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In these times which have brought sadness to so many, and loneliness to so many more, the dark rooms of our loneliness have been illuminated by the computer screen— and the people that we have been able connect with through it. Many of us have had the good fortune to connect with online communities.  We have been able to take classes that we’d never have been able to attend otherwise because they are held in faraway places. We have been able to take part in discussions, share books read, relate our experiences of them. Friendships have been forged with people we have never met and yet know parts of them so well.

In my own experience, I have been able to study Celtic Mythology in a class from Wales, and have been in various writing classes and groups, one of which originates in Scotland and for which I am quite happy to wake up at 5:00 AM a couple of times a month in order to join in.

I have been part of a book group which was formed a year and a half ago as an off-shoot of a much larger group hosted under the auspices of a spiritually-based ecology magazine. When the larger group came to an end, some of us were not ready to let go of the collective experience of reading and discussing books written about the natural world.  We were not ready to let go of the connections that we had been forming with each other.  We are from all over the world and for an hour or so each week, we are all in the same space. We share the books we read, our thoughts about them, and the memories, emotions, and insights that they have sparked in us. As we relate to the books, we relate from our different places on the Earth and bring that Earth-based experience to our conversations.

In one of our recent group gatherings, we were talking about bird migration. In discussing how birds live separate lives and come together and move forward in migration as one unit, one member of our group segued the conversation to her own experience, saying that through the conversational movement of the group she has gained more knowledge of where she herself is headed.

Choosing the definition of murmur as “a soft or gentle utterance”, our conversations are like the bird’s murmurations.  Flocks of birds, especially Starlings, will all fly together and change direction en mass, looking as though they are dancing in the sky as one great troupe.  They wheel, swoop, and dive in perfect harmony of movement, one bird leading the way and then another.  As we discuss, we move in and out of our own and each other’s thoughts, following the flow of the conversation with all its twists and turns.  Each time we meet, there is one who has volunteered to be the leader for the session, and we are led in the dance of words. As we discuss, we take our turns to speak as inspiration and knowledge come forth.  First we move one way, and then as we open ourselves to the conversation, we wheel together in a direction and then maybe another, and another. 

As I continue my intellectual migration, seeking knowledge where I can find it through the online paths across the world, I look forward each week to the book group that has become a nesting area for me.