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Beginnings…

Over a hundred posts ago, we managed to find a way to create a method of partnering in our shared interests, despite living on different continents. We founded what became a forum for some of the questions we have, an outlet for some of our ‘ponderings’ and ideas, and a context for connecting with others interested in community, welcome, friendship, and inclusion. That is (was) Come In From The Cold.

And now we feel we have reached a natural ending. We revisited our direction a few months ago, and that brought forth some clarity and purpose. But during the last month we have both felt the ending reveal itself to us. This week we had a very fun Skype conversation and committed to put Come In From The Cold to bed.

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

We didn’t make the decision lightly. We have loved this space, and feel enormous gratitude for the support and encouragement you have offered us. But we did make the decision easily. It is just time, and it feels good and satisfying to recognise that and respond. We want a dignified end for a thing we love. ~Linda

 

A burgeoning partnership/friendship...What I’ve learned, and continue to be open to (as pushed by brilliant teachers, mentors, partners and friends I’ve been blessed with) is the notion of co-creation.  First off, if we remain open as we interact with the world around us, give of ourselves in totality to those we come across and interface with in life, what emerges are fascinating opportunities.  July 2012, Linda and I were open to a new friendship and partnership.  Many a conversation about our lives in our own places, our work, our core values, our ethos and our families, led us to a cross-continental project that has been this blog for the past 2 1/2 years.  Come In From The Cold pushed me to remain open, to allow for evolution of mind and spirit, and gave me a forum to speak my voice, share my thoughts and ask questions that remain unanswered.  Linda in particular, pushed me, and still pushes me, to be as authentic a human as possible.

Good people reading this now and who have supported us from day one…I’m overwhelmed by the amount of love and support you have poured onto us during this project.  We never imagined the amount of love we would feel from doing this, let alone anyone really wanting to read and/or listen.  It’s been an incredible journey and we aren’t done yet!!  This closes a chapter, but from this, a new beginning (as Linda aptly named this post) is born in our partnership.  Stay tuned…but don’t hold your breath, it may be a while 🙂   Sending my love and gratitude to you all!!  ~Kirk

Partners in blogging!

Partners in blogging!

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A poem by my favourite poet

The Picnic

In a little rainy mist of white and grey
we sat under an old tree,
drank tea toasts to the powdery mountain,
undrunk got merry, played catch
with the empty flask, on the pine needles
came down to where it rolled stealthily away – 
you lay
with one arm in the rain, laughing
shaking only your wet hair
loose against the grass, in that enchanted place
of tea, with curtains of a summer rain
dropped round us, for a rainy day.

- Edwin Morgan

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Be grateful for every opportunity…

Gratitude drives my life…at least I try to let it drive.  I’ve posted a video on this blog about Gratitude, which is narrated by David Steindl-Rast.  This is an opportunity to listen to David Steindl-Rast a bit further, via this TED Talk.  I happen to completely agree and subscribe to the idea that Gratitude leads to happiness…Gratitude leads to joy…Gratitude leads to a joyful world!  So take the time to listen and be grateful for the opportunity!  Be well my friends…

 

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My heart is full; my mind is empty!

Yesterday I had the huge honour of being a wedding celebrant for two friends. We first agreed I would take on the role almost a year ago, and it feels like a significant milestone has passed. I have had dreams about dropping my notes in a puddle, not being able to be heard over an unfortunately placed bulldozer, and improvising some hideously unfunny jokes. But when it came to it, nerves vanished and I just enjoyed every second.

I am still kind of overwhelmed by the experience, plus I stayed up until after 1am, which is unheard of for me at the moment! So I am not capable of offering you a proper reflection on the experience or what it meant. What I know is this: to have such a role in helping two people publicly declare their love and commitment to one another is the greatest privilege I have experienced (and I regularly get to hear people’s deepest dreams for a living!); to be invited, with my partner, to be part of the whole day at the wedding gave me a profound sense of inclusion and belonging; and, finally, James and Simon really know how to offer true hospitality. It was a day of thoughtful creativity, where every aspect of guests’ comfort was anticipated and fulfilled, and generosity was boundless. Nothing felt flashy or formal. Everything was kindness and gratefully received contributions from friends and family.

James and Simon, I cannot put into words how deeply I wish you happiness and fulfilment in your life together. Congratulations, friends!

Love!

Love!

 

 

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Taking action with, and on behalf of each other…

Every so often, and in this context I mean ‘rarely’, you come across a human being who simply gets it.  We here at Come In From The Cold are making a concerted effort to have conversations with folk living in such a way; we can’t help but ask them questions relating to the threads we are curious about on this here blog.  Tom Kohler tries to welcome people from all walks of life to walk and wheel together.  Through Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy (http://www.savannahcitizenadvocacy.org/), Tom makes it his life work to see what it looks like when “Everybody is in the room.”  Perhaps the even more groovy learning of Tom, whom I met in 2010, is the notion of living the practice of welcome no matter which hat you are wearing at any particular moment, of any particular day.  Simply put, Tom is a Savannah citizen, writing letters to the editor, connecting people across assumption and generation, as well as raising a family, and being a son within his family. Tom is on a quest to co-create and sustain, what he refers to as “The Beloved Community”.  I’m honored to call him a friend and mentor…so enjoy a glimpse into Tom’s world.

Tom...with a hint of mischief...and class!

Tom…with a hint of mischief…and class!

 

We began our conversation around remembering when it was Tom felt truly included to a person or group of people, beyond his family.  Tom reflects, “One is my first carpool. You know the carpool, with 4 or 5 kids in the car, parents rotate every 5 weeks. There was something about that group…we were tight. An early, tight gathering. Every single morning, piling into the car and seeing the same 4 kids. It’s the carpool and there they are. You could be in a bad mood…grumpy about having to wake up early and the general ‘I don’t want to go to school thing’, but by the time the car hit school, something had happened on the ride that made you smile…and it was all good.

I’m reading a wonderful book currently, The Tender Bar, and it reminds me of Jim Collins Bar. Meeting Jim Collins and spending 6 nights a week from 1971 to 1974, while in college, certainly speaks to feeling included.  This was a tight group…7 stools, 3 tables, 4 chairs per table. You had to be told about it, no signs, so it was an invitation in a way. It was in a part of town where you felt like maybe ‘I don’t belong here’, but then you’re in Jim Collins Bar and you feel right where you belong.  The location and design of the bar, intentional at the core, spoke to that welcome we are talking about.”

I’m interviewing Tom because I find him to be the master of welcome and connection, but wondered if he could tell me about someone he finds to be incredibly welcoming and why?  Tom shot out immediately:  “Kristen Russel, owner of the Sentient Bean (http://www.sentientbean.com/about). She has created a place that is all about welcome.

Kristen and Tom

Kristen and Tom

She lives two doors down and her house is always open to people as well. She is very clear that it needs to be a place that any and everybody can come. It’s a conscious decision she has made. At her home, they offer Friday Social Hours on Friday afternoon, with a simple invitation: Brussel’s 5:30pm. Informal, 5 to 25 people, eat and drink…it’s a casual way to kick off the weekend, but I also feel like it carries a profoundness to it.  She organizes the Forsythe Farmers Market in Forsythe Park across the street. On the corner of Bull St and Park Ave, Kristen has created an intentional and active welcome with the Bean, the Market and her home.”

Forsythe Farmer's Market

Forsythe Farmer’s Market

When asked about a time when he felt a strong sense of local agency, Tom replied: “When the local public school system wanted to close the school my kids went to, we formed a group called Parent Advocates For Charles Ellis (PACE). We organized, lobbied the school board, reached out to journalists, held public meetings, used chart paper on the walls to use visuals, we had people call all their friends who worked media to call the Board of Education’s public information officer…with the idea that they would create some heat. If we could stop them from closing the school, a new school board would be elected, and once elected, they could then more easily change course. Good old fashioned persistent-guerilla organizing and getting things to turn out the way you want them to turn out.”

Next we ventured into a more introspective place, wondering what goes on internally for Tom when meeting a new person or new group of people: “I hope that curiosity is present. Openness. I hope I’ve intentionally gotten better at staying open and not be too quick to assume and judge. I’ve worked on that…and I’m probably pretty good at that at this point. I’m interested in seeing interesting combinations of people. There was a picture of people on the subway in New York recently, two people in full Indian regalia, next to all these New Yorkers…what a great representation of the New York vibe…a wild juxtaposition of different people in close proximity with one another…and for whatever level of engagement, seeming to get along just fine.”

Sorry Tom...had to do it!

Sorry Tom…had to do it!

And finally, I asked Tom about a time/place when he feels especially at his best, when he truly can ‘be the change’…

 “I think I’m pretty good with connecting people who have lived in Savannah with new residents to Savannah. I’m asked by people to sit with ‘a friend to learn about who they are and connect them to people or groups that they may jive with’.   The other thing I’m intentional about, is connecting people intergenerationally. The Savannah Rocks project is about this. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/465286180185853/). The idea is to connect people who were playing music locally in the 60 and 70s with people in their 20’s and 30’s playing music now in Savannah.”  

In closing, Tom shares a notion permeating his mind, heart and soul moving forward:  “I do believe that here in Savannah we are gradually beginning to ask a fundamental question: Do we want to think of ourselves as the Hostess City or do we want to think of ourselves as a Beloved Community. If we are a hostess city, we mostly think about how we treat those who are participating in the money economy, primarily in the tourism industry. If we think of a beloved community, it has a lot more to do about how we treat each other and welcome each other into one another’s lives and how we choose to take action with and on behalf of each other.”  

 

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More Than Books (and books are pretty fantastic)

Yesterday I had a bit of a tough morning with my poor wee teething son. In the afternoon, things improved and in order to keep doing fun, distracting things I took him along to our library. Fin goes to the library several times a week, with me and with his grandparents when they look after him. He goes to their free Bookbug sessions to sing nursery rhymes and hear stories. He goes to pull books off the shelves, drag toys around the floor, gaze unflinchingly at other library-users and generally act like he owns the place!

Well, yesterday we arrived and a large group of people were sitting around a table with cakes and other treats spread before them, balloon garlands overhead, and a celebratory atmosphere all around the room. I was immediately offered a (much needed) cup of tea, and told that one of the staff were leaving to work in another library and that this was her send-off.

I couldn’t really sit down to join in with the party properly, but was offered cake (more than once) and Fin and I were made to feel very welcome as we trundled around the children’s books section.  Several of the party said hello to Fin and asked how old he was, did he like reading etc. The two librarians on duty know Fin by name and of course I filled up with pride when they told the party how well-behaved he is every time he comes in and how much he likes his books.

Compliments for my son aside, this little outing just felt great. As we left the library I reflected on how some of those librarians will probably still know Fin in ten years time. How lovely to have these key community figures know our family. How safe it feels that there are people who care about him all around the village. Libraries are often community spaces which offer so much more than books for loan. Ours, especially considering it’s tiny scale (it is one room in a wee portocabin) is remarkable. They host all kinds of community activities aimed at all ages, and whenever we happen upon a session we feel welcomed at the edges, whether or not it is something suitable for us to join in with or not. I don’t know if it is training or luck, but every one of the team in our library is welcoming and warm, and what a difference it makes.

Yesterday I needed Fin to be distracted in a happy place, and I think I needed someone to do something kind for me like make me a cup of tea! Ratho library staff, thank you for everything you do. And Lindsey, good luck in your new job!

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My New Learning Community

Greetings dear friends!  I’m in the midst of a book titled, “Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times”, a gift given to my by the outstanding Chris Lee, and written by Paul Born.  Paul Born lives and works in Cambridge, Ontario in Canada.  Paul Born is the co-founder of the Tamarack Institute, http://www.tamarackcommunity.ca, whose ‘about me’ tab on their website reads:

“Founded in 2001, Tamarack is a charity that develops and supports learning communities to help people collaborate and to co-generate knowledge that solves complex community challenges. Our deep hope is to end poverty in Canada.”

I thought I’d just give you their explanation word for word, so as not to confuse anyone with how I paraphrase people who are brilliant with my incredibly long-winded ramblings 🙂

Paul Born

Paul Born

In exploring the Tamarack Institute, via their website, I discovered they host and facilitate different learning communities with individual, specific websites holding questions, conversations, providing avenues for publications via blogs  and disseminate resources people who are interested.  I joined Seeking Community, http://www.seekingcommunity.ca, for several reasons…but let me just do as I’ve done before and give you their mission word for word:

“Imagine: city planners designing neighbourhoods to increase social capital; elderly people staying in their neighbourhoods for another 5 years; mental health rates declining because neighbours are caring for each other and creating a greater sense of connection and belonging together.  Seeking Community is a Learning Community for individuals who care about the vibrancy of their communities.  Our aim is to encourage and connect individuals who are hosting conversations to recapture the idea of community; to make it a guiding force in organizing our neighbourhoods and institutions and for envisioning policies for well-being.

Seeking Community brings together people with diverse experiences and understandings of community into a dialogue about the importance of having a deepened sense of community. This online community allows you to create a profile, listen to podcasts, post blogs, post links to other websites, and other resources. Our Learning Community includes ten Thought Leaders: people who bring various insights and expertise into this overall dialogue. Over the next 3 years, we will host 1,000 conversations about community. Our online Learning Community will act as a vibrant space to document these conversations; analyze them to see what patterns emerge; and engage the Learning Community in co-generating insights from this data.  Once clear understandings begin to emerge, we will bring these to policy makers, celebrities and other people of influence to propose policy changes that acknowledge the importance of community.”

This is an e-newsletter they publish...one example of the general awesomeness of this community...

This is an e-newsletter they publish…one example of the general awesomeness of this community…

Anyone who knows me even remotely, understands how elated I am to have found these people…and I’m even more thrilled to take advantage of how welcoming this community is of new people and the desire to hear from a broad range of people…all for the common good!!  I’m now a member of this learning community, and I encourage all of you to check out the links I posted and see if it’s something you’d be into.  I remain thirsty to grow in this idea of connection. I remain open to hearing from any and all people who want to talk about it.  I am seeking community…a deepening community. I’m so grateful to Chris for having given the simple gift of a book, yet with intention, knowing who I am and what I’m into…I thank you Chris for being a true friend.  And since I’ve decided to share words with you directly from these wonderful people and what they are up to, I’m going to leave with you a poem written by Paul Born, titled “Finding Together”…it is all I want to read these days…over and over and over again!  Sending my love and gratitude to you all…

 

Finding Together

spending time together with…

friends

family

colleagues and associates

…just about anyone is such joy

To play, to visit, to eat, to sing even to pray …

opens me to the other – we

connect

converse

commune

What am I longing for if not this?

Do I really want more?

Do I have more to give?

If so what?

What are my longings? …

belonging?

commitment?

faithfulness?

They tell me I cannot have these things, that I am a dreamer ?

They do not say this kindly as if telling me to stop.

You have a good life – open your eyes be happy.

Or look – you already have these things, your family, your wife.

Yes, I say – I see these but I want more and it is not because I am unhappy.

What might it be like to wake up…

And know…

And feel…

And accept…

That I am part of something bigger

Something intentional, hopeful, safe.

Where my neighbours have committed,

Where I have committed

Where we have committed to each other

Where the world is better

Where our lonely resides

Where our fear rests

Where our tears are harvested

And our dreams nourished

A place where truth is easy

And visions are shared

Where my best greets your best

And where living together is easy because

I is We and We is Us.

They say you speak of heaven

Such places only exist in our longing

There is no place for such places in the now.

But still I long and wonder…

What must I give, how deep must my longing be to live such a life?

Let's hold this together...

Let’s hold this together…

 

 

 

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Our City, Your City

August in Edinburgh. The city is taken over by the festival, and the streets thrum with people handing out flyers, juggling, singing, rushing to watch shows, rushing to perform shows, milling around, and generally festivaling all over the place.

In these early weeks, it is so interesting to watch the visitors to the city start to own the place. The manner in which people move around the streets alters. Initially there is an excited energy, a spirit of adventure, curiosity, and discovery. And then gradually, the energy changes from curiosity to familiarity, and the performers, ushers, bar staff, and festival visitors start to become a happy kind of exhausted which leaves them more relaxed and at ease here. Ultimately, I see people lounging around, arms draped over the shoulders of someone they may barely have known three weeks ago. It is the immersion in a creative experience that does it, I think, and it creates powerful bonds between people and location.

I know the feeling they are experiencing and I also know that from the outside, residents of Edinburgh can read the attitude as a kind of arrogance which can be a little bit off putting. But it is a wonderful thing for people to experience and this post is my welcome to you all. Enjoy owning our city! Make for yourselves great memories, establish friendships, create in-jokes and nicknames, and always remember Edinburgh with fondness. It is a beautiful city, and big enough to share.

Happy festival, everyone!

Busy festival crowds on Edinburgh's Royal Mile

A city alive!

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Seeking An Undivided Life

About a year ago, I finished Parker Palmer’s Book:  “A Hidden Wholeness:  The Journey Toward An Undivided Life”.  It came at a particularly critical time for me as I had been, and frankly still am, searching for how to live my inner self, outwardly.  Once again, much like John O’Brien and his Integrity Gap nailing some guilt I’d been struggling with, with an actual name, Parker Palmer’s wisdom opens clarity about the journey I find myself in.  I’ve linked in a 6-minute clip of Parker Palmer talking about what he means by ‘divided life’, where it comes from and how it can be detrimental to our living a life with true purpose.

I’m interested in being the best version of myself…but think, perhaps, I’ve been going about it the wrong way.  Looking introspectively into my life, grasping a true sense of what I believe, what I stand for,  then drives how I interface with the world and humans around me.  If I can be my true self, then the authenticity that Palmer speaks of,  permeates all interactions, connections and relationships.  Subsequently, my life becomes whole, vibrant, salient and purpose-driven…and a purpose-driven life, hopefully, provides a compass for which my children perhaps will use to guide them as they evolve into contributing citizens, in their chosen places, where ever they land, and with whomever they are with.

Big love to you all…

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Putting Down Roots

Sharilyn Clowes is a friend I made several years ago, not long after we had both moved to Ratho. She always knew she was here temporarily, but that didn’t stop us from forming a strong friendship. Sharilyn and her husband, Brian, had just been travelling around the world by bike, and I was inspired to hear of her adventures. Right here in Ratho, she did some really beautiful community-building, community-enhancing, and community-connecting. (There will be a little more from me on this at the end of the interview…) She is now at home in Canada, creating an incredible homestead and forging a more settled existence. The time difference and her hectic summer schedule meant we couldn’t Skype our interview. Thankfully she writes beautifully, so here are her very own words!

Can you tell me about an early experience you had in your life where you felt aware of a being included, or a strong sense of belonging to a group beyond your family?

The first one came very quickly to me: camp! I began attending camp when I was just 5 years old. That one week in the summer began to permeate through all the other weeks of the year. Reminiscing about the time spent, dreaming about what next year would hold. As I began to get older, the one-week-a-year ritual grew. I started my counsellor training and began to work throughout the summer. It was a place I could let go an be myself – all about fun! I developed skills in areas I didn’t have other opportunities to try. I made some incredible friendships that lasted for years. Even when I wasn’t at camp, I’d spend hours looking at photographs and writing lengthy letters – some of which I still have! I went for a visit last year (first time in close to 20 years) and it was like coming home!

Tell me about the most welcoming person you know. What do they do that works well to welcome other people into their home, friendship, or community?

The most welcoming person I can think of is Lise Wilson. She is the kind of person you could never forget meeting. I’d read in books about the air changing when someone walked into the room, but hadn’t experienced it until I met Lise. A brilliantly beautiful person who’d always shout a loud welcome when you saw her. I had the honour of working with Lise in her ceramic studio, which was a place she created and others craved to be a part of. Even before I worked with Lise, I would go there. It was a place where the rest of the world was left behind and you could just be yourself and create. Lise was someone who lives each day to the fullest – a life with no regrets – and inspired those she met to do the same.

Can you tell me about a time when you felt a strong sense of agency as a local citizen? When you felt you had power in you to “be the change you wanted to see in the world”?

You’re going to love this next one, Linda because I think I’m going to say it was Ratho! Living there was the first time I started to feel a part of a community and not live a life in independent isolation. I had come from a small town and spent many years running away from it! But the welcoming I received here opened my eyes again. I saw people who weren’t just living in one another’s pockets, but working to make the place they lived better. I was inspired to see a number of groups forming who worked at various causes. The parental involvement in extra curriculars in the school astounded me! These people were not content to simply let things be and grumble about it. If they didn’t like something, they started working towards making changes – and accomplished them! This was a very different mindset to what I was used to, and I wanted to be a part of it!

Can you describe what is going on for you internally when you meet a new person or group of people? What mix of emotions is going on for you?

When meeting people, I feel like I am myself 2 people. There is a part of me who holds back, is scared to be in a group setting and nervous about meeting others. Then there’s the other side that rises to the occasion and likes to be the leader of the group. It doesn’t seem like the two should be able to go together. The more time I’ve spent travelling and meeting other people the less air time the nervous side gets. I find that some of my best memories and experiences have come from spending time with PEOPLE. Alone time is good, but I can’t let that take over my life. Stepping out of the comfort zone and meeting people results in the greatest benefits.

If we keep in mind an idea that there may be “layers” of community building; nurturing your family, accepting friendly invitations, welcoming new neighbours, connecting/introducing people, starting local projects, facilitating events… Tell me about the situations/experiences where you feel you really come to life and can make your best contribution.

Right now I have NO IDEA how to respond to your last question! I can look at other people and say that they’re nurturing or they have great sympathy towards others. I can see the organizers and the inspire-ers. But what am I? I don’t know where I fit or what I’ve done…I can’t say ‘yes!’ to any of the examples of what you’ve listed and don’t feel as if I’ve ‘shone’ on any either. Sorry, I guess we need to ‘talk’ a little more about this!

Well, here I can perhaps step in! In writing these questions, I knew I wouldn’t have thought of everything, and perhaps none of the examples I offered rang true for Sharilyn. What I see in her, and the reason(s) I invited her to be one of our focus people, is and incredible energy to create a good life, living in harmony with the people around her, her environment, and the planet. I am always awestruck by the way she does things properly, from scratch, by hand. For example, I remember her getting the side of a pig and using every part of it. Nothing was wasted; everything was valued and respected and used. She cured her own bacon, for goodness sake! Amazing. Sharilyn is a wonderful host, another part of her community building/connecting gifts. A meal at her house involves home-made bread, home-grown vegetables, foraged berries, and always good company. Sharilyn, as she mentioned earlier, was inspired to become immersed in community life in Ratho, and she used her personal gifts to offer puppetry classes for children in the school holidays, and to help with the local talent show. So she is a host, a connector, and a worker from the common good. And she’s my friend!

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