On harvesting basil, just before Shabbat
September 16, 2011
This afternoon I leave work early and head for Caretaker Farm. There's supposed to be a frost tonight; we've been invited to come and uproot the basil plants before the frost blackens them. I kneel in the herb garden, uproot half a dozen plants, twist the woody stems until I can free their root balls and leave them there on the soft earth.
I bring home three grocery-store bags filled with basil plants: stems and leaves and bits of soil. It feels like the end of a season, a hinge, a turning-point into something new. The moon of Elul is waning. Selichot is a week from tomorrow. Change is coming.
"I wrote about this once before," I think, as I am carrying the plants inside, so when I deposit them in the kitchen, I pause to search for the post. Yes: Basil harvest -- September 16, 2007 -- four years ago, give or take a day or two. I remember that evening of picking late basil with Ethan, down in the fields as the last light lingered over the mountaintops.
Each year the same events unfold, but something in us is different. So much has changed since that 2007 post about picking basil. I couldn't have imagined then the bright, willful, rambunctious son I have now. I couldn't have imagined then that I would now be serving this community as its rabbi. And yet so much is unchanging: the mountains and the sky, the scent of the herbs, the vastness of the heavens, the prayer of the heart.