Art of Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson

This September is different.

I was born and raised in rural Wisconsin. September was the month we went back to school and when autumn began. September was about football and homework and raking leaves and the first day we needed to wear a sweater.

During election years September was the beginning of real campaigning.

Now I live where September is the middle of summer. June is gloomy and summer does not really get going until sometime in July. The endless summer of Southern California often makes October the warmest month of the year. September is usually a good time to go to the beach. We do not really need sweaters.

This September many of us are not going back to school, or back to work. There is no football or leaf raking. It is a challenge to remember a time before the campaign started.

Many of us have been much less mobile than we would like to be. The two trips I had planned since March, to San Francisco and to Big Sur, were both cancelled. One because of the pandemic, the other because of the fires. We are staying home more, trying to avoid the spread of the disease and the dangers of our changing climate.

More and more of our lives are lived through our phones and computers.

Some of us feel isolated, cut off from everything and everyone around us. We keep ourselves to ourselves, minding our own business, putting ourselves first. It is easy to allow fear or anxiety to limit our imaginations. Many of us pay attention to getting from one day, one week, to the next.

This September it can be challenging for us to connect with other people.

It is particularly challenging when many of the ways we were accustomed to connecting with people have been lost to us, at least temporarily. Whether this is the new normal or a way to survive the crisis of the pandemic, it feels like our communities have been taken away.

Two of my own connections to community have been difficult to sustain.

Spiritual life is becoming a personal, individual aspect of my life. It is risky to get together in person for spiritual life. Even my annual retreat to New Camaldoli Hermitage was not possible this summer because of the fires near Big Sur. I could not spend silent time with other people.

Fortunately I have found ways to spend time with other people focused on spiritual life over the computer. I talk with people as a spiritual director and with groups of people exploring spiritual life.

It has been even more of a challenge to appreciate great craft beer on my own. Yes, it is possible to find brews to explore and bring them home, but that is not the only attraction for me. My love for craft beer and brewing is about spending time with other people who love them almost as how they taste.

I miss the days when friends and I made “Craft Brewery Pilgrimages” to breweries and tasting rooms we wanted to explore. Those visits were excellent ways to get to know new people, taste new beers, and experience the places they were brewed.

We could always decide to wait until the pandemic and the fires are over. Craft breweries, though, are having hard times right now, this September. What can we do to help now?

Could we meet via Zoom each month to share a new craft brewery or beer? Are there ways to rebuild the communities which have been pulled apart by the pandemic?

What would be the best time for you?

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor in Pasadena, California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and monks and monastic life. Greg has served as an assistant district attorney and an associate university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk. You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com, and he writes a blog for the Contemplative channel on http://www.patheos.com.

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