Sunday, July 31, 2011

Community

I'm in Massachusetts for the weekend, after more than a month in Maine. I'm happy to say it still feels good to come "home," although one wonders if the definition is changing.

Last weekend, when we should have come back to MA (we were heat-wimps), Owls Head had its annual community potluck at the Old Homestead. I'd been thinking about going this year, but of course I wasn't going to be in Maine and the date never stuck in my head. I didn't remember until the morning of the day - a couple of people were starting to set up tables as the dog and I walked by. "OK, I'll stop in later," I told myself and proceeded home.

Needless to say, I forgot again. On our afternoon walk, Mia and I started to hear music as we walked up Canns Beach (I assume Mia heard it too - she didn't remark on it), saw the cars parked on Ash Point Drive, watched people dancing to a old-time country band and eating hot dogs and watermelon and clearly having a good time on a lovely hot day, and walked on by. Yes, we walked on by without stopping.

My excuse was the dog, of course, who would beg for food and get in the way of the dancing and be the object of gushing. The real reason was timidity. It's easier to avoid people, to shirk responsibility, at a party to stand in the corner looking at your host's book shelves. I kick myself for this behavior, so middle-school. Doesn't one ever grow up?

It's said that most people have an injury somewhere, sometime, in their childhoods that they're forever trying to heal. I expect a big one is the loss of community, either forced by circumstances or embraced by madness. My own sense of community only started to grow when we moved to Newton, some 20 years ago. I should be experienced by now, and also had those 30 years of the forced, glad-handing, screw-your-courage-to-the-sticking-point responsibilities of the business world, but I still find it difficult and intimidating to walk into a roomful (in this case, yardful) of strangers. Unless, of course, it's business, for which one puts on a different person. But slowly and surely, Maine is bringing out my real person for others to see, just as our friends and neighbors in Newton did. You have to talk to yourself, and scold yourself, to put yourself in the way, and you're always happy you did. Next year for sure I'll be dancing in a circle with strangers.

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