A year or so after my first archaeological dig, I signed on for an illustration workshop at an historical archaeology conference in Toronto. I arrived early to the Royal York Hotel and planted myself in an overstuffed armchair on the mezzanine to wait.
It was the first morning of the conference; attendees were still arriving. I remember watching from above as people called out in delighted recognition, embraced enthusiastically, gathered in affectionate clusters; I also remember realizing that this companionable warmth was something I had until then experienced only in a Christian context – I’d never witnessed it outside of church. In that moment I understood that what I was observing was a universal human experience, not an exclusively religious one at all. We call it community.
It may start with a shared interest or common purpose, but it grows far beyond that. The discussion group continues for over twenty years and sustains you through major life changes. The workplace companions shore you up in a crisis and push you back out into the world renewed. The travel group become your confidantes and best ever girlfriends. The professional association assures you that your own particular variety of weird isn’t so weird. It’s not just individual connections you make within a group – it’s the sense of being woven into a fabric. A tribal identity is bestowed. It’s the sharing in something bigger. It’s home – home that extends beyond time or place; home that you find unexpectedly when you’ve journeyed away and home that awaits your return.
A community is definitely what we become here on the dig. At the beginning of the season we joyfully pick up the threads of past years and continue into the summer knitting in the new arrivals. Not everyone arrives at the start; not everyone stays to the end – so our family expands and contracts continuously. We work together, drink together, laugh together, complain together. We each weave a niche specific to our own gifts and interactions; we all find our way into the fabric of this particular Zincirli season.
We reached our season peak earlier this week; several of the team have departed since. As the summer winds down hello will be gradually crowded out with goodbye – but there are still a few weeks to enjoy this little community, one that has, for me, stretched to embrace half the world.