Over the past two weekends, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many writers and readers at two separate conferences. At both, I listened to people lament how at sea they felt when they moved to new communities and away from family and friends. That got me thinking about communities and villages.
We loosely use the word “community” when we talk about Facebook “friends,” many of whom we’ve never seen in person and who we will probably never see in person. We form mutable communities of people who enjoy certain activities. I have a circle of friends we see five Saturdays every year. They have season tickets for Navy home games. We’ve sat with them for nearly 10 years. That is a community bound by a football season. While we’ve tried to get together outside of the football season, our lives are so busy that we haven’t been able to find a weekend free. I’m looking forward to reuniting on September 3 at the first Navy home game against Fordham.
When Terry and I moved to Smith Mountain Lake, we promised ourselves that this would be the last move. We’d built the house of our dreams. (See above.) We furnished it with family treasures and squishy furniture that invites naps and lying around reading. I don’t think my husband really believed I was “here to stay” until I asked him to begin driving the packing boxes over to be recycled for other people moving around. Then, and only then, did he realize I meant it. I am “here to stay.”
That said, how to fit into a new area? My cousin Aleta Vail packed up and left the high desert of Southern California for Anchorage many years ago. We visited her after she’d been in residence for over a decade. Every place we went we met people who knew her. We wanted that experience. We wanted to make SML our village. But how to do that?
Terry was retired, and I was working three days a week as a consultant from a home office. Not exactly conducive to meeting people. Not being church goers, that obvious path was closed, so we looked around for places to volunteer or groups to join. Terry found a two-line announcement in the local weekly about a group of writers. A name, a phone number. I called. A week later, I went to my first meeting. I’ve been going twice a week ever since. That was nine years ago. From that group came an invitation to another writers group in Roanoke, about 25 miles away, an invitation to help with public relations for the local arts council and several other volunteer activities. I selected the two writers groups and the arts council. But what did Terry want to do?
One day, while out running errands, Terry came out of CVS to find a man on a motorcycle parked next to his. The local man didn’t recognize the bike and wanted to meet its rider. An exchange of phone numbers and now a group of retirees head out for day trips or week-long treks.
Terry also picked up interest in our local homeowners association, which led to the association of lake area associations (yes, there is such a creature), which led to involvement with a group of civic-minded individuals responsible for keeping our lake a clean place for recreation.
And so on, and so on, and Scooby-Dooby-Doo.
How do you become part of a new village?
Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’m really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.