We spent this past week hustling to take advantage of a dry-enough period before the series of late week storms dropped nearly 2 inches of rain. On Thursday the work of planting tomatoes, melons, peppers, corn, beans and other summer crops stopped as the generous clouds opened up and drenched the farm. The blessing of rain soaked our asparagus beds and loosened the soil above the spears and helped them to break through. Carrots, lettuce, beets, potatoes and all of the spring crops revel in the liveliness of rainwater. Trees are shooting out with an energy and lushness that is a remarkable contrast with the past couple of years. The farm feels exuberant —humming with a vibration of life that explodes when Springtime arrives with it’s moisture, warmth and myriad of life forms that shake off a long winter and go to work….
We have been thinking about the cycles of life and death this past week. Andrew’s (one of the 4 original Full Belly owners) father, Martin Brait passed away on April 1. Marty was a great friend to the farm and was a delightful, creative, enthusiastic human being who visited us from his home in Philadelphia with his wife Marsha over the years. Who would think that clothier couple-haberdashers by trade- would hatch a farmer son? Marty, embraced the life that Andrew chose many years ago and was a part of a parental rooting club that each of the 4 original partners shared. The success of Full Belly is very definitely linked to our ancestors – parents – that had a common trait: the willingness to embrace and encourage creativity, responsibility, and social commitment to tending a healthy planet.
It was an emotional week. Marty showed the same dignity in passing as he did in his conduct in day-to-day life. As in all passing, it becomes a moment to reflect on the seasons represented by birth, growth, fruiting, maturation, and then decline where one joins the succession of recycling matter through senescence and decay as the foundation of renewal. Although human seasons are longer than a that of a peach, the fundamentals are so similar — where ancestors have a hand in shaping hardiness and character; where growth starts at the awakening of a seed; where the making of a life requires maturation and fruiting; and finally decline and decay are inevitable – feeding in turn the renewal of all of the life to come.
We spent an evening at Andrew’s house sitting ‘Shiva’ a Judaic tradition where we, as friends, gathered to reflect on Marty and his family, share food, offer stories or poems, and remind ourselves about our mortality. It was in and of itself an act of remembering together the glue that Marty provided to connect all of us. It was the same connection that we now share, through his son, that has brought you some of the lettuce or artichokes or greens in your box this week, or the tomatoes being transplanted that Andrew chose to start in the greenhouse and nurture this winter.
We talked a bit about Marty’s love of gadgets especially new electronic toys like his apple phone, reader or whatever app struck his curiosity. He was curious and adaptive-an early adopter of new ideas well into his 80’s.
We wondered about the changes he saw in his more that 80 years and what would we know in 80 more years—self driving cars? Artificial intelligence? Faster information access? Endless apps? Cures for diseases and decay? Constant connectivity? More and newer gadgets?
Andrew, Marty & Andrew’s son Ellis
Sometimes the enthusiasm for the newness of things drives the self fulfilling idea that these tools are harbingers of the only possible future, and will somehow replace the need for toil and sweat, or warm embraces, or even cheat the specter of death. Not intending to sound like Ned Ludd (also a farmer), these tools have their importance, but they are only tools that help place larger more pressing questions into perspective, like where we should focus our work and balance our thinking. Marty’s shiva prompted some questions:
Will we begin to know and have perspective on the timeless rotations of the seasons? Shall we seek to practice the words for making peace, developing understanding, and relating to other lives with empathy? Can we get closer to the ideas of justice as we tend to all human beings as equals and family? Will we learn to listen to the fundamentals of nature – breathing, humming, vibrant with life in a springtime after a warm rainfall? Can we be at peace with the necessity of decay and death to nourish another round of life to come? Will we design for the cycling of energy and spirit to sustain and nurture future generations of life?
There is something eternal in these queries. These are the lessons that require quiet walks and observations, getting ones hands dirty, taking risks, singing song, making poetry, nurturing celebration and responsible choices. They are questions answered individually, or examined as a community, or talked over with our children, often more clearly understood when reflecting upon those who have lived with noble character. Many times the reflection is triggered with a passing, but often the reflection can come on a beautiful day when the fullness of renewal is bursting waxy green as new shoots unfold and curl toward the sun. Death and rebirth appear to be sides of the same life examined and part of all life connected.
We look forward to a bit of drying weather. We are now impelled into the making of a summer season. Its coming is inevitable, beyond our choosing, and is something that we will hopefully pass through with a bit of grace and good cheer. Happy Easter, happy springtime, happy green lush days.