I’ve been reading The Season’s on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman. Terra is the sister of Henry Brockman, who supplies me with the majority of my vegetables, and Teresa who supplies me with the majority of my fruits. The Brockman’s have an organic, sustainable farm twenty miles from my home. Each week throughout the summer and fall, they come into town and supply lots of families with shares of beautiful produce. I love the format of Terra’s book because she chose to write each chapter as a chronological week on the farm. The first chapter is a week in November when the garlic crop is planted. When I realized her format, I decided to read a chapter a week, so each time I read a chapter I learn about a process on the farm that is happening right now.
This week’s chapter is entitled Ripe and Rotten. It’s about the fruits and vegetables that aren’t beautiful enough to be sold to the public. Because their produce isn’t genetically modified or treated with chemicals they have a fair amount that are split, bruised, too small or too large. Terra goes into detailed description about an imperfect peach that has a few moldy spots and wormholes. Yet she simply cleans off those spots, splits it in half with her fingers to make sure there aren’t any worms inside and then “I bring it to my nose and read its spicy-sweet promise…the juice runs down my chin as I slurp away, wanting to bury my whole face in the utter bliss of it.” She then goes on to talk about our intolerance for imperfections. We don’t choose our friends by the way they look, she says. We choose them for their personality, intelligence, wit, etc.
I smiled when I read this. I had just had this conversation with a dear friend of mine when we were driving home from a visitation of an old friend of ours. We knew Mark and his brother, Keith, back in high school. Their family had lived in that area for a long time. Like most people in the small community, they were farmers and everyone knew them. Mark and Keith were stars on the winning basketball and football teams. They were not typically ‘model’ good-looking, but as soon as you met them, you got a sense of who they were and immediately loved them. They were funny, open, friendly and genuinely kind to everyone and, well, they were a little bit wild, so very fun to be around.
Going back for the visitation of Mark and his son, while extremely sad because of the tragic circumstances, was therapeutic because we were able to visit with the people we grew up with. After thirty years, some had changed dramatically, but most had physically changed very little. Maybe we had grown a bit wider with wrinkles or sunspots to give us character. I actually love looking for those ‘imperfections’ in people as they age. I find them much more interesting and beautiful than the faces that have been surgically altered to appear youthful. Perhaps it’s because by the time we’re in our 40s and 50s, we have (hopefully) become comfortable in our own skin and can fully reveal what is inside.
At the start of the visitation line was Keith, and although he was deeply mourning the loss of his big brother and nephew, he gave us a wide smile and a huge hug. He spoke eloquently about his feelings about the accident and what this outpouring of community meant to him. He was still as beautiful and warm as I remembered. Our bruised and wrinkled exteriors didn’t matter. We were there to comfort each other in friendship and love.
When I approached the open caskets of Mark and his young son, I chose not to look. I knew the accident had not been gentle to their bodies. Their shells were empty and I wanted to remember their lively smiles and their fragrant, juicy souls instead.