I talk about community a lot. So much that it's almost like I'm starting to forget what meaning there is behind it - it's just "the community thing." It's just a belief that we should have a more local focus. Locally produced food, art, music, supporting local merchants, smart urban planning that encourages walking, maybe - my dream - living in the same area with other like-minded creators, facilitators, and consumers under the belief that we can create a lot more energy and buzz and stuff if we're all in the same place. I grew up in Vermont in the 70s and 80s, during a time when a lot of hippies and not-quite-hippies like my parents were trying to find a sane place to live and work, so most of this belief comes from the way things were when I was a kid. My family and friends' families helped each other build houses, make maple syrup, patronized each other's businesses, and we kids treated friends like family - we didn't know what "real" family was like. It's a bit of longing for the idyllic version of my childhood world, rooted in faith that it can be like this because I've seen it.
Today I made a big step toward fostering community, and it made me really happy. I've been putting this off, not sure if I wanted to invest in Austin community. It feels a little hopeless here sometimes - nature is hostile, vegetables don't grow the way I'm familiar with, people drive enormous trucks distances of 2 blocks, so it hasn't been so clear to me that it's the place I want to stay. Another thing that has held me back is the fact that frankly, I'm scared of meeting new people and trying things whose context and etiquette I don't understand yet. I work hard on this, but it's one of my biggest weaknesses.
So this morning I mustered my courage and went out to Oasis Community Gardens and became a member. Community supported agriculture (CSA) is the coolest. I heard about it a few years ago from an old roommate who worked on a farm, and it was one of the things that got me started thinking about "the community thing." If you don't know what it is, CSA usually works like a co-op. You pay a monthly membership fee, work a few hours on the farm, and in exchange you get a bunch of fresh (organic, in Oasis's case) vegetables every week.
I actually joined on behalf of my cooking group (see, I was tricked into going out there alone - the others backed out at the last minute). The group is sort of another community effort. Some people wanted to learn how to cook, some people just want to come and hang out, cook, and be around food, and I know how to cook and have a fair-sized and well-equipped kitchen, so I host the group once a week.
It doesn't really matter, I'm deciding, whether or not I want to live in Austin long-term. It's a better place for me if there's more community, whether I'm enjoying that now or for a long time. It's also good practice!