Rooting into Community
Connection with community as vital to place-based practice
Since returning to my home community in November 2021, I have been aware of my dual role - as local but also in many ways as newcomer. I have worked to build up my engagement with the local community whilst navigating my complex life circumstances that facilitated my move back. I have been careful to hold back from involving myself in certain community groups such as the community council, despite encouragement from residents, preferring to hang back until I feel like a legitimate member of the community. There are large gaps in my knowledge about contemporary life in Applecross. In some eyes being a born and bred locally automatically gives me legitimacy, however I don't feel that this is my experience. And it’s my approach to go gently and respectfully root into what is already here. Being a returning local, I have a unique perspective. One that holds an understanding of where Applecross has come from, I've taken Applecross with me out into the world - in the form of habitus - and I return having learnt new ways of being in the world. Applecross has also moved on from where I left it, the landscape has shifted and my new ways of being fit better than I expected, and I'm finding other areas where I notice resistance - historical grating against contemporary - on relational, emotional, and spiritual planes. Bas says:
"The newcomer may bring a fresh and sharp outlook on a given situation without emotional baggage or connection. Being external may give you the advantage of not being caught up in some inner tension, for instance why certain people on the block wouldn’t talk to one another." (n.d. para. 4)
I have the advantage of not being caught up in inner tensions of the community but do also carry emotional baggage from my history of connection with the community. I have centred my community involvement mainly around the development of the new community woodland - taking part in activities such as the growing of trees from local seeds and clearing of brash from the old woodland pathways. The next project just beginning is the construction of a round-pole framed cabin which will be used by woodland volunteers. All these activities help me to take a place as a legitimate member of the community, with people who share similar interests, and are helping me to develop a sense of belonging.
As an introvert I thrive in getting to know people in a 1:1 or small group setting so I have been making connections with local people though wild swimming and co-working opportunities as well as seeking to help on crofts or at the community garden where we can work alongside conversation.