Grounding ourselves in a new year of uncertainty

by Frances Kraft, Weave’s Community Manager

As one year turns into the next, I normally spend time intentionally reflecting on the past and excitedly planning for the future. This year, though, is different. 

We just celebrated the New Year and I’m ordering more masks and searching for rapid tests as omicron numbers surge. Entering another year with so much uncertainty does not feel energizing. It feels exhausting. And I’m hearing that from friends and colleagues, too. 

Surrounded by uncertainty, I find myself looking to nature for familiar patterns that remind me there is order and stability in our lives. Growing up on Florida’s Gulf shore, I saw nature’s patterns every day: flocks of sanderlings taking flight at sunrise, schools of fish rising under a cresting wave, the gentle bumps of a purple sea urchin poking through seaweed on an early-morning walk. As a child, these patterns were a source of wonder. Now, they are a source of comfort.

For author and social thinker adrienne maree brown, these patterns are the guide to building a future in a world of constant change and uncertainty. She notes how the spirals of a seashell in your hand mimic the unimaginably enormous spiral galaxies in space. It’s a reminder that the smallest patterns, known as fractals, when repeated over and over, shape the destiny of a universe. 

In her book Emergent Strategy, brown argues we can shape the future of a world that is in constant flux if we thoughtfully and collectively build on small patterns. We start by building relationships of connection and trust all around us. And if enough of us do this together, the repeating pattern will cycle upwards to promote a culture of interdependence and caring. Instead of competition, she calls for fusion. According to brown, “What we practice at the small scale, sets the patterns for the whole system.”

The patterns of connection are already building and repeating. We see them everywhere. Last year, our inaugural Weaver Awards recognized and celebrated people who are building social trust in Baltimore. Every small act has the potential to begin a pattern that can lead to change on a grand scale. 

One of our newest members in the weaver hub, Barbara Stolp, longed to meet other residents in her building in Pittsburgh, but was nervous to take the first step. She worried no one would come. She gathered the courage to post a flyer inviting people to share holiday stories over donuts and stopped counting the neighbors who dropped by after she got more than a dozen!

Our online We Are Weavers community is a place where we can nurture and spread these “fractals” of connection. What began as a small group looking for support for their work weaving community now includes hundreds of weavers from across the country who are sharing, inspiring, and supporting each other as they connect locally. At the end of this month, we are relaunching the online community with improved features, navigation, and design to support its rapid growth and make it easier to use. We invite you to join us.

This next year holds plenty of uncertainty. So I’ll keep thinking about the spiral of seashells and galaxies and how small patterns get repeated. I can’t see the future, but I can see what’s around me. I’ll focus on my own patterns of perception, seeing each person as whole and worthy of dignity, and my patterns of connection, reaching out with vulnerability and empathy to friends and strangers. As brown notes, “If we begin to understand ourselves as practice ground for transformation, we can transform the world.”

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