Moments of connection: The Vines
My second week in Oxford – when I was still grappling with the realities of living with thirty other people, afraid of taking up too much kitchen space, figuring out a meal plan beyond peanut-butter bagels, deciding when and when not to say ‘hello’ to my fellow housemates in passing – I had a conversation about church traditions with a new friend, our heads hanging out the kitchen window. It was the Sunday afternoon lunch rush, and the kitchen was full of people and the smell of pan-fried meals gone wrong. When our conversation was interrupted by smoke-induced coughing and choking, we found the most obvious source of fresh air, and continued discussing the Anglican faith leaning over the kitchen sink, our heads above the garden below.
I still smile when I think of that moment, with its combination of earnestness and absurdity. Life at the Vines had a rhythm all its own, and it was punctuated by those moments of connection, sometimes with the extra touch of the humour that comes with so many intelligent, curious, thoughtful people living in a 19th century building.
The Vines, with its hallways, common rooms, window seats, nooks, and occasionally surprising doors, is a living space and a social space. There are much-needed corners and rooms for solitude and focus, but always, wonderfully, the opportunity of community and connection. These opportunities are as varied as the people sharing the space: shared meals with your food-group, which often feel like family dinners; group conversations in the common room; the fellowship of late-night essay-writing at the kitchen table. I had serious academic conversations against the backdrop of the color-coded bookshelves and laughed uncontrollably with friends over a jar of Nutella in the kitchen.