I bought my first small pots of herbs yesterday: Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage and Basil.
It gave me great pleasure to do so. I was on my noon hour, which is usually non-existent or much less than an hour, when my soul needed sustenance.
Bringing the plants up to my nose, I breathed deeply and fully. Is there any sweeter aroma than the first herbs of the season?
I love the soapy aroma of cilantro and the licorice-like flavor of basil. Sage has a calming affect on me and rosemary is probably my favorite of all.
Even before I knew the scents and names of herbs, I knew they were magical. I am not referring to their medicinal or even mystical properties, mind you, but to something I saw Grandma Annie do when I was about eight years old.
Someone had given her a bunch of parsley, which she tied and hung to dry in her back kitchen.
I loved that room, the big red cabinet, the battered old table, the ancient treadle sewing machine and the pleasant jumble of pots and pans and crocks and cheese boxes. Down a short hall from the warm kitchen, it was a cool place for just-from-the-oven pies and cookies.
The wallpaper, probably from around 1920, was a yellowed cream with green and red flowers. The plaster underneath it was crumbling and I have since come to believe this was the original wing of the old house, very possibly dating from 1863.
It was always a little mysterious, shut away as it was from the daily traffic of the old house in Frenchtown.
I knew somehow that the drying herbs imbued it with some sort of magic. They remained hanging from a nail for months, and were eventually joined by other herbs.
Annie used the room mostly for storage, only spending time there when she sewed, which she did with fierce concentration. This she did in August, pumping her foot to the rhythm of crickets and cicadas.
But I knew the room was magic, and I often lingered there. It seemed to calm me, to soothe me in some way I could not grasp as a child.
Today I have my own back room, with a large computer desk, an old cabinet and some book shelves. It is a catch all for pots and pans and cheese boxes and crocks. When we were doing major work on the front part of the house, living out of town and commuting on weekends, this was the room we lived in at the end of the day. It is my favorite place in late summer, when the crickets are singing.