Friday, May 10, 2002

A Basil Reader

I planted my garden today. That’s the grave-sized garden that we who live in this hotel-sized, up-scale senior warehouse are allotted if we sign up before they’re all taken. (The only reason I I live here because I take care of my 86-year old mother, who lives across the hall from me. I try not to dwell on where I dwell.)

I planted my garden today, and that means that now I have an excuse to dig in dirt, sweat in sun, smell growing things -- parsley, that, having weathered the winter, already has claimed its place at the center of things – new lavender buds poking through old growth – melissa (lemon balm) that I plant in honor of my daughter – the usual rosemary, sage, and thyme – and most of all basil. Lots of basil. Basil for pesto. Basil for tomato sauces. Basil for cold chicken and pasta salad. Basil for herbed vinegar. Mostly basil. And tomatoes. Beef steak tomatoes to eat with the basil, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil.

I planted my garden today. It’s mostly basil. According to a website called Horsetail Heaven, In Italy, a pot of basil placed on a balcony signaled that a woman was ready to receive suitors…. In India holy basil is considered a sacred herb and at one time was used to protect the dead from evil. It is still found growing around temples ….Early Greeks and Romans believed that a good basil crop would only develop if the gardener shouted and cursed while sowing the seeds.

I neither sowed nor cursed; I went to the local greenhouse and bought a dozen basil plants. And six beefsteak tomato plants. That pretty much takes up most of a grave-sized garden.

Except for Pan (and a pink calla lily bulb that a friend of mine gave me). An infant Pan has reigned over my basil-laden herb gardens for the past five years, which seems appropriate, given his connections to the Mediterranean region from which basil mythology springs. Each year, I plant him to watch over my grave-sized garden. Perhaps, one day, someone will think to plant him on my garden-sized grave. Along with basil. Lots of basil. And maybe a pink calla lily.