Open mike nights in enchanted spaces
There’s a wooden house outside of my college town that’s become a community center for the local artists, poets, and musicians (and their families –biological and surrogate ones — and friends). When I visit this seemingly enchanted space, I’m welcomed by the kindly proprietor who offers me a hug and a cup of herbal tea as I walk past the kitchen to find a bench by the window. The wall by the benches is covered with the signatures of people who’ve visited the space or played at the monthly open mike nights, serving as a plaster covered guestbook with names and quotes in permanent ink. I remember after reading a poem at my first open mike night there, the proprietor invited me to sign my name on the wall. First, I wrote the “at a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by” quote, and then realized I’d forgotten to sign the area beside it. That was the same night I learned that a close friend of mine could sing and play piano after she finished performing a piece that she’d written herself.
In this community, I feel a sense of calm and connectedness with others who frequent the space, especially on open mike nights. I’ve noticed that when I settle into a new place, I tend to either talk way too much or fade into the wallpaper. When I find myself fading into the background, I feel like I’m playing conversational tether-ball. The people around me are talking, but I can’t seem to find a point to enter the discussion, without interrupting anyway. At open mike nights, I’ve been free to sit and talk with the person beside me when I’m ready, but there’s always music in the background or people-watching to do in the meantime. It’s an accepting space filled with the sounds of drum beats, singer-songwriters, and neighborhood children. I’ve enjoyed bringing friends here because it’s a place where one can go after a long day of homework and sit with bottomless cups of tea, surrounded by people genuinely interested in each others’ passions.
Last time I was in this space, listening to local musicians and poets under a pink sunset, I reached for the notebook and colored pencils I stow in my bag for such occasions (same materials I use in womyn’s writing circle) and started to sketch a wispy tree. I wrote a few lines in the blank area:
“The collected light frames the trees; we sit below. The scene before us stretches out as it envelops the trees and the land — the wooden places below it surrounds.”
So for now dear readers, I’ll continue to remind myself in the midst of the busyness (and often uncertainty) of graduate school that “I am here in these places — the cafes and the community centers where I encounter such kind people. I fit. I belong.”