Where Rosemary Flourished, the Woman Ruled*

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

I cut the rosemary this morning, the lack of love and attention these past few weeks plainly written in its leggy tendrils, reaching too far for the sun, like arms longing for something to hug.

Rosemary, the herb of remembrance.

What do I remember when the piney, resinous odor of rosemary sticks to my fingers and leaves a lingering perfume on everything I touch?

I remember Morocco, where I lived in a very modern house, its kitchen festooned with orange and black tiles, to me a kaleidoscope of color like perpetual Halloween.

Every time I walked to the front gate, its rusted hinges squeaking like tiny mice hidden in hollow walls, the piney smell of rosemary enveloped me. Thick, bristly and rigidly trimmed in a way that reminded me of photos of my crew-cutted father, this rosemary grew along the sidewalk, silent as sentinels. My long skirts always brushed against the tiny tongue-like leaves. And so the scent of home followed me as I meandered through the labyrinth of Rabat’s open-air market where I bought fresh red meat and just-caught wide-eyed fish and ripe juicy melons for my endless kitchen experiments.

Rosemary, the herb of remembrance.

I remember grilled pork loin studded with garlic and strewn with broken rosemary branches, the taste of earth and smoke mingling with the lavender-scented summer air of southern France, the drops of red wine on my lips and the rough linen napkins, white as the pigeons that bobbled at my feet. The sound of dogs barking rang in my ears, just as church bells tolled for Compline in the nearby monastery.

Rosemary, the herb of remembrance.

Yes. I remember this. And more.

Photo credit: C. Bertelsen

*Traditional English saying. Medieval couples planted rosemary near the entrance to their houses. So prevalent was this belief that men often uprooted the flourishing bushes lest anyone think they were hen-pecked and dominated by their wives!

© 2012 C. Bertelsen

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  1. Nancy Carter Crump

    Rosemary soaked and laid on the grill — rosemary-and olive oil-marinated chicken breasts atop — so good. It speaks of the earth to me.

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