"The Wish to be Generous" by Wendell Berry
All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.
Many of you reading this no doubt knew Darryl Herren. In fact, many of you are probably reading this BECAUSE you knew Darryl Herren: many of our earliest customers and followers and email newsletter sign-ups came directly from Marsha and Darryl. They would literally send us email addresses of people they thought we should know, and about 1 in 3 farmers market customers our first year told us they were sent to see us at market by Marsha and Darryl. When I baked bread for the farmers market during college, Marsha and Darryl would freeze a dozen loaves and give every customer a slice and my contact info. When we moved back to start Babe + Sage, Marsha and Darryl invited us to help out during their busy Christmas open house. The week before, Marsha suggested we print up some brochures for the farm. They made sure each of the hundreds who came that busy weekend took a brochure and personally met Chelsea or I to hear about what we were doing. They were our earliest and most ardent supporters.
For those few in middle Georgia who were unlucky enough to never meet Darryl Herren, he really was a man beyond description or peer. Darryl was a social worker, a minister, a gardener, a blacksmith, a birdwatcher, a naturalist, a storyteller, but most of all, he was the kindest spirit you'll ever meet. He and his wife, Marsha, started Olive Forge Herb Farm as their retirement dream, which was really just a way for Darryl and Marsha to touch more folks with their huge heart, kindness, curiosity, hospitality, and spirit.
In 2008, Chelsea and I were lucky enough to be some of those folks. We were just a couple of college kids who had heard about this curious place out in the woods and decided to visit. When we first arrived on a busy Saturday afternoon, we wandered around their garden not quite knowing what to do. We were sitting on a bench when Darryl walked up, corralled us into their kitchen, served us tea and rosemary cake, and made us feel like we were finally home. When we left hours later, Darryl told me that if we needed someplace safe to turn, even in the middle of the night, and we arrived and the gate was closed, their phone number was posted so we could call and let them open the gate. We were always welcome.
From that first day, Chelsea and I always felt a special bond with Marsha and Darryl. Early on, Darryl told us about reading The Good Life by Scott and Helen Nearing and taking their own personal "vow of poverty" to become a part of what we now know as the back-to-the-land movement. They talked about growing plants, wandering through the woods, raising chickens, building their beautiful home from scratch, the Brown's Crossing Craftsman Fair, creating a small business and welcoming people into their home, living simply, cooking well, and building community. After all of those early conversations, Chelsea and I would get in our car to drive back to our dorm or apartment and say, "That's what I want our life to be." We had found our own personal Helen and Scott Nearing, and they lived just twenty minutes away. Without meeting Marsha and Darryl, we would have never started farming. We also never would have moved back to middle Georgia.
When Chelsea and I got married in 2013, we asked Darryl to co-officiate our wedding. He told us he had been preparing a story since the day he met us. Even while we were standing there reciting our vows, we had no idea what Darryl was going to say. He calmly walked to the altar, handed us each a small pebble, then strode toward the microphone in the middle of the pecan orchard. In typical Darryl fashion, he began talking about the migration patterns of the sandhill crane. How we see them migrating south in late fall, and again going north in the spring; how they fly in a V-pattern; how cranes mate for life. Then, he finally got to the pebble. As they migrate, each night there is one sentinel crane who stays awake to guard against predators. The sentinel crane stands on one foot and tucks the other upward holding a small pebble. If he falls asleep, he drops the pebble, waking himself or another crane to keep watch over the group. He said that he and Marsha, as well as so many others in the crowd, were standing guard for us. They were our sentinel.
Later in the night, after we cut the rosemary cake Marsha had made for our wedding cake, we arrived at the hotel wiped out. As we begin to change out of our wedding attire, I found the pebble in my pocket and was struck by the metaphor Darryl offered us. The care, the protection, the safety, the love, the peace of a community that holds you tight. The peace we always felt at Olive Forge: like coming back to a home you never knew you were missing. For so many folks in middle Georgia for so many years, Darryl was our sentinel crane. He and Marsha have held tight to their pebble for many years, and in doing so have held tight to so many people who have felt welcome and safe and at home with them.
Now, we must be the sentinel for Marsha and the rest of the family and each other. It feels so shocking, so raw, so hard. It feels too hard. In the face of such grief and such sadness, how can you be anyone's sentinel? How did Darryl do it? He loved, and he loved, and he loved, and he never quit loving. He thought deeply, he acted gently, and he spoke deliberately. He was, above all, generous. I hope I can be, too.
Bobby + Chelsea
We grow tasty veggies, bake bread, host farm events, manage a farmers market, raise an energetic little munchkin, cook, restore this farm property, read books, and try to bring more good food and good things to middle Georgia!