Hey, universe

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Inquiries for the universe…

A few years ago, after returning from a three-week writing residency in France, I put an idea out into the universe: hey, universe, could you send more cross-disciplinary collaboration my way? I’d worked with a wonderful actor / writer / translator as part of the residency, and both of us hoped to find a way to create together again. The universe didn’t align for the two of us to reconnect, though we tried; however, as so often happens, another door opened. In fact, a few different doors, one leading to the next. The first was that I began spending several mornings a week with a young woman who had recently come to Canada with her husband and children; she couldn’t get into a language program, so I volunteered to help her with some English studies. Really, what I remember most about those mornings are our conversations. I realized that my neighbourhood, my work, my friend group, even my church was its own bubble, a comfort zone, and pretty homogenous; and that I had a strong desire to connect with people across the possible barriers of language, religion and culture. The idea for The X Page storytelling workshop grew out of this friendship.

And lo and behold, The X Page became a forum for cross-disciplinary artistic collaboration, as well as new friendships and connections. Our third season starts this week, and will happen entirely online. We’ve adapted, but the goals remain the same: artistic collaboration and exploration, and cross-cultural conversations and connections. It genuinely feels like I sent an idea out to the universe, and the universe answered.

Today, I’ve woken with another kernel of an idea: Hey universe, could I expand on the X Page workshop somehow, to make its goals available more broadly, to many more people? Here’s the spark: Before drifting off to sleep last night, I read a New York Times article about an Australian community-building concept called “The Shed.” Apparently, these “sheds” began as retreats for retired and out-of-work men, and only recently have women started their own “sheds.” The story is about women taking over part of an unused school building; their shed is run by volunteers who are also participants, and it’s a mix of socializing (playing games, eating together) and crafts/ skills, like sewing, painting, gardening, cooking, singing in a choir. It’s a mix.

When I woke up, I was still mulling over the idea of “the shed,” which sounds a bit like a community centre, but which also seems more ground-up, or holistically invented and sustained.

It’s also all very post-pandemic, and impossible right now: gathering together, in person. But hey, universe: is there something here? What do you think? Maybe it’s the idea of a shared project, like “the shed.” Maybe it’s the fact that it’s free for all. Maybe it’s the concept of having space for a variety of activities, which I’ve found makes connections across barriers easier. I’m feeling this rather urgently right now: somehow we have to find ways to make more connections, especially outside of our bubbles, in order to nurture our sense of collective care. We’ve got big urgent crises to cope with. We need to find ways to have difficult conversations, and common ground. Social media does not work for these purposes; it seems almost designed to push us to greater and greater extremes. Belonging comes from something else, I’m convinced of it—outside of algorithms that fail to surprise us, that try to sell us more stuff, and that compete for our attention by exploiting our emotional weak points.

My attention is invaluable. So is yours. It is our time here on earth. It’s what we’ve got to give.

So if you’ve spent a few minutes of your attention reading this post, I send you immense thanks. And to the universe, I send this flicker of an idea: in what ways can I deepen my involvement in building community and connection on the ground, in the real world, both now and whenever we can meet in person again?

xo, Carrie

Find your way home
Unsolicited advice column

5 Comments

  1. I think it’s an excellent idea.

    My decades-long involvement with several different churches (Anglican, mostly) makes me confident that it would not be hard to find congregations willing to provide space in church halls for a project of this kind. It would be helpful, certainly, if a member of the congregation were to propose it to them, and there might be a minimal charge — if only to cover off liability costs and cleaning.

    Keep pitching to the universe. Sometimes small, flickering responses combine to create a great light.

    Paul

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  2. Agreed it’s a wonderful concept. Your posts are one of the few things truly worthy if my attention each day. Thank you.

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    • Thank you so much, Amy! Your kind comment means a lot.

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  3. Makerspaces trend/focus more nerdy, usually, but so cool; you may be able to borrow some ideas/formulations/legalese.

    (there are also sometimes attached projects to re-sell given-up-on craft supplies on the cheap.)

    We have an Arts Center in town, but they closed it off to most public use the year we moved here – so disappointing that from “you can rent anything by the hour/day/etc. as long as you go through the training or can demonstrate experience” (welding gear! glass fusing kiln! quilting machines! looms!)(and, like, fairly inexpensive fees for the most expensive and breakable equipment, and with some things free but with restrictions like “your project cannot stay on a loom for more than 2 months” or so), it went to “you can take ‘classes’ where you walk through a very strict project, and most of the projects are just assembling something prefab possibly out of craft foam.” And then, of course, pandemic. Apparently it went through a Rough Time with its leadership/committee or something before we got here; I still have hope that it might return to being a resource for those who don’t like just assembling things someday, but we’ll see.

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  4. I’m exploring something similar with the play reading groups I’ve been doing over the past year which are opening doors to communities who would never otherwise engage with one another, as they keep saying. Keep exploring!

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