Yesterday was all about Shelter. The infrastructure in which I reside. Today’s post is about a different kind of infrastructure. The infrastructure of people—and plants and birds, it turns out, at the end of the post.
Community means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some a community is a group of people that live near each other. To others, it is a group of people that share common interests. When I think of community, I consider both definitions.
Rural areas are renowned for their ‘community’, mostly in a geographical sense, but also for their shared values. It’s no surprise that most people that choose to live in a distant, homogeneous place, come to share similar values. Rural communities are built on a set of values. These values persevere—they transcend any individual or family. The wide community is broken into sub-groups based on age (young, middle-age, and elderly), occupation (farmers with farmers, tradies with tradies, nurses with nurses), hobbies (football, lawn bowls, baking), and other shared characteristics. Conversely, in the city, with such diversity spread across a geographical areas, such homogeneity isn’t as obvious. Hence, your typical suburb or urban street or apartment block where people don’t talk to one another. Wen Lee’s story about the futility she experienced in trying to borrow a few tablespoons of vegetable oil from a neighbour (I would have just used olive oil) is one I understand. People seem to be home but don’t want to socialise—they have their own, geographically separate, social groups for that. I’ve had this many times; where neighbours (or fellow community members if we are to keep with the vernacular) look at me suspiciously for wanting to gesture at them or say hello. “What does he want?” passes rhetorically through their head. I cut my loses and walk on. Obviously this isn’t always the case, I have lived in many places where there has been a strong sense of community and openness.
I am already a member of a number of communities. There are my close friends and acquaintances. Work contacts. And several online communities, related to permaculture, transition, and simple living. These, at this stage, are largely ‘virtual’ communities, so can be maintained from wherever. Over the next year years I would like to foster in-the-flesh connections with some of the people that belong to these communities. Taking the relationships from interest- and value-based to into the geographical.
What do I expect of community in the Murray Mallee? Well some have warned that I may be seen as an outsider—an eccentric. I have more hope than that. Sure, I mightn’t be part of the football culture in the area, or drink at the pub of an evening with farmers as they unwind after a long day. But I would like to strike up amicable relationships with those that live near me on the premise that we simply look out for each other. I realise I might need to win some people over, so shall keep an open, generous mind. My prospects are slightly oddball, but that’s ok. I shall show the local community the benefit to them. We’ll see how it goes.
So far I have spoken to one person who lives in my town. He works at the council. He was a very friendly fellow who spoke highly of the town and its people. He thinks I will be fine.
Vital to my ease is the understanding that my other ‘communities’ are not far away. It’s a hop, skip and a jump to the world from which I come. My safety net. This proximity was part of the grand plan and shall be exploited should the need arise.
The prospects ahead do not feel isolating. More than anything I have myself. My thoughts. My mind. That’s largely what I wanted from all this after all. I wanted a space in which to cleanse my mind. The plants and kookaburras and sand and sun shall become my fellow communitarians. There is a community for every occasion.
I realise that I might not develop deep ties with the local community out in the boondocks. I’m okay with that. I’m use to it.
Tomorrow’s post will be a doozy, Food.