It's a small domestic adventure to go out at night to pick a few greens for the soup. The cats trail along companionably, as they always do whenever I show enough good sense to spend some time in the yard -- and in the dark to boot, an unexpected bonus! They are ready for whatever comes. The flashlight beam darkens the night around it, and the plants that are spotlighted look strange and alien -- grey-green, contorted.
I snip some leaves -- no more than three or four -- from the sturdy little kale plant that is in its second winter. It's the only survivor of a group of seedlings set out in the fall of 2006; now it's crowded into the corner of a bed, towered over by tall, bolting arugula. Last summer, a kale-loving, non-gardening friend was given the go-ahead to pick some leaves -- not knowing the protocol she cropped it to a nub. I thought it was a goner; but here it is, a greyish bouquet of curly fronds, crisp and upstanding in the cold air.
A few snips from the chard (not too many; we've been hitting it hard lately and we do know the protocol), a few more from the parsley, and back I go to the house. The cats dart ahead and sit down directly in my path. What's your rush? they imply; the night is young.