Strong Back, Soft Front, Many Vegetables

Friday, June 12, 2020


If you're only here for the vegetables, here's your handy table. If you want to take a deep dive with me, read on!

What's available: Head lettuce, pak choi, turnips, radishes, kale, spinach, asian mustards, tat soil, arugula, cilantro, dill, and snow peas
Where you can get it: The Port Angeles Farmers Market at the transit center, 10-1 Saturday
What's on deck: ZUCCHINI!

I’m writing this email from the gym. It’s 7:50 on Friday night. How to have fun on a Friday night, right? Since moving to Port Angeles in October I’ve actually spent many Friday nights at the gym. It feels like I’m doing something, and that feels right because there is a strange expectation to do something on Friday nights. If you’re wondering, I’m on the bike. A machine I never use, but I had to write this email, so this is me killing two birds with one stone. And that is a phrase that I truly dislike.

If you’re wondering about the farm and not what I do on Friday nights, well it’s beautiful and bountiful in the way that only gentle rains, warm(ish) nights, overcast mornings, and afternoon sun can bring. Spring (however late it comes) on the Olympic Peninsula seems to be made for vegetables.

But oddly enough, I feel like I’m completely missing all the beauty and the bounty. I don’t know where you are at right now, emotionally, politically, and as a citizen of the US, but I want to talk humbly for a moment about what I’ve been thinking lately. Which is just so much. Does anyone else feel like their minds are reeling and their emotions fluctuate between rage, sadness, fear with sudden bursts of joy and hope? Is this what revolution feels like on an emotional level?

My part time nanny job started again last week. Three days a week I nanny, three days a week I farm. Everyday of the week for the past two weeks I have been so deeply in my own head that strange things have been happening. I left the salt and pepper on a bookshelf in the living room on Tuesday night and couldn’t find them for 24 hours. On Wednesday I put the peanut butter in the fridge. Couldn’t find that for 24 hours either. The pigs ran out of water twice. I forgot to feed them until 3pm the other day. I forgot to feed myself that day too. My mind is elsewhere entirely. It is consumed by the news, podcasts, books, movies, conversations, social media feeds. All of it centered on racial justice and human rights and how they have been continuously taken and in turn fought for. Centered on black lives matter as a movement and a statement of truth. Hidden Penny Farm stands in support of Black Lives Matter, racial equality, the continuing fight for a country free of oppression, and the work for greater self awareness and honesty as individuals and as a nation.

Andy and I don’t talk about much else these days. We’re ideas people. He tends towards rational, I, emotional. We teach each other our ways. Our conversations are heated. We push each other to think and I am so grateful for him. Last night we came to a new place, sort of a foundation we agreed on that feels good. It feels like after all the details reeling about in my mind, I’ve found a framework from which to build my action. I’m borrowing a concept that I originally heard from Brené Brown on the podcast On Being. The idea is to have a “strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

Here’s a quote:

“Yeah, I think that, to me — I first heard the saying, “Strong back, soft front” from Joan Halifax, who’s a Buddhist teacher. And it spoke to me at the time, and I thought, I don’t know what that is, but it sounds, of course, paradoxical, and I don’t like it, because it sounds hard. I’d rather have a strong front and a strong back and a strong everything. Our deepest human need is to be seen by other people — to really be seen and known by someone else. And if we’re so armored up, and we walk through the world with an armored front, we can’t be seen. And so I think, when you go back to speaking truth to BS and being civil, it requires that strong back, but it requires that soft front that — is it — OK, am I crazy, or do I remember reading in your book something that said, “One of the greatest acts of courage is to be vulnerable with someone with whom we disagree”?

She goes on to say: “I think one of the greatest casualties of trauma is the loss of the ability to be vulnerable. And so when we define trauma as oppression, sexism, racism, I have no choice but to leave my house with my armor on and carry the 20 tons of that through my day, no matter how crippling it is, no matter how heavy it is, because I am not physically safe in a world — or, this environment.”

The podcast came out in February, 2018 and yet when I go back and read the transcript (yes, I’m still pedaling away on this bike) it feels so pertinent today. It feels like the exact reminder I needed to hear.

I’ve been so angry lately and also questioning a lot of my beliefs. My back has been soft and my front has been strong, I’ve had it all backward.

I’m remembering now to be grounded in my principles and my truths, to be open and vulnerable to my own feelings as well as those of others, and to have a heart that is not afraid of the wilderness, the unknown and scary places that we exist in and must move towards.

If you haven’t listened to the episode I highly recommend it. It has reminded me of a foundation I had forgotten about, and has helped me regain my balance. Here’s the link:

I’d also like to say that if you want to talk further about any of the content of this email, or anything else, I invite that conversation with my newfound strong back, soft front.

As for the vegetables, they are delicious, nutritious, fresh, and making this corner of the planet the tiniest bit better.

All of the best from our farm,