We had planned to meet last weekend, but we didn’t. We wanted to gather in our small planning group of three, but we knew with marking, and family, with deadlines and conflicts with other events, we could not do this with a sense of ease and purpose.
Friday night we texted our plans in the group chat. We agreed to meet at 9am on Saturday. Tobi asked if we could meet outside because she is allergic to Amanda’s cats, but loves them from windows.
The weather was cooler than previous days, but the sun was out and Amanda had set up her outdoor propane heater on the back deck of her house, an ancient brick home nestled in the centre of the city where lattice and vines provide privacy but dogs still visit and birds are perennial guests. Three chairs with quilts and blankets circled around a small glass side table. We settled in an adirondack chair, a pair of folding chairs in our coats, opened our laptops, and books while Amanda emerged from the sliding glass door to her kitchen carrying a ceramic teapot next to mugs releasing steamy smells of chai and vanilla into the cool morning air.
We talked, sharing easily among the three of us.We had time to settle in to the comfort of this circle for some time before getting to the functional purpose of our meeting – planning the next unit of our English classes. Initially, the conversation moved and morphed around our three different teaching spaces until we landed on the task in front of us. In what seemed to be less than 20 minutes, we talked through a four week unit of informative writing in English: summary, infographic, and podcast.
The heater, seemingly a member of this group, ran out of propane just as we completed our plan. Rising from the chair to leave, I felt the cold in my feet and smiled. We hugged goodbye as we had hugged hello, and the ease that characterized the preceding two hours travelled with me.
I thought about Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering and wondered what made this one so perfect.
“But here’s the great paradox of gathering. There are so many good reasons for coming together that often we don’t know precisely why we’re doing so. You are not alone if you skip the first step in convening people meaningfully, committing to a bold, sharp purpose. When we skip this step, we often let old or faulty assumptions about why we gather dictate the form of our gatherings. We end up gathering in ways that don’t serve us, or not connecting when we ought to.”
While our purpose was clear, the unfolding is what warmed me – our voices swirled in this outdoor space along with the updraft of warm air lifting and falling in a what felt like a perfect gathering.