I know what’s happening on this Saturday night in Santa Fe. Over the Rhine gave a wonderful concert. People worshiped one more time together, and pilgrims shuffled forward, for the blessing touch of hands on foreheads. There were hugs and tears. People who’d been piling stacks of books under tables in the Eighth Day display settled up with Warren. Some folks helped him pack his mobile bookstore, while others sipped wine and ate strawberries at a rooftop reception. There might have been the light show of a rainbow, and the music of coyotes. Meanwhile, the concert space that became a worship space will become a dance floor, and people who were maybe not cool in school will dance like nobody’s watching. They will embody release.
If we’re not supposed to dance, why all this music?
— Gregory Orr, from Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved
This week I asked a couple of friends at work what constitutes their tribes.
“Same kind of weird?” one theorized.
The other said she doesn’t have tribes, she has circles, like a Venn diagram. Sometimes she’ll go someplace, where she knows people from that community, like cyclists, and see people she knows from another community, like the newsroom. She imagines us all in our overlapping circles, seldom glimpsing how interconnected we all are.
Before I had those conversations, I’d written a little about tribes, and Venn diagrams, because I miss my peeps this week. For the past few years, a week in late summer has been my psychological New Year’s, Santa Fe my emotional true north. In that post, though, I did not explain one important thing about the quarterly journal Image, celebrating its quarter-century anniversary this year, and the Glen Workshop that it sponsors. The foundational principle is an understanding that humans are made in the image of our Creator, and part of that image is being creative ourselves. Generative, in the ways that Makoto Fujimura talks and writes about.
That is why these are my people and why many of us feel like our fullest selves there. We go and find our work taken seriously, and encouraged. We are, individually and communally, commissioned: Accept the gifts given to you; go forth and make. Bear the image forth.
Same kind of weird.
I had the great good fortune to attend seven Glens in six years. (There’s also a newer one, Glen East, in western Massachusetts; one year I went to both.) I’ve said that on this seventh year, not being there is my letting the field lie fallow. To acknowledge the longing with others sitting out this year.
In the meantime, memory’s photo album is full of snapshots.
From 2008: In opening remarks the first night, Greg Wolfe the name on the Image masthead became Greg Wolfe the dude. He asked how many of us had been there before. Lots. I felt like the new kid at a place with intense school spirit. And how many were there for the first time? More than a few of us. He told us, “You have been prayed for.” And I felt the first of many upwellings of glad and astonished tears, all whispering, “Welcome home.”
From 2010: A workshop classmate wrote about the sourdough bread starter that united generations of women in her family, and brought a jar of it. We met one night in a dorm kitchen to mix up a couple of loaves’ worth of bread. At dinner on the last evening, our class gathered to break bread together. (That’s the writer-baker’s hand in the photo, cutting the first loaf.)
From all the years: A carpool from the airport, a last-day cafeteria conversation, a felicitous sitting-beside-each-other in class, a breakfast line joshing about the ways of coyotes, a talk by the koi pond, a ride to the Tea House, a walk around the lake, a hand held in worship, a rainy afternoon in a secret octagonal room, a punch-drunk collapsing on a Buick of a couch — all the moments when the seed of a friendship germinated and took root.
From 2013, midweek: I arrived through the open door of an apartment for another morning of reading and writing in companionable quiet with a friend. The day before, I’d gotten the news that my father’s lung cancer had come back. Knowing I might need to assume the fetal position, she’d set a pillow and a blue blanket on the sofa.
From 2013, the last night: Dancing anyway.
“How’s re-entry?” some of us ask each other after we’ve been back in our routines for a while. Those of us who aren’t there this year still remember what it’s like to come home so energized by that week, trailing clouds of glory, determined and disciplined. I can let that memory (and the 2014 attendees’ dispatches on Facebook) propel me into a renewed goals and refreshed habits in the work of putting words together.
For the tribe gathered there, may re-entry be more gentle than jarring. For the overlapping circles not there, may we remember well. For all of us, may we find community where we are, and carry our image-bearing gifts forth, as we look forward to when we meet again at the table — workshop, cafeteria, our own kitchens, or, eventually, the wedding supper of the Lamb.
What’s your big-person summer camp, your retreat crowd, your community-away-from-home? Who are they? Who are you there? What food do you find there? What do you do / make / create / generate there? How do you bring it /take it/ carry it/ dance it home?