A passing

Some of the earliest dahlia blooms I have ever seen! Growing in my mom's garden -- a testament to the season.

As many of you surely already know, last Tuesday our community lost a dear vibrant soul when Tricia Crawford passed away in her home. It’s been almost a week now, and Tricia is still very much present in my mind. I think of her often when I see things I think she would enjoy, such as the extremely early dahlia blooms above.

Tricia and her husband were longtime CSA members, and in recent years their son and his wife have also become significant members of our farm’s community of eaters. I was certainly not in Tricia’s inner circle of loved ones, but her presence in our life was wholly positive. I correspond with many of you via email and snail mail, and over the years I’ve learned to recognize certain scripts. Tricia had perhaps the most distinctive handwriting of all — strong cursive, always written in a blue pen. I knew when I received a sign-up or check in the mail from the Crawford house, because of that writing on the envelope, and I always knew to expect a little supportive note along with whatever business was at hand — because Tricia was like that. She was similarly upbeat in person, and she never seemed to miss an opportunity to uplift someone. I’m sure we were not unique in appreciating the sunlight she shared so freely.

I am realizing more than ever how young Casey and I were when we started this farm venture: 25 and 26, just barely out of our college years. Although there were formative experiences before moving here, I do feel like we “finished” our growing up in the early years of the farm (this assumes, of course, that we are “grown up” now, which I think is mostly true!). When we first started farming, most of our members were actually older than us, and many our parents’ age. I have to smile when I think of all the bumps in the road that our long-time members have traveled with us, always supportive and positive — sometimes more certain about our future success than we were.

At times, such as when I was pregnant with Rusty, it has felt as though the CSA has given us an extended family of aunties and uncles — people who can pass on wisdom, perspective, and sweet gifts of handknit sweaters and books. Tricia was, without a doubt, one of our farm aunties.

Amidst the sadness of Tricia’s passing, I am struck again by the beauty of this community we live in. Our CSA is simply one piece of the puzzle, and people come and go from our farm’s circle into others and beyond. I wanted to write a bit about Tricia today, because I know many people in the wider community loved and cherished her and will continue to love and cherish each other in her absence.

At first, it seemed jarring that she passed away on what was an absolutely gorgeous early summer day. There was so much warmth and activity and buzzing life — how could so much grief come into that day? But, when I thought further, it seemed appropriate, because this is the beautiful truth of life: it continues. Personally, I dislike clichés about life and death at hard moments, when really sadness is unbearable and heavy. But, all week it has been the most alive moments of these summer days that make me think of Tricia, and so there is that message again and again. Even just two days later, here at the farm, we were eating strawberries and laughing with the younger Crawfords as two naked babies crawled around amidst friends and every sign in nature screamed “life!” around us. A moment of light amidst grief.

Coincidentally, Rusty has been asking a lot about death lately. He just learned a few weeks ago that, yes, we are all going to die, including him and Dottie and Mama and Papa. It comes up at random times, and the questions always take my breath away: “Is [so and so] going to die? If I die, will [so and so] miss me?” Telling my sweet three year-old son that, yes, people he loves dearly are going to die someday — well, it’s one of the harder moments of my parenting experience. Because, of course, us adults are in no way reconciled to this truth either, and I don’t particularly want to dwell on the inevitable passing of Casey and my loved ones. Even with years of “understanding” under our belts, it’s still a hard thing to understand — that one day our loved one is here, and the next gone. The mystery behind that transformation is great, profound, and unknowable — just as I look at my beautiful children in calm(ish) moments and marvel at where they came from.

These mysterious miracles of life and death are all around us on the farm — mostly life this time of year. Lambs, growing vegetables, buzzing pollinating insects, birds … there are days when the growth of it all is almost overwhelming (especially when that growth takes the form of weeds!). How easy to lose sight in this season of the others — the darker, rainier months; the sadder, harder seasons of life.

Sadly, Tricia is not the first CSA member to pass away, and certainly she won’t be the last. I suppose I’ll have to explain that to Rusty again next time he asks. I’ll explain again how times passes and things change and living creatures die and new ones are born. And, then we’ll look again at the lambs and sow more sweet corn in our garden and marvel at the softness of Dottie’s skin.

I posted a picture of Tricia and her family in my office last week. I found it in the basket where I collect all the nice notes and letters we receive from people over the year. Dottie looks at these cards regularly while I am working, and as I was cleaning up her mess, there was Tricia’s shining smile on her son’s wedding day last summer. So, I hung it up, the better to reflect on her life.

To be honest, I do still feel like I am growing up. These aunties and uncles in our farm life continually teach me ways to be a more loving and conscientious person. Lessons such as: notes and photos matter. Generosity of spirit is a blessing on all. Share people’s joys. Let people know that you appreciate their work. Love trumps all.

I suppose there’s not much more to say right now, except that we are feeling especially grateful for all the people who make up our community — current CSA members, past CSA members, other farmers, friends, family … we hope that you too have been enjoying this amazing weather and the vibrancy of life here in Oregon as we run faster and faster toward the solstice and the peak of growth. Whatever season you are in in your own life, may the sun’s warmth be a blessing on you.

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. If you knew Tricia Crawford and would like more information about memorial services and such, visit the journal her family has been keeping online: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/triciacrawford/journal. Their words and reflections are touching and beautiful.

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s veggies:

  • Head lettuce
  • Bok choy
  • Strawberries
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Peas
  • Fava beans
  • Garlic scapes
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