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Tom and Deb

Yesterday Handsome Chef Boyfriend and I headed just over the state line to Cambridge, NY for a planned lunch with friends. They are varied folks from varied walks of life, united by a creative group that writer Jon Katz started for artsy people to show off their work without fear of reprisal: a so-called “ministry of encouragement.” And as is so much the way these days, the group’s virtual home is social media. But when Jon and his wife Maria open their house and farm to followers and admirers a couple of times annually, some of us in the group have the chance for face time. Many of us live and work in New England, but the group is global. And it has been a wonderful and enriching experience to meet people from far and wide at Jon and Maria’s, to say nothing of meeting the hosts themselves. Our self-ascribed moniker is “farmies,” after Bedlam Farm. And some of us actually live on farms. But all of us enjoy creating. As I said, it is what unites us. We are photographers, writers, fine artists, poets, performing artists, textile artists, and more. Wide creative boundaries, few rules, no hostility. We produce beautiful things, and the group gives us a safe place to show them off.

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Kindred Spirit Beth (who might possibly have a thing or two up her sleeve)

A few of the local “farmies” have found excuses to get together outside of the sanctioned open house events. Yesterday the planets aligned correctly and HCB and I at last had a chance to join them (we are only about twenty minutes or so away from Cambridge). We had a prolonged lunch at the Round House Café on Cambridge’s Main Street (go there if you can—it is nom; we stayed ’til we were kicked out), where chef-owner Scott Carrino is also a friend of Jon’s and a member of our group; he was über busy, so there was only time for a hand shake and brief chat with him. But he has been known to show up at Jon’s wearing his singer/songwriter hat with guitar in hand; he has mad skilz, not unlike my own handsome chef.

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Kathy and Husband, who recently earned the moniker “Old Husband Dave”

Since my Great Big Move to Vermont almost three years ago (can it really have been that long?), I have struggled to find balance, to overcome fear, and to feel connected. Vermont is a rural state, and that’s all there is to it. Even the cities here that have some critical mass feel pretty dang small to me. Unless you are tied to a church community or some other organization, the reality is that you’ll be challenged to find your tribe.

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Chris and Rachel, long-time friends of Handsome Chef Boyfriend

Yesterday I felt a sense of community I’ve longed for since I-don’t-know-when. Already there are plans in the works for another get-together next month. I miss the days of phoning a friend at 10 and meeting for lunch an hour and a half later. The reality is that those days are probably over. So much about my life looks so different now than it did three years ago; change is hard, not always bad. I’ve managed most of what’s been thrown my way okay, I think.

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Thoughtful Tom and Candy 

Community is redefining itself for me, like so many other parts of the balanced whole. I think I can roll with the punches. This group is a soft landing place, a sweet bunch of folks I feel privileged to join. And they don’t take themselves too seriously: it might be their most admirable quality. See that funny-looking thing at the left up there? It’s what we are now calling Nancy-on-a-Stick, a cutout of a farmie in Oklahoma who could not join us yesterday. But she went everywhere and did everything with us: she had some excellent coffee, some lovely sweet potato chips, wore pretty flowers in her hair, and even attended a flash mob at the neighboring Battenkill Books, where she was interviewed on camera for a YouTube video, true story. (HCB found his way into the video, too; coming soon.)

I managed somehow not to get photos of new friend Jeff Anderson, nor of Kate Rantilla, who arrived late. But I leave you with possibly the best image of the day, snapped during the (ahem) flash mob, which was contrived to draw attention to a local arts organization. And I leave you to reflect on this oxymoron: Flash mob in Cambridge, NY. (Profound, I know.) Good times, good times. Southern friends, y’all need to come on up and see us some time.

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Greetings from Battenkill Books

9 thoughts on “Finding Community

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