Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shall the circle be unbroken?

I’ve been in the Rolling Steel Tent all day, except for a walk to the restroom and a few moments standing outside so folks could see I was alive. I’ve been doing what I do when I’m not at a gathering. Writing, reading, daydreaming, having ideas, napping… You know, the alone stuff.

This is not what I pledged to do. And I don’t feel too bad about it.

The day’s solitary mental work lead to a hypothesis as to why mixing and mingling seems harder here than at, say, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. It’s all because of the circles. My fellow nomads have been gathering in a central part of the campground, sitting in a circle (sometimes two) of chairs.

At RTR I can almost always find scattered small clusters of standing people where I can mosey up, say Hi, do a brief introduction, participate for a few moments and then move on—or stay if things become engaging

Joining the circle is a much bigger deal. You don’t just happen upon a circle while on the way elsewhere. A circle is a destination, a commitment. You go on purpose, carrying your chair.

Then, where do you plant your chair? Who do you want to be next to? More importantly, who do you not want to be next to? And what if there’s no gap?

You don’t really have conversations in a circle of fifteen, twenty people. There are too many participants for that. So the circle often breaks down into multiple conversations—often with someone across the circle. That means too much talking at once, which is hell with my bad hearing. And it means not talking about anything you don’t want all the others to hear.

So I tend to go silent, which has me wondering what I’m doing there. It would be bad form to just pack up my chair and leave, especially after saying nothing. Too bad I don’t knit. I could sit silently without looking like an unfortunate deaf-mute.

Last night was different. There was a group of six people off to the side. I knew two of them well and two of them well enough. The other two were strangers. I joined in with them because that’s a manageable group size for actual conversation, and because two of them were standing. It was a more casual, more fluid arrangement.

One of the strangers and I turned out to have a lot in common. We had a side conversation for about and hour and a half then seamlessly reinserted ourselves back into the group’s discussion. See, I can socialize just fine. Under the right conditions.

This works better

If I were a nervier person, I’d go to the big circle and regale the group with my thoughts on sitting in circles. Then withdraw and observe whether any behavior changes ensue. Or whether they come after me with torches and pitchforks.


  1. I fit a lot better in your style of conversation situations.

  2. I have sat in my chair in the big circle and felt alone.

  3. As far as the part about group conversation, struggling with hearing loss seems to isolate people. When you are in a group and you just smile and nod because you only caught a third of what was said, you may be viewed differently than those actively participating. So, it seems easier to avoid the larger group.
    One thing that I have found helps is light. If I can see you talking to me I can usually understand you.

  4. Yeah its the same at party's, usually the few loud funny people dominate the crowd and god help ya if one of them takes a disliking to you!

  5. Sorry, All, that we didn't get to say hello to each other.