Around retreat time I end up thinking about the idea of connection a lot, because each year I realise anew that connection is the main reason why people come. Yes, they come for a weekend away, and yes the classes are awesome, and the food fabulous, but that isn't where the magic is. The magic is in what happens when you put a room of people together who have a shared understanding of the joy of making.
Connection is a word I love and a word I use often - it is why I do what I do. And yet, connection is a word that gets thrown around a lot in our culture. It is used to advertise mobile phones and banks and schools and government programs. It's used because connection is something we all look for and crave. We need it to live a good life. As Brene says - we are wired for connection. And yet, while I love it, when I read it in someone's marketing or magazine article, it can feel a little empty. A little marketing-y. Which makes me a little sad, because really, connection is the secret sauce of life.
To me, feeling connected means feeling heard, seen and understood. And feeling those things aboutsomeone else. Every year I am reminded of how real the word connection is in the context of the retreat. It is not just an empty word. The reality of it is palpable; everyone arrives on the Friday with open hearts ready to celebrate this wonderful life giving thing we share. And for that I am truly grateful.
In our everyday lives when we are thrust into a group of people we don't know, we generally look for people who are in our tribe to connect with. We guess that they will share some of our values and passions. We look at the visible markers we can see to tell us something about the person before us. Simple markers like the way someone is dressed, their expressions, their hairstyle, whether they are good at eye contact, their posture, their age group all tell us something about who it is that we are speaking to. However, often those very same markers that draw us to some people can also cause us to make judgements that mean we deny ourselves rich and rewarding relationships with a broader demographic that those people we instantly recognise as "our people".
To make my point I thought I would give you a very simple example of me being a lazy but judgemental arse. - There is a woman I met two years ago who looks crotchety all. the. time. For the first year or so I knew her, I avoided conversations that were deeper than hi because she looked so grumpy. And yet when I was thrown together with her in a room on a project I discovered that she is really really friendly and open and kind. I can hear my grandmother shouting "book" and "cover" and she is right. I should have taken the time a year earlier. It would have involved me investing an extra three minutes of my time in the initial phase of knowing her to figure out who she was.
Moving on from my shortsightedness.
What is amazing about a retreat based around a shared understanding support and joy making give us, is that we know the each and every person there has a common understanding of something fundamental about us, something that is somehow deeply personal and deeply universal. They have felt it too! They understand why we want to make, rather than buy something. They understand how our fingers are connected to our hearts.
It's like a shorthand way of getting to know one another. Knowing something that fundamental about someone, gives us a wonderful base with which to start connecting to them on other levels. This shared understanding means there is a conversation that can be had that is more open and vulnerable than a normal introductory conversation can be; we know a part of what makes that other person tick, regardless of their mode of dress, their age, body language and their possible tribe.
I know I'm being a little repetitive but for that I am truly grateful.
My apologies for the delay in getting the prizes assigned for our giveaway the other day. I've finally read all the wonderful, thoughtful comments on The Craft Sessions At Home post where I asked you about community and craft. I've picked a few to share with you here - but I really wish I had more than five prizes to give away. The comments made my heart sing and I encourage you to go read them with a cup of tea if you have a moment. Thank you so much for playing along.
The comments from the five people who have won prizes are listed below. If you find your quote here then please email me at email@example.com with your full name and address and I will get them sent out to you. My apologies for not emailing you to let you know. My system has eaten some of your email addresses.
Connection Quote 1 - from kiran
I started knitting just a few months ago, and found it a way to soothe myself and "knit up" the unravelledness of my life. But the reaches of its healing keep surprising me. I found myself in the last few days not anxiously averting my eyes from acquaintances I pass, but instead meeting them with a smile. Something about living in my hands a bit more and not just my head, is helping me stand more solidly in my own being. I also find my eyes scanning for knitwear. My desire to talk about it is stronger than my anxiety. I feel the words come to my lips and the urge to speak overpowers my hesitation. "Your scarf is beautiful!" "What a lovely jumper! Is I handmade?" I have found a secret language which, in spite of myself, is breaking the barrier I saw between myself and others. I'm becoming human again. Woven in. Thankyou, fibres and needles. Thankyou, my hands. Thankyou, life, for the spark in me that made me want to knit.
Connection Quote 2 - From Sally
The community created by being a maker is cyclical & spans generations I think; with everything we make we are connected to those from whom we have learnt our crafts; we connect with those who are the recipients of what we make & also those who influence, inspire & generally hang out with us while we're making & then there are the connections we make with those to whom we pass our knowledge & skill. I feel this & think about every time I pick up every project I work on & consequently altho I work alone I am never lonely.
Connection Quote 3 - from Ellen
It seems I am not alone in using creative hobbies as a social support in meeting people and making community - I am very shy and introverted, but knitting and spinning provide a common ground to share with others when forming early friendships. I had the privilege of living just blocks from a brand new yarn store a few years back, and the inter-generational community fostered there changed the way I viewed my neighborhood and my friend group. I have also used knitting as a way to connect with and build community as a way to express emotion - I have often sent knitted items to welcome new babies, comfort for those experiencing medical difficulties, or send hugs to those in mourning.
Connection Quote 4 - From Karen B
I started knitting to fill my time and my attention on long hours of airplane travel for work. I find it satisfies my urge to be productive and to create - and unbeknownst to me, I make friends nearly everywhere I go! I have had an unexpected number of seatmates tell me that seeing me knit socks brings back warm memories of their grandmother or mother knitting. I've been told folks had no idea anyone knits anymore! Other knitters have pulled out their project and we have compared favorite yarn shops, yarn manufacturers, tools and patterns. And fellow travelers just like to tease me - "will you finish that (sweater, scarf, socks....) by the time we land?" Knitting has started dialogues with people who would otherwise remain distant and that engages me with community in a precious way.
Connection Quote 5 - From Annett
I feel like there really is no way to craft and not connect. Most of us learn a craft, whether it be knitting or sewing, embroidery etc.pp. from someone, and even if that doesn't happen in person, most of us learn a skill or two online, from all the lovely people here sharing their knowledge. And apart from the connections being made in "real life" through crafting together, or people asking about my knitting (seriously, there have been surprising people that would probably never talk to me if it wasn't for my knitting and vice versa), I feel like this online community has given me so much, blogs, Instagram and Ravelry are just part of my online home, people sharing their makes, me sharing mine, asking each other things, giving advice, encouragement, knitting along with each other, I really could not imagine my live without all the companions I carry around in my iPhone with me. :) So until I make it to events like your amazing Craft Sessions, Camp Workroom Social or the Edinburgh Yarn Festival I'll just cherish the community brough to me through the magic thing that is the Internet. Wishing you the loveliest of times with shiny happy people and awesome projects all the way from Germany! :)