A vendor reflects on the ritual and
meaning of a visit to the weekly market
By Monica Doshi
Photography by Clay Williams
Every Sunday from summer solstice to Thanksgiving, I work at the Denville Farmers’ Market. I rise at 6am regardless of how hot or cold or bright or dark it may be.
As I make my cup of coffee, I notice that even the birds are still asleep—even they know it’s the weekend. There is a peaceful solitude as I go about my routine of getting dressed, eating breakfast and loading boxes into my car.
Everything is still. By seven, I’m on my way, and even though the market is barely two miles away, I’m mindful of everything happening and not happening around me.
The twirl of a falling leaf. A red-eye jet overhead. The hum of cicadas. The sky always appears uniquely beautiful at this hour. Because maybe, for just a moment, I’m paying attention.
I drive to my assigned spot and begin unloading boxes from my car like a kid in school unpacking books from a backpack into a cubby. The market is a home away from home. As vendors start to gather and begin pitching their canopies, the deserted parking lot blooms into a piazza. There is a rhythmic heartbeat in the square as tables snap open, truck hatches fly up and sandwich boards click into place.
And then it happens: The smells waft toward me, the comforting smell of bread from my left, the salty brine of pickles to my front, and the sweet, heavy aroma of honey from my right. The rich sharpness of artisan cheeses mingles with the fragrant contents of my own cobalt bottles. Neatly arranged seasonal fruits, heirloom vegetables and wild flowers create a vibrantly colored palette. Colossal coolers house local eggs and farm-raised meats. My body sings with gratitude beholding all the healthy options.
As vendors start to gather and begin pitching
their canopies, the deserted parking lot blooms
into a piazza. There is a rhythmic heartbeat in the
square as tables snap open, truck hatches
fly up and sandwich boards click into place.
Adults and children gather at this central agora to connect. Even dogs sniff and size one another up, tangling leashes and pet owners. Almost everyone arrives with reusable bags tucked under an arm and leaves with the bags groaning with exertion as produce spills over in abundance. Traffic from the main road rushes by, but here, at the market, life slows. People break bread and drink fresh-pressed juice together at café tables.
There is an ebb and flow of people as church, yoga classes and morning engagements finish. The market’s pulse beats as paper bags whip open, guitar chords strum and coins clink. In the heat of summer, thermals rise from the pavement, turning shaded canopies into Dutch ovens where dedicated vendors remain in service to their neighborhood.
Working at the market and interacting with the community every week helps to root me. My deep yearning to be connected has made me part of a tribe. In my 20s, I traveled all over the world. From the foothills of Peru to the massive plains of Kenya to the winding Great Wall of China and to the most remote villages in India, I searched but never found what I was looking for. Here, wedged between bread and honey, in this community hamlet of Denville, I’ve found home. n
Monica Doshi, proprietor of Cobalt Clinical Aromatherapy, LLC, has lived in Denville for the past 11 years. She is a licensed massage therapist and a certified clinical aromatherapist.
Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published in The Citizen newspaper