Connecting to Communities

As an independent woman in my 30s I am finally starting to see the value and benefits to the quality of my life that are gained by interactions with people. This may sound sort of crazy but keep in mind that I spent the previous decade wandering natural places immersed in the study and observation of wildlife and wild places.
This human connection stuff is relatively new to me and it is fascinating!  My journey into the discovery of communities is expanding beyond the natural world and is therefore enriching my life in ways I had never imagined.

Because I spent 2 years roaming Yellowstone National Park staring at and inventorying plants, my definition of community is based on plant communities. Biology-Online defines a plant community as plant populations existing in a shared habitat or environment. According to Weaver and others, there are two types of communities:  broad and narrow.  Broad communities are found repeatedly in similar habitats across a region. A narrow plant community is one that has gone through all of the successional stages and has the potential for stabilizing and becoming well established.

So what does this mean and how does this relate to people?

In the plant world, the broad community consists of the thousands of scattered stands of aspen trees (the community) that we see across the forested foothills and mountains (the habitat) of the western states.  In the human world, it is the student YMCA (the community) which was started in the 1856 on a Tennessee college campus, where the focus was of the group was on the leadership development of college students. Over time this type of community appeared on college campuses (the habitat) across the United States and then worldwide, becoming established in environments where there were the right resources available.

Another example of a broad community are the areas within different cities (the habitat) in the United States in which people of similar history, experience, and language have established communities based on their cultural similarities.  Think of the Chinatowns in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago.

An example of a narrow community is this very blog and the associated Facebook page.  I wanted to create a place where people could go to share their experiences based on a common interest of learning to understand how nature and the outdoors impacts who they are as individuals.  Over the past year this project has gone through stages of development to bring it to where it is today.  It is by no means complete and has yet to reach its potential.  It is not yet stable or established as I add and change parts of it over time in order to get it closer to what I envision as the perfect final product.  It is my goal for this project to become a narrow community but first the right connections need to be made and supports put into place.

Hillery’s four themes help to explain human communities and include People, Common ties, Social Interaction, and Place.  These are the things that draw us to different groups.  We tend to gravitate towards activities or organizations that we can relate to and help us to understand who we are and what we value.  We are most comfortable with those who share a common identity, who share common values and culture, where interactions are consistent and meaningful, and where we feel a sense of belonging.

I thoroughly enjoy my time spent hiking alone on a forested trail in order to feel a connection to something greater than myself and know my role in the natural system.  I am proud to be a part of a community of people who are able to do this. Since my current living environment is in a small city and not in a wild place, I find myself seeking connections to people through various communities. I think it is important that we acknowledge, appreciate, respect, and care for the people in our communities and for the places in which we spend our time. Perhaps this is what life is all about.