My son and I helped our friend Dennis plant onions. In our minimalist technique, planting onions involved unzipping a long furrow with a rusted and nostalgic hand plow.
We then crawled down the row laying the onion starts in the furrows and covered them with a thin layer of crumbly earth. I helped Dennis start his onions in trays in the greenhouse back in January, and as we planted, my son and I gently tugged squares of onions up from the trays, enmeshed together like sod, and tapped the dirt free of the roots to separate out the individual starts.
After we planted the rows, we laid a black drip tape along their length and gently turned on the tap. The water began its slow penetration and stained the soil cocoa brown.
But I don’t know. Planting onions with Dennis and my son didn’t feel like something that needed to become an analogy for something supposedly deeper. This afternoon of planting felt good in and of itself, something that we do for one another, something binding together work and food and friendship. And planting those onions gave me a crick between my shoulder blades that spidered away all my metaphors. So much for spiritualizing the moment.
There we were, human beings kneeling in the Maker’s living dust–the dust to which we will return–beneath the jewel-blue wideness of the sky and surrounded by birdsong praise, planting onions.
That seemed like enough.