Community—Shorter reflections by contributors to the 2013 Calendar

Mary Jo Balistreri: The word community means working together because we are part of a whole, part of nature, it of us, micros connected to macros, interrelated though separate,  the contribution of each, integral to the entire body. As poets our individual voices come together for the betterment of our lives together. And because we are distinct, when we work together, we are given the power to make a multi-dimensional world. 

Michael Belongie: On Halloween of 2011 the blue orb totaled 7 billion people; that remains a noteworthy event for both human accomplishment and our consciousness. We are at a critical juncture; humankind's potential rests on our global epiphany that phosphorous is as luminous as any gold currency.

Jan Hasselman Bosman: Communities of poets (such as those gthered at workshops or conventions) awe, inspire, and frighten me.  They awe me when I hear their work, the variety of topics that catch their keen eyes and the craft they perfect to express their ideas. They inspire me to improve my work and to keep at it. They also frighten me.  Sometimes, I simply don't feel good enough.

Peter Brooks: Before leaving Las Cruces, New Mexico, to return home, my dear friend and poetic inspiration Dr. Wayne Crawford passed away.  In his poem "Oasis Bound," he describes a community of artists in the desert, linked with a desire to share their passions—be they paint, clay, words, music—with each other, and the public.  Returning home to Wisconsin means a chance to share those voices from our desert oasis with voices from Rhinelander, Marinette, Alma Center, Prairie du Chien, Kenosha, Portage, South Milwaukee...voices that represent the rich identities of Wisconsin.  For me, Wisconsin has always been a place open to different voices, a space where the farmer can break bread with the foundry worker, where the city actress can swap fish tales with a country photographer. We are like the brick which gives Milwaukee the nickname "Cream City."  Through listening, we absorb all that is good of multiple identities: complexities, idiosyncrasies, contradictions, strengths, dreams.

It was the first major moment in my life I was homesick, not just for the changing of the seasons, Brewer tailgating, listening to late night music on paddleboats covering the Waupaca chain of lakes, but for the artistic courageousness of the empathetic hearts of Wisconsin creators.  Even working on an MFA degree, I struggled at times between honing my craft, and navigating the uneasy waters that academic art brings.  I was challenged to take risks, yet play it safe; I was challenged to be unfamiliar; but not confusing.  I wandered those dusty streets on daytime walks feeling my creative well run dry.

Then I met Wayne, and the Sin Fronteras art movement.  Translated from the Spanish, "Without Borders," Wayne and friends (a handful of whom were from the Midwest) hosted open mics, themed readings at art galleries, and public performance on the streets of the Farmer's Market.  Their spirit of inclusion reminded me of the Wisconsin artists who influenced me.  And it wasn't just for new writers and musicians from outside Las Cruces; they tore down audience walls as well.  Art should not know segregation.  Our community is for us to feel supportive, and for us to share with all voices, backgrounds, bloods, creeds, cultures.

Through their courage I spoke of my hometown in my poetry, eventually focusing my thesis on growing up in Wauwatosa, as a child searching for his voice.  I shared Wisconsin with them, now am enthusiastic to share their voices with new and old friends alike, as a reminder that in each of our journeys we are Oasis Bound, so we can one day shout "Oasis Found"!

Jeff Burt: Community means more than assembling together and going home.  Community means joining, as in how two pieces of wood are joined to form a strong bond, a corner that makes the whole stronger than the pieces.  Community means investing yourself, but also, like the wood, having something taken away to make the connection, a reaching into, and being reached into.

Robin Chapman: What community means to me as a poet? A communal space where we listen to each other with deep attention, where we bring our words of honest and playful and varied emotion; where we support each other in creating the many ways that poems can reach a wider world—presses, magazines, e-zines, art books, festivals, open mics, collaborations with painters, musicians, and all the other artists and scientists, broadsides, apps, postcards, java wraps, poetry trails, and gumball machines.

Lisa J. Cihlar: Community to me is my neighbor calling me mid-morning to come over to her house for coffee and to watch for the wood ducks that are building a nest in a tree cavity in her back yard.  I might want to write a poem about the ducks.  Or maybe about the kringle we have with our coffee. 

Lenore McComas Coberly: For more than twenty-five years a group of writing friends has gathered every other Wednesday around my old dining room table. We read poems, their revisions, stories first person and then third, plays, essays, and we knew not what. Some moved away (Vicki Ford’s wooden deer stayed to make us remember her) and some left us forever (Arthur Madson left his pencil, only one inch long, and Jean Duesler left a blue vase for the bathroom flowers or pine boughs), still we are a community.

I know only  that in no other place do I hear words so carefully considered, so valued, so affirming. Writing is a lonely business but it doesn’t mean that we are loners!

Cathryn Cofell: As for what community means to me?  Like poetry, I find community in every thing I touch.  Like love, I fall into community every day.  By nature I am at my happiest with others; even if we are silent together, I need that scent of flesh.  As such, I often find myself imagining friendships with strangers stuck together in traffic, deep connections with young poets (even those who think I'm old and out of touch), a flash mob of folks waiting to check out at Woodmans.  I am alternately blessed and cursed by the community of true friends: despite my loud mouth and quirky behavior, a lot of people seem to like me and I can't help but love just about everyone I come to know; but loving so many means the potential for losing so many, which seems to be happening these days at an alarming rate.  Funeral directors and coroners?  This is a community someone else can claim.

Gay Davidson-Zielske:  My feeling about community is that it happens every time I walk into a public place, wait for a bus, take my car to the carwash, and especially in the time-honored places, which used to be called cafes and now are coffeehouses. One gets a sense of the politics of the place by simply noting cues.  Are computers welcome or merely tolerated?  What kind of ambient sound is there?  Any posters?  For lost children, luckless families, or poetry readings?  Is anyone knitting?  Is the artwork garish or understated?   Do the barristas wear stained aprons or message "t's" ?   Is there a duck eternally dipping itself like an oil derrick into a dish and, if so, is it an ironic piece of kitsch or the real thing?  

CX Dillhunt: Selecting these poems for submission, I realized that community, like many words or ideas, is never really what I think it is. Is it the gathering of thoughts?  Is it a list?  Is it the poem itself?  Certainly, it’s something shared, something in common; but maybe, more importantly, it’s something you plan.  Something you make or do for others.  Something you go into willingly. More than a dinner, more like rush hour getting home. This morning I made a grocery list, then I went shopping. Community is more than the list, perhaps it’s the produce department at Woodman’s. It’s the going to and from work in traffic, taking your evening walk among the shoppers at the mall sales after Christmas, gathering your poems in another room to write about community while someone else cuts fabric for a baby’s quilt on the kitchen table. It’s the walk on the hillside prairie behind your home. Or it’s the watching of the sunset in another country. It’s the poem. Not necessarily something written about these, more the living together, writing together, the listening, reading and being together. The poem then, it seems to me, is the most exquisite example of this, of community, I mean, of the movement of it all—this planned, shared, willing, wanting together, the daily prayer, a gathering of words, a gathering of people, this beautiful bouquet, an anthology of lives.  The poem, the community—I cannot separate.

Karl Elder: For three consecutive years I’ve had the privilege of facilitating The Mead Library Poetry Circle in Sheboygan, where a dozen writers and readers of poetry, ranging in age from teen to octogenarian, gather monthly of an evening to pay homage to the imagination. Time and again, I am struck by how the Circle resembles the dynamic of the community of writers where I spend my days, a small liberal arts school, so refreshing relative to the early years of my career, studying and teaching in universities.  Despite differences at Lakeland College, those of teachers and students alike, which are more audible and thus varied than they are in a large institution, the spirit of cooperation has speared competition such that the latter lies mortally wounded.  Our common purpose, enhancing the capacity to imagine, to think, and, ultimately, to learn—while hardly an equalizer—is realized as we bow to what is best in us as well as to the best among us.  I cannot help but infer that, most generally defined, human nature, that of the “social solitary” as Jacob Bronowski identifies it in his The Ascent of Man, is most thoroughly satisfied by way of a proper balance of time spent alone in contemplation with time spent in the company of wisdom and experience (irony being that communication’s foundation is the self’s dialogue with itself). Time is not merely the object of prepositions in my previous sentence.  Genuine community takes time, and it uses time efficiently.  I place a premium upon smaller groups of minds for which the quantity—and thereby the quality—of interaction is superior, as, in the context of that which I speak, is the development of consciousness.  We don’t need no stinkin’ numbers.  Draw your own circle.  To do so doesn’t require a collectivist’s compass.

Fabu: Community to this poet means intimate connections to all the people; small, great and most of us in-between, that share our lives. I have admired Reginald Baylor’s artwork for a number of years as I puzzled over the inherent meaning of each piece.  Baylor's work both affirms and frightens me with his particular vision of African Americans and others.

Kathryn Gahl: A community of nuns. A rural community. Prisoners preparing to return to community. There are so many kinds of community, each shifting: the ice rink becomes a nature preserve, the hair salon is our new church. And so the poet reaches for perspective, yearning to be a part of the whole yet not consumed by the group's dress, speech, or required performance. The poet sits alone but never lonely, happy to meld recognition with surprise, hoping to achieve a new way of seeing.

Rob Ganson: Here in rural Wisconsin, a family includes much more than blood relations. One neighbor has a tractor, another a plow, yet another, more maple syrup than needed. We share our excess, our success, and our challenges. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and, indeed, it takes a village to thrive in hard times, to share within this geographic microcosm we call home.

Suzi Godwin: Volunteering means "community" to me.  Shortly after moving to Madison, I volunteered at the State Historical Museum.  While stocking books in the gift shop, I spotted the "Local Poets" shelf, and after attending several readings by these poets, I joined WFOP, and have met many Wisconsin poets.

Annette Grunseth: Community is a group of fishing buddies who gather every Saturday doing what they love—casting out a line and sharing a few of their own lines of laughter. It is your son’s friends who bring over spaghetti when your mother is dying (and you are keeping vigil for days). Community is the friend who brings over chicken soup—after surgery—before the funeral—and just because. Community is giving your mother’s winter coats and boots to the domestic abuse shelter for someone special to use. Community is the group of neighbors who gather on the porch on a Friday night just to talk; it is the young Mom who runs outside to build a snowman with her kids and the Dad who mows the neighbor’s lawn when they are on vacation. Community is ordinary made extraordinary.

Phil Hansotia: A community is a group joined by a common interest in land, property, an idea, or set of principles, belief or ideology. As a poet I voice, through my poems, the values, interests, concerns and wonders of the society I live in. I may sing its praises but also poke fun at its foibles. I not only speak to who we are but also to who we wish to be.

Jerry Hauser: We have forgotten how to kick grimness and mayhem in their faces. And we are at risk of forgetting to identify and stand up against them.

Merle Hazard: Community can be as small as the cup of coffee shared with a friend,  as large as the waiting line at the polling booth, the communion rail at church. Sharing this world with others is community; listening to their thoughts and ideas, moving together in the river of this life.

Nancy Jesse: When I think about community, I can't resist the image Emerson gives us of a transparent eyeball—"I am nothing/ I see all; / the currents of the universal Being circulate through me." I'm not sure I can accept the last part about being "part or parcel of God." But I do think a community at its best achieves a unity of mind and spirit, and it is this connection with others that strengthens us as individuals, nurtures the best within, and allows us to withstand our trials. Hooking up with an ideal community is like plugging into an electrical current for light and heat. This doesn't happen often to me, (I may be too much curmudgeon), but maybe it is the rarity of this "eyeball experience" that makes it so powerful.

Edith Cavey Johnson: Community includes the whole ecosystem and anything within it.  Humans are one small part of it, but the part that can make itself heard, and make a difference.

Bob Kimberly: I have always thought of community as where I live, but as I stopped and looked at it as a poet, I realized community is much more than that.  The people who become subjects of my poems are all part of some community. Sometimes it is as small as a family in a cabin at the edge of the woods. Other times the community can be much larger, any group sharing a common interest.  It is also the people who support and encourage my writing.

Barbara Larsen: Communities come in all sizes from those of home towns to a few friends meeting for coffee. The smaller ones: book clubs, quilting circles, sports partners, moms on the block, etc. are comfortable and accepting. But where can a poet find more support and understanding than in a poetry group? There “kindred souls” meet and share their  work, ideas, and feelings in an open trusting environment with a warm shawl of security wrapped around them all.

Linda Lee: Growing up in Milwaukee in a middle class neighborhood in the fifties gave me such a strong sense of my community and belonging, despite living in the heart of a big city. My first real sense of community and pride in my state came through my dad’s stories of Wisconsin history and its people.

Norman Leer: To me, poetry and the other arts matter because they touch and come from our truths, passions and incompleteness. Community builds from this combination, and from a recognition of the ways we give to and need each other. Paradoxically, because poetry is so rooted in complexity and concreteness, it can be difficult to write poems about big ideas like community. Political poems are even harder, because politics so often overstates and simplifies. But we go on trying because we as poets usually live in the world, and want to find and help build community ourselves.   

Sandra Lindow: Community, to me, refers to the web of human and natural connections that sustain us.  It begins with family and circles outward through work, friendship, and citizenship.  It includes the frogs we find in the garden and the trees that shade our yards as significantly as it does our human neighbors.

Marie Loeffler: My definition of community is quiet experiences with others that are often comforting and peaceful—moments that afford me the greatest opportunity to absorb and remember interactions in a meaningful way.

Freya Manfred: My community, rich with good neighbors who help each other in all seasons, feels richer to me because we share our part of the earth with eagles nesting in the pines, fish and frogs and turtles in Bass Lake, and fox, pheasants, and turkeys in the fields and woods.  Here, swimming and walking every day in this older, larger world, I feel connected to a freedom, fantasy, privacy, and energy I don't find in cities. This older, larger world is similar to the older, larger world of poetry—where I also find freedom, energy, and power.    

Bill McConnell: Many people think writing poetry is a solitary activity.  One needs quiet moments, yes, but without a writing group that  nurtures and prunes, poems sprouted in isolation tend to be spindly or overgrown.  A poet needs a group where trust and hope shelters new growth from the drying winds of indifference. Cheers to every library, coffee house and bookstore that starts a writers' group!

Karen Middleton: First responders are those emergency personnel who arrive quickly on a scene and help make sense out of chaos and healing out of pain. First readers are those who take our verses and do the same thing. Our workshops, classes, and writing groups are communities in the best sense, and I have been blessed to be in great ones. Phil Zweifel, we miss you madly.

Wilda Morris: Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote that one who cannot live in community should beware of being alone, and one who can’t bear to be alone should beware of being in community.  As a poet, I need a balance of community and solitude—time with others gives me inspiration which often takes poetic form when I am alone.

June Nirschl: Community means being a part of, being of value to, eager to spread some bit of joy. Everyone should be so fortunate. Community permits us to leave some part of us here. Wonderful as life is here, the community extends far beyond our borders, and I've learned we can be part of that too.

Northern Door County's Wallace Group has functioned since 2001. In reality its history is much longer. The hunger for a poetry group was evident much earlier, and if anyone is to be singled out for its contribution to the community it is Barbara Larsen, Door County's Poet Laureate.

Nearly twenty years ago Barbara brought numerous poets together for an annual Door County retreat weekend. When meeting in homes became more than one could comfortably handle, the poets were fortunate in being accepted each fall at St. Joseph's Retreat Centre in Baileys Harbor. Along the way poets begat poets, and acquaintances from the Fox River Valley were also invited to attend. For the past three years the retreat has been held at Bjorklunden, a teaching center for Lawrence University and also in Baileys Harbor. The date is now in spring.

Among the numerous events at which the Wallace Group has participated is the annual Meadows Show at Scandia Retirement Center. In May the group, abetted by other area poets, performed for the thirteenth time. The Scandia staff has often said the presentation is among the most anticipated. This year's theme was Looking for America. Members of the Wallace Group, name chosen from the original author of Writing Poems by Robert Wallace, are Anita Beckstrom, Estella Lauter, Hanne Gault, Judy Roy, Gary Jones, Phil Hansotia, Loraine Brink, June Nirschl, and the celebrated Barbara Larsen. The group attempts to keep its membership at eight, but exceptions sometimes occur!

Our poems have graced the display areas at Newport Park, enlivened meetings of civic and religious groups, and been highlighted in numerous area publications. This summer Sister Bay will celebrate its centennial. You know who will be reading her poem written for the event!

Kathleen Phillips: I have found that "community" means knowing at least one person by name...for me it was Bill on the 3rd floor of the apartment building.  AND having at least one know your name. The mailman did that. After that, you are part of a community! I have had a momentous year...50 years of marriage to husband, Jim, and our move from Waukesha to Milwaukee after 35 years of country living. I would like to thank Dr. Phil Zweifel for his guidance over the years. His death in December is a great loss to all Waukesha poets!

Jim Pollock: I discovered at a very early age that I was dependent on many of the older people around me. It was a shock to my independent system. Community, as I see it, is the result of human evolutionary survival. As a poet, I frequently write about how humans manage to survive with the help of each other. We are primates, we need to groom each other, pick the bugs out of each other's fur.

Nancy Rafal: My critique group friends are my safety net.  Their comments, humor, and food satisfy my appetites.  So many different voices, so many vital women.

Charles P. Ries: With closed eyes, I reached back and searched for my memories. A series of snap shots, smells, colors and dreams passed before me—the mysterious pieces of a boy on verge of becoming. Splashing in a puddle created by a late August storm with my younger brother. Feeling the close quarters of my dad’s 1949 Buick as the nine of us crowd together enroute to my Uncle’s for Easter Sunday dinner. Abducting my aunt’s poppy seed torte from the desert table and carrying it into a nearby clothes closet so I could have all its creamy goodness to myself and then crying hysterically as my mother discovered me and liberated my friend from my intoxicated fingers.

Snap shots. Fragments of memory.

Green farm fields. The chirping of my father’s mink after weaning and the smell of pelting season.  Snow forts, ice-skating in the swamp and my mother’s garden with its raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and vegetables. The smell of bread baking in the kitchen. A world of constancy nestled in the heart of Wisconsin.

Our red brick house that stood next to my grandparents' cream brick home. And next to our home my uncle’s and just thirty feet further south my aunt’s. We’d laughed and called it Riesville. Four homes along a blacktop country road populated with seventeen children and eight adults. The only things that ever changed were the weather, the seasons and our ages.

It felt as if we had always been here. My ancestors homesteaded this land in 1830. Fresh off the boat from Austria, my great-great-grandfather bought his stake in America. Two more generations of dairy farmers followed and then came my father who would raise mink rather than dairy cattle. Hard working, church going, frugal men and women who made good use of their time on earth.

The earliest days of my life were without surprise or pain. There was nothing to distinguish one day from the other. Until my eyes started to open and as natural as life itself, I began to see. And the life I remember began.

Richard Roe: “Some vocabulary,” a dance instructor says, after he demonstrates a new step, a different maneuver.  We learn what other people do from their vocabularies: physics, bird watching, auto mechanics, and, yes, poetry. Gather and talk, beg and borrow, try to understand.

Margaret Rozga: Sven's is the coffee house and restaurant where my poetry group meets.  The community this poem celebrates is the community I find with the group of poets I've been meeting with for close to twenty years. It celebrates as well the congenial atmosphere of Sven's, and it also celebrates a community beyond those of us physically present there.  It  celebrates all those we bring to Sven's in the words of our poems.  It is the idea of community I find also in the notion of the "community of saints," one of my favorite parts of Catholic teaching.  The saints I celebrate may not be canonized elsewhere, but they include all the foremothers and all the civil rights activists who serve as my models of the kind of woman and concerned citizen I want to be.  I think we are more with each other than we are isolated and alone.

Carol Lee Saffioti-Hughes: Community is best taken small, sparingly, slow, with much pause for spaces between the gatherings in, silences between the clamor of voices; much time for the stories of emptiness and loss walking through the door seeking a sole listener, and kindred soul in a well worn book.

Beverly Schellhaass: Helping my children, grandchildren and relatives when I can, taking walks with my friends, shopping at local stores and businesses, participating in church outreach and Interfaith programs, volunteering at abuse shelters and with Rainbow Kids, attending local poetry readings and workshops, donating to national and overseas relief agencies—all of these strengthen my sense of community as I garner ideas and thoughts to transpose into poetry.

Sheryl Slocum: As a poet, I experience community both from without and within. Much of my writing begins with observation, placing me outside the daily business of my own community and the communities I observe. But, in the end, I am human and, therefore, a communal creature. So, I hope to write in a way that brings a response of recognition from my reader. In other words, my poetry is my small way of continuing the communal conversation I am part of every day, whether I am observing it or simply doing whatever I do to live my life.

Thomas R. Smith: In my practice as a poet, I take a wider view of "community" than the strictly human.  Being a nature poet at heart, I consider orioles, squirrels, and wasps part of my earth community; the absence of human beings from certain of my poems doesn't necessarily make them lonely.  I see true human community as that association built around a mutual stake in protecting our place on earth and each person's well-being within that place.

David Steingass: That stew (Madison! Tomatoes! Snow!) out of which poems develop.

Janet Taliaferro: Community can be a fellowship, family, clan, city or state, but for me, the essence of community is a group of people who knit themselves together for a common purpose. Community is kinetic. The best ones pursue a goal of enlightenment and improvement.

Elizabeth Tornes: I see community as the connection we have to others, including four-leggeds, two-leggeds, and winged creatures.

Angela Trudell Vasquez: In a larger sense, I consider the entire world my community. Locally, wherever I am, wherever I live, where I have lived those are my communities too. I hold many homes, people and places in my heart.

Carolyn Vargo: Community is a layered phenomenon starting with my family and friends, broadening to include people from my hometown Milwaukee and beyond to people with whom I feel sympathy.  These layers are woven together.  I feel the world is one community and that what we do in Milwaukee affects others around the world.  I believe, absolutely, that we are our brothers’ and sisters' keepers.  My community is both my little corner of Wisconsin and the world.

Susan Niemela Vollmer: "Roses are red, violets are blue.  Poetry sucks, and so do you." This poem, which a student wrote to a co-worker of mine, isn't the most polite poem in the world, but it gets its message across, and the student was using poetry to express his feelings.  Other students wrote lyrical poems about sunsets, loving poems about baby brothers, and the poignant, "I wish my mom wouldn't go to the bars at night."  Poetry gave our students an outlet for expressing their feelings, while expanding their vocabularies and teaching them to use similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech.  We told students we didn't want rhymes, we wanted them to create images—pictures in the minds of their audiences.       
Children are exposed to a lot of poor poetry.  There is a school of thought that says that poetry for children needs to be funny and to rhyme.  The humor is often adult sarcasm laced with words like "poop" and "booger."  But when exposed to better quality poetry, children respond by writing better quality poems. I read my students a descriptive poem about a dog, "Dan,"  by Carl Sandburg. 

"I like that poem,"  a tough little guy said.  "Who wrote it?' 
"Carl Sandburg," I replied. 
"What grade is he in?" 

To this student, the poem was something real, something immediate, something that could have been written by someone he knew.  It spoke a universal language. From ancient Egyptian love poems, epic poems, and the psalms, to sonnets, ballads, the beat poets, and rap, poetry has been an important part of life. The style may change, but much of poetry is timeless. The Egyptian love poems could be today's songs, and the epic poems have been retold in many ways with different names for the same adventurers.  Poetry is a form of communication that transcends time and culture. Tonight's television commercial jingle may have its roots in ancient Greece. 

My shelves are filled with poetry books—cowboy poetry, poems for children, the epic Finnish Kalevala, poems by women poets and regional poets, classic poetry, Middle Eastern poetry, and other variations.  Although the poems the books contain may be written in the same form, or carry a common message, each is unique. Poetry is part of every major religion.  It has been used by war protesters and political prisoners, giving voice to the voiceless.  Many prisons have writing programs where the inmates analyze and express their feelings about their lives through poetry.

Children with learning disabilities often struggle with writing.  Capital letters, punctuation, complete sentences, and spelling can all be daunting to laboring writers.  Poetry can free students from these concerns.  Lines can be short and punctuation doesn't matter.  Suddenly these students are expressing their creativity and letting others into a small corner of their lives.  They write about pets, games, friends, and nightmares.  In every poem which a student has written, I can find something to praise—a unique word choice, an alliteration, a striking metaphor.

What is the value of poetry?  Ask the student with dyslexia whose poem was published in a school newspaper or read on the radio.  Ask the fifth grader, gradually gaining confidence as she reads her poem to her applauding class.  Ask the Cuban prisoner who secretly wrote a whole book of poetry and smuggled it out.  Poetry can be everyone's voice, whether by writing our own poetry, or by reading a poem by someone else that resonates in our experience. Read a poem.  Write a poem.   

Ann Marie Waterhouse: For me, community is about being present to what is without judgment or commentary. It is about noticing and being able to respond with feelings, words or emotions. Community is about realizing we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are all one.

Catherine Young: On our isolated farm I see community wherever I look. When a neighbor from up on the ridge passes through our hollow in his pickup, I see the man who dreams of outlining his name in a cord of wood using light and dark logs, stacked just in the right patterns.  I see the herons that show up in spring, hovering over our driveway culvert letting me know that the trout are running in our stream.  When the mail carrier drives down to our house and waits for me, I know he has something good, like a package from far away.  And when I wish to write these ideas into art, or create a community celebration I also know that on this wacky landscape of rural Wisconsin eccentricity abounds.  We all trust one another just enough to create and recreate community.  And if a community folds, well, we’re always looking for something to do, so we just pick ourselves up, cast out a line, and start again.

Marilyn Zelke-Windau: There is this word: community.  It stems from common identity, from group idea, from unity, from kinship, from convergence of comfortability factors.  It doesn't necessarily mean agreement.  It only condones primary tolerance.  It weighs the scales with balance—for some lightly, for others in ton-stone poundage. It can connote sharing, giving up, giving in, or simply giving.  Community can be comfort, kindness, or innocent shunning.  It can be brownies to a newcomer. It can be unsigned postcard mail protesting your political viewpoint.  Something of community is to be belt-strap bound to you and yours. Something of community is to be ignored like a store open at 10 PM for pre-Christmas sales on Thanksgiving.