Today was the day for planting out the onions.
I think onions must be the most painstaking crop we grow. We started them in February in south-facing windows that looked out on to an expanse of frozen whiteness. We watched their little green dinosaur necks crane out of the soil, watered them, gave them haircuts, watched them grow some more and gave them haircuts again. And today we teased them apart and pushed them into soft warm soil, four inches apart, in six one hundred foot rows. It is the first long day in the garden. The body humps along, the mind wanders. I listened to some excellent podcasts: The Verdict of Sir John A. MacDonald (actionable wrongdoing by the standards of a civil trial, but not guilty to the standard of crimes against humanity in his role in the reign of terror in the Red River Settlement and the rations policy that sickened and starved to death hundreds of First Nations people on the prairies) "Is Liberalism Doomed? (in a serious identity crisis at any rate, judging by the range of representations made by the panelists). When I took a break from my iPhone, I noticed the songs of the returning birds. There was a small war among some robins that skirmished through the onion patch with great energy. But mostly, decorum was observed and the contests for territory conducted with such gentility that it hardly seems a contest at all, but the disciplined coordination of a vast community setting up house to raise their kin according to a Rule of Life that surpasses St. Benedict's in its elegance and humble submission to the Creator's word. The birds compete and coexist beautifully.
Beyond the birdsong this afternoon, and the hooting of the owl now as evening settles in, is the steady rumble of large tractors. Every spring I have this thought as I inch along with my handful of onion seedlings, and they plant an acre in less time than I can plant one hundred linear feet: how are they and I living in the same world? I will sell my onions for a dollar a piece at the farmers' market. They will measure their success or failure by tonnage and millions.
I am on my way out of this game. This will likely be my last season as a commercial market gardener. I have developed too many other foolish passions that I pursue for love and not for money. But for today, I am thankful for the day spent on the soil, for the passing of little living things through my hands and into the ground, for life in a world that can be made sense of only through the eyes of love.
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