We hadn’t hung out for a while and both really wanted to reconnect. A meeting brought me to town and we created the time - from lunch onward on a Sunday. Activities to be determined. I was a bit early and decided to take a stroll before meeting her. My feet carried me through the neighborhoods toward the shores of Lake Michigan. I admired the summer green of the lawns and trees and the colors of the flowering gardens along the way. And then I spotted it - fallen wood. By the time I reached the lake and found a bench, I had collected two or three small enough pieces. I sat turning them over in my hands and turning an idea over in my head. Then I asked.
“Would you be interested in making talking sticks in the park today? It’s gorgeous out, I found wood, I have knives, and I can make a quick trip to the hardware store…”
Half an hour later we were tucking in to some of our favorite food to eat together as a bag of supplies rested at my feet. We found a nice, shaded bench and she selected one of the pieces of wood I had collected while I walked her through the process for making her first talking stick. Quickly we settled in to whittling - after she got over that initial freeze moment, of course.
Shavings piled at our feet as we whittled and talked and sanded and shared, connecting to ourselves and each other through the wood. Many people passed us by with questioning stares and a few stopped to ask what we were up to. Those who stopped were invited to join in. One almost did. We worked our wood, finding it was happy wood, until the setting sun saw us at our favorite ice cream spot pondering our newly oiled talking sticks in stillness. What a great day.
Increasingly I am thinking about different ways to do things. My friend and I could have easily gone to see a movie or browsed in a book store - we enjoy these activities too. Yet they would not have allowed the kind of connection we were needing. For many, the default meeting setting is often coffee shops - and I love coffee and many coffee shops. At the same time, there other options. What about catching up with colleagues while walking in a park? Some things surface while walking beside each other that would not be discussed sitting face to face. Or what about having a meeting over wood or other creative activities? I increasingly try to schedule meetings in parks and other non-traditional locations. It is a personal experiment that seems to be working quite well.
I live in an apartment in the midst of the sprawling metropolis that is Bangkok. One of the things I looked for when apartment hunting was balcony space appropriate for woodworking. My tiny balcony fits just two stools and a bin full of scavenged, waiting wood. Tools are kept nearby and it can get a bit tight when they are all in use at once. Yet for me it is a beautiful spot. When friends and colleagues visit these days, you may well find us on the balcony working wood and connecting. And from time to time we’ll share some thoughts from the balcony here on this blog.
In the mean time, how else can we do things differently to encourage connection?