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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Community

Photo by Laura Bear
Today was an unusual sunny April day in the upper 70's (back to the mid-40's in two days). I went for a bicycle ride with my husband and some friends. I rode too far and too hard for this early in the season, and except for the fatigue and all-over body pain, I felt great! It was good to get the cobwebs out of my mind and to commune with friends. Dinner and a glass of wine put some of the aches and pains to rest and allowed me to contemplate this idea of community.

As much as I love my alone time (and never get enough of it), I need the company of others, too. I think community is especially important for writers. After all, we spend most of our writing time alone in a room, typing or long-handing our thoughts and inspirations onto paper (or electronics). I may have the company of my dog or one of the cats, but I don't actually have to engage the animals to make them happy (most of the time). Even though I get plenty of people-time in my day job, I spend much of my other time either thinking about writing or actually writing--by myself. How I crave that singular time to dig into the writing, the story, the poetic rhythm of word play. I whine and fret if I don't get it often enough. But, what good is the writing if no one reads it?

The most magical part of writing is making a connection with a reader. Nothing stirs my heart more than a reader's feedback. They get me! My writing touched someone else! What else is more euphoric? Okay, yes, the birth of my child, the realization that I am still in love with my husband, the pride I feel as my son becomes an amazing young man, a perfectly risen loaf of homemade bread, spring flowers unfurling in the first rays of sun, the excitement on one of my therapy patient's faces when they learn how to speak again after a stroke, the delight of a child's discovery of anything...you get the idea. Okay, so maybe there are actually a lot of options for euphoria here. Why am I so pessimistic then? Because, crappy things happen to good people, there is too much hate in the world, too much violence, too much death and destruction. True, all that, and yes, I let it get me down. But, then something happens to revive my faith in all things good again.

There was a devastating flood here in 2011. We barely made the national news because we live in an un-news-worthy part of upstate New York. The Susquehanna River in Owego rose 40 feet over flood stage. It filled the first floors of almost every home in town up to the ceilings. Some people lost everything. There was looting and other royal crappiness afterward, but most of all there were people helping. At least two local restaurants--The Cellar and Mario's fed the town even though they were both affected by the flood themselves. They grilled the meat they could no longer keep refrigerated because the electricity was out for days. We took in a lady from the flooded downtown even though we had no water or electricity. We were worried until our good neighbors with pools offered us buckets of pool water to flush our toilets. Other neighbors took in several people whose homes were flooded. People with generators let others charge phones when the cell towers were working again so they could call and let family members know they were okay. We were cut off from the rest of the world, even from the rest of the town, but we had a community of people who looked out for each other.

I think it is important to have a community of writers, also. I had been away from the writer's world for so long, I felt disconnected...alone. Then I went to a writer's retreat and met some fantastic writers who were also excellent people. I reached out to a local writer, we became friends and I met more fabulous people through her. My wonderful friend, and writer-extraordinare, Gregory Norris edited my book, introduced me to one of his publishers, and continues to encourage and comfort me along the way. He is living his dream and is not stingy with his joy. When I begin to feel whiney and pathetic, I wallow for a while and then kick myself in the derriere. Some people warned me that people in the writing business can be jealous, self-serving, mean-spirited, and cutthroat. I have been fortunate to have met only the best people in the writing business so far. I believe in small presses! I believe in working for your dreams. I believe we each have the power to decide how to live our lives. I am not always good at remembering this, but I find that if I believe in and help others to reach their goals, if I reach out to people with good intentions, if I forget about what I want and focus on what I can do, the life I want to live becomes easier to achieve.

I wish the best for all of you.