We leave our desks at 6pm and drive to Caretaker Farm. It's a weekday evening, so the farm is quiet, although we pass one member in the flower garden and another walking back up from the fields. The air is clear and cool and the mountains around us are darkening. Soon only their tops are tipped with angled golden light.
This weekend was first frost, and the tops of all the basil plants
are browned from cold. But the lower leaves are still green, still good. We
walk the length of the field row, alongside the high sunflowers
whose drooping heads form a gauntlet, whacking me in the shoulder and breast as we pass.
We settle in to pick. It's time to pull the plants up by the roots, shaking clods of rich earth free. We upend them and strip the inedible leaves onto the ground, the good ones into our black plastic garbage bag. My hands get cold, and dirty, and fragrant from torn basil.
Low light on the fields. Though some rows still burst with produce, others have been ploughed under, seeded with soft green winter rye. It's counterintuitive how it sprouts so verdant when everything else is going to seed. We talk quietly about the day we've each had, the work we're each doing. Plans for gathering friends.
When we get home we whirl the leaves in our salad spinner. We peel garlic, and drip dark green olive oil over the whir of the Cuisinart blades. We freeze two half-pint containers and an ice-cube tray full of pesto, already darkening from exposure to air. We dine on penne, tossed with what I imagine is the last fresh pesto of the year.
I wish I could have brought all of you with me to breathe this air -- to be washed by this light -- to feel the leaves yield to the pinch of a thumbnail, releasing themselves into our care.
Reb Arthur has taught that the Hebrew word for "year," שנה (shanah), can also be translated as "cycle." 5768: a new year, a new cycle, a new turn of the wheel. The new year begins with the last harvesting of the old. So many conversations, embraces, benedictions: I salt them away in my memory, my journals, my blog, to sustain me into the days to come.