There is a lot to love about what we do. But it is some of the little routines that you might think would go unnoticed in the managed chaos of our existence that I love best. Here is one: the smell of Basil on a Saturday morning. Early every Saturday, I come bustling in the back door to the winery building into the office, which is situated next to Ravello’s pizza kitchen. And as soon as the door opens, I smell Basil. The whole place smells like it, actually. It is the best smell there is. In fact, I have a theory that Basil is what Life smells like, if Life has a smell.
It is the olfactory equivalent of where you are between two thoughts – not joy (that would probably smell like strawberries or lemons) and not sadness (that might smell like hay in the rain) – just the smell of wordless, thoughtless, nameless being. It is what inner peace smells like. My other theory, for what it is worth, is that if the Transcendent (or, if you prefer, Religion) had a smell, it would be Rosemary. It just has an ethereal, mystical quality which, for me, may be a result of it reminding me faintly of incense. Every Saturday morning I pass a little bush of it on our back patio and always run my hand through it gently as I go by. The incense surrounds me for just a few short steps down the path towards the winery.
Anyhow, as I pass through our little office on a given Saturday and turn the corner, there sits Dean from Ravello, alone at a small white table. His back is to the wood fire oven, in which a fire is glowing as it slowly builds up to pizza-cooking temperature. Just beyond Dean and the table, I can see the top half of the barn door open wide and the morning sun streaming in, rising just over the vineyard. There is a soft little breeze. On the table in front of Dean is a very, very large pile of fresh Basil. Dean is slightly bent over the table looking down through reading glasses at the shoot of Basil in his hand as he gently plucks each leaf off the shoot, one at a time, and places it a bowl. He looks tranquil, almost sleepy, and in no particular hurry. He has a radio quietly playing in the background. Dean looks up serenely, smiles and waves to me as I scurry past. The whole scene just makes me happy. The Basil follows me into the next room.
I think one of the things I love best about Basil on a Saturday morning is that it is the only time each week that it happens and then only for a fleeting moment. Usually by the time I make my way back to Ravello’s kitchen, all the Basil leaves have been plucked and the Basil smell has subsided and the quiet of that moment has been replaced by the bustle of preparation for the day’s pizza making. It is those quick moments that almost compel you to take notice before it is over to soon…
And yet all is not lost for me…for a few hours later, I will lead my Saturday tour group up to the Ravello barn door for a quick stop as we walk from the vineyard to the winery. From the outside looking in, I’ll knock and invite our guests to poke their heads in. The fire will be burning hot in the oven and there will be a pizza or two crisping and simmering on the oven’s brick floor. And from the stainless steel chimney high above us where we are standing will drift light whispers of pizza-flavored smoke that, if the breeze is blowing just right, might make it all the way to the house and the outdoor patio where I will shortly be sitting with a glass of wine….