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Social closeness while physically distancing

by Christine Clements

Sure, our best hope for slowing the spread of the coronavirus is to change how we socialize in physical space. But we need our human connections now more than ever. In cohousing we talk about “building the human community before we build the physical neighborhood.” At Bay State Commons the tools and skills we’ve developed over the years have helped us to keep our social connections strong in a time of physical distancing, even while our actual construction work has only just begun. 

As with everyone, our lively in-person meetings have moved to the gathering spot of 2020, Zoom sessions. All our plenaries, workshops, and committee meetings happen there. But also social events—a family game night on March 22 using shared party game software from jackboxgames, and we also have an always-open “Zoom cafe.” Just grab your coffee, lunch, or wineglass and invite people to join you there at a specific time.


Friday afternoon was the second installment of “Quarantine Theater Presents,” a film watching and discussion group. Nine of us met online for an introduction to the day’s selection—Preston Sturges’s 1940 comedy, “The Great McGinty.” It continued the theme of politics and corruption in black-and-white-movies circa 1940, following our March 20 screening of “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.” After a bit of chat and catching up with each other, some background on the director from an actual film journalist, and a challenge to find the supporting actor who appeared in both movies, we each went off to run the movie on the streaming platform of our choice. 

Ninety minutes later we all again gathered on Zoom to talk about the movie—from the portrayal of election tampering, political campaigning, and gender roles of the era, to the cinematography and lighting, to the frequent use of newspaper headlines to advance the plot points, to what was in that cocktail in the first scene, to whether today’s teenagers can enjoy movies with scenes that last more than a split second (surprising news: They can!). We adjourned shortly before 7:00pm, to go to our windows and shout, clap, sing, bang the pots and pans, in appreciation for the medical workers and first responders who are keeping civilization running while we stay inside. But we didn’t sign off before getting a video tour of Trudy’s planters full of vigorous cucumber, lettuce, and dahlia seedlings, soon to be transplanted outdoors. Hope springs eternal!

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