The miracles began on April 11, 2014, an unremarkable day by most measures. The sky was partly cloudy, the temperature hovered near ten degrees Celsius (50 degrees F), and a light breeze wafted from the south-southwest. Unremarkable, did I say? You probably think it sounds downright boring.
But wait! It gets even more unremarkable. Watch me as I pick up a small sack of onion sets, two stakes, a length of marker twine, a 12-inch ruler, and a drag-stick, and trudge into my garden. I could be living the script for the movie, Groundhog Day, because I’ve done this so many times before. I’ve been growing vegetables since 1986.
As always, I string out the marker twine in the ever vain hope of planting a straight row, drag a shallow furrow along the line of the twine, and remove the twine. Then I take the ruler and inch along, rather I should say I foot along, the furrow, placing an onion set every four inches, moving the ruler after every twelve inches. Finally, I close the ground over the sets so they are barely covered.
Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Wait for it…
And wait for it, and wait for it. Two weeks pass, and every time I walk past the planting, I see only dirt.
On April 25, I’m on my way to the compost box when I glance at the garden. Suddenly, my head whips around and I freeze in mid-step. It has happened. A line of tiny green noses have pushed above ground. Dozens of miracles, all in a row.
Some people will argue that this happens every year. I place the sets, the onions grow. Others will say that a miracle must be an event outside the realm of nature or humankind. When I think about it, I’m never amazed when my chard seeds sprout or the pumpkin seedlings thrive. I expect the potatoes I plant to send up leaves, and I’m annoyed through and through by any slackers.
Yet, there is something remarkable about onion sets. I throw them into the cold, dank earth long before any respectable plant would do anything but shriek and die. Night temperatures plummet, dark clouds smother the sun, and rain inspires hypothermia, or drowning, or both. I observe all this and I am certain that I rushed the season, planted too early, and murdered the baby onions.
But no! Impossibly, amazingly, the onions survive. They grit their little onion teeth and take on the nasty conditions. And when they finally manage to reach gasping, green arms toward the light, they fill me with awe.