and how it impacts the quality of my life. your words and thoughts help me in this journey to find balance. thank you.

Posted by: marg at March 16, 2009 04:58 PM

Yea for you! I found when my children were wee, community built up around us. As they have grown, I have had to look in other places. As I have shared, my life has been in flux and I found myself isolated, with NO community. This was good too. To be quiet with my self. Now I am stretching my fingers once again, finding friends and kindred spirits in my own town. It is a journey of peaks and valleys. I am so happy for you and your community, blessings...

Posted by: Puanani at March 16, 2009 03:58 PM

Andrea, you're the first blogger that I started reading, and I'm still hooked. So, thanks for sharing your life force with all us cyberspace friends. :)

How do I find community and create balance? This is a tough one, since I work at a job that puts me in front of a computer 8 hours a day.

I spend 25 hours a week observing the Jewish sabbath, during which time I'm totally disconnected from cyberspace and all communications that are not face-to-face. I pray, share meals with friends, and try to live fully in my life, in what is present. I cannot imagine my life without this sacred, weekly pause. Outside of those 25 hours, it is a constant work for me to bring my attention back to the present, to what is real and here and now. All we have is this very moment. (Of course, the irony is that I'm spending this very moment writing this comment, but I'll make and eat dinner soon and then go out and be with friends.)

Posted by: Chana at March 16, 2009 03:47 PM

ah yes. so true. there is something very grounding and nurturing when you accept those people that are actually 'there' in your life...the ones you can physically be around and share your daily life with. because really this is the life you are living....that saying 'bloom where you are planted' speaks true of this. embrace where you are.

Posted by: celisa at March 16, 2009 03:40 PM

yes, yes, yes. me, too. i am navigating this journey at present. creating balance, cultivating community, grounding in the real...
thank you for this, dear Andrea.
in light,
gem

Posted by: gem at March 16, 2009 03:35 PM

This sounds amazingly delicious! Good for you. How nice to be surrounded by neighbors and neighborhood. I miss that sometimes, too.

Posted by: Wanda at March 16, 2009 03:30 PM

yes, yes, yes.
you've said it so well.

Posted by: kelly rae at March 16, 2009 03:22 PM

Andrea, I think this is fantastic! You made a very tricky and difficult transition from an online community to a real one. God, it sounds great.

I, like so many, was convinced days of that kind of in-person community were long and lamentably over.

Especially with having Ben, how nice to connect with other young couples and parents and doggy owners in real life.

Posted by: Shelley Noble at March 16, 2009 03:17 PM

Yes, yes, yes! I so get what you're saying. There was a tongue in cheek article recently in Time magazine (I think by Joel Stein?) titled something like, "Life is still worth living outside of the Twittersphere"...and how he gave up tweeting & following tweets. Funny, yet so true.

I recently discovered Nia. If you haven't taken a Nia class, please do!! It's a wonderful experience of dance, martial arts elements and yoga. I love it. xoxo, ~ M.

Posted by: Mariella at March 16, 2009 03:15 PM

I would love you to continue to share your thoughts on this as you muddle through it. Thanks

Posted by: Kathleen Loughran at March 16, 2009 02:54 PM

"searching for what's real in my life, what nourishes me most, what grounds me most powerfully in the tangible now of my life. I have been pruning, trimming, whittling away at what what no longer serves me, taking stock of all the blessings, choosing powerfully and intentionally what I want to keep."

i so totally relate. thank you.

Posted by: kristen at March 16, 2009 02:34 PM

"searching for what's real in my life, what nourishes me most, what grounds me most powerfully in the tangible now of my life. I have been pruning, trimming, whittling away at what what no longer serves me, taking stock of all the blessings, choosing powerfully and intentionally what I want to keep."

i so totally relate. thank you.

Posted by: kristen at March 16, 2009 02:33 PM

This is really waht I need to do, to have. After relocating and starting over, I've been focusing on my home and my kids and my art and well... I have no friends. It's sad and lonely.

People on line are great, but you're right, it's a virtual life.

Am I ready to put out the call to the universe for my community?

Posted by: rowena at March 16, 2009 02:32 PM

I relate so much to this disconnect & struggle to find a balance between life online and off, especially as more "real life" comes online too.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: whitney at March 16, 2009 02:06 PM

I cannot being to say how much you inspire me! Thank you for being you. Honest. Raw. Open. May you be blessed!

Posted by: Lauren at March 16, 2009 01:27 PM

What an utterly beautiful inspiring post, and I think this will strike a chord in many people, myself included.

I currently live alone in a rather solitary state (as my blog name implies) but would love to create a community as you have done. I don't feel bold enough at the moment (in many areas), but I'm actively working on that.
I think it takes a heck of a lot of courage to reach out to people and build a family, and if you don't mind, I think I will save your words and use them in my 'real' life to make me just that little bit braver, if that is ok with you.

Posted by: Belinda at March 16, 2009 01:13 PM

I so appreciate this, since I know how hard it can be to really take the time to appreciate what you have around you. I too have been grappling with this and know now that it IS possible. It's been way to long for me and now I have that added nudge to do it myself. thank you for the reminder....as always..

can we do glide together soon??? xoxo

Posted by: stef at March 16, 2009 01:10 PM

Amazing post Andrea. And so right on with what I am aching for and really craving right now.

Thanks for this simple reminder that all we need to do is put ourselves out there. Be present and allow things/people to come to us.

Posted by: D at March 16, 2009 12:43 PM

You are so lucky to have been able to make such wonderful connections in your neighborhood. We've been in our new house 16 months, and I've met a couple of neighbors, but haven't really made a real connection with anyone. I hope to be able to meet some more people once the weather is nicer and we're able to go for more walks.

Some of my online friends through Cleveland Handmade have become real-life friends -- sometimes the internet can bring local people together.

Posted by: Lori Paximadis at March 16, 2009 12:39 PM

Andrea-- I love how you always write just what I need to read. Thanks for that. We just moved from a much loved community in Seattle, to Portland. We love it here, but I know no one. So I've been immersing myself in the online world even more than normal and losing my feeling of grounded-ness. Your story gives me hope. Thanks.

Posted by: Jolie at March 16, 2009 12:25 PM

Beautiful, heartfelt post, Andrea. I am so glad to be part of your real world, glad that we live a mere walk away, glad that we often get to lean on each other during that hardest part of the day -- the "witching hour" before the boys' bedtime. As you venture more towards the concrete, I find myself drawn to get out and make a mark in cyberspace -- this is my very first blog post! But your journaling is reminding me to seek balance in all of it because yes, it is too easy to get swept up into that world in the ether and not have room left to see and appreciate what we can reach out and touch. I applaud your keen observation and thank you for sharing your thoughts.......with love and wishes for a grounded day! Karina

Posted by: Karina Racz at March 16, 2009 12:00 PM

Hi Andrea- I am de-lurking a moment to say that this entry really echoes something I am also struggling with right now (and I know other people too) and your post has made me think about it a little bit deeper and in the immediate. I've been thinking of ways to connect directly with my loved ones who are far away, who I miss all the time, but I also see that this struggle is keeping me from connecting to the here & now. Thank you, I think I got some connecting to do.

Posted by: Summer at March 16, 2009 11:58 AM