extending out, drawing in

I wrote about our dearest R some time ago. R, after 80 years at the Farm, passed away this past November, just 4 months shy of her 100th birthday. R was a pillar of the Farm who is very greatly missed, so it was only natural that we throw a birthday bash to celebrate her life and the impact that she had on the Farm, but more importantly on the people who knew her. This past weekend the Farm hosted a day of activities which R loved: hikes on Farm trails; games of Pick (think Scrabble--in lieu of keeping score everyone has to come up with a story at the end, using all their words); story telling; desserts; and a contra dance to end the evening.

During the planning phase of the event the coordinators were unsure how many people to figure on; the last I'd heard there was a rumor of about an extra hundred people around the Farm for the event; so I counted myself one of the pleasantly surprised to see around 140+ people stuffed into the Farm's dining room, living room and dish areas. DB--a staff member who has been here for over 25 years--likes to say "once a *Farmer, always a *Farmer," and never has that expression been more true. As I walked around the Farm that afternoon I ran into former Farmers, board members and other old acquaintances dating back to my early years at the Farm. People I hadn't seen in 6 years were popping up, and in true Farm spirit, walking around the Farm like they'd never left it. The Farm is such a magical space that returning to it feels like returning home, a sentiment I have heard repeated before.

The day was positively ripe with memories; a time set aside where people shared funny and touching stories about R, bad jokes (which she was famous for); a time for us to celebrate a life, not be sad for what was lost, but rather look toward the future and how we can preserve all the things that R stood for: thriftiness, hard work, a genuine love and commitment to community, a real sense of duty to others.

I don't really know how to do R justice. It is hard to explain to a stranger how others'actions or idiosyncrosies, which we are privy to, become part of our daily routines too: throwing stale bread to birds, handing graham crackers and sweets out to the littlest of the Farm children, napping on an old bench in the sun.

I turn to a poem by Uncle Walt which really reminds me of R:

A child said, What is the grass?

A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
hands;
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?

Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.

Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
zones,
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.

And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.

Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.

This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
mothers,
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.

O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
for nothing.

I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
and women,
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
children?

They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.

All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
luckier.

~ Walt Whitman

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