Sunrise – when the sun first crests the horizon
Civil twilight – when the sun is no more than 6 degrees below the horizon and the light allows you to be able to carry on ordinary outdoor activity
Nautical twilight – when the sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon and the outline of objects and the horizon might be visible without other sources of light
Astronomical twilight – when the sun is 12 – 18 degrees below the horizon and contributes no light to the sky before this moment
When I was ten I planted my first garden. All by myself. Because I loved my family. It worked like this. I used an long-handled shovel and pried up all of the sod in an unused portion of my parent’s property. I crumbled all of the dirt off of each spade-full by hand. I ground the underlying loam into the same. And I raked away all debris first with a steel rake and then a leaf rake. It was for food for my family. I seeded that garden and watered and fertilized it with composted manure. It grew vegetables abundantly. Carrots. Lettuce. Beans. Tomatoes. Sunflowers. Radishes. And it was beautiful.
It was the first time that I actually produced something. The first time my love made a substantial-physical impact on the lives of others.
Until the time I left home I visited with any other gardeners whom I could. Always learning. Always enquiring. Because at the root of it all. Was love. For me at least.
I thought of him the other morning. Night really. A couple of hours to go before astronomical twilight. I awoke. Got up. No sense in just lying there. Wilbur. Web we called him. The first man to pay me for farm labour. My first day there he said, Come with me. And he put me in the driver’s seat of an old Dodge pickup truck and we jerked back and forth around the farmyard as I tried to figure out how to use a clutch and standard transmission. And then he got out and said, There, now take her for a drive…see you in a bit. And he walked away. And with my heart in my throat I drove out onto the road and I was off! And a day or two later he said, Come with me. And we went to his shop and he said, Watch me, and I did, through a welding lens, as he explained what he was doing and why. And then he put a welding helmet on my head and leather gloves on my hands and handed me a welding rod and said, Here, weld these two pieces of steel together. And so I did. It was ugly. It was a start.
I have always wanted to grow food for other people. Not for money. But for love. And even as a child. And then as an adolescent. It was very clear to me that skills were needed to do this. And so I set off to get my act together. Even going to university to study agriculture. That was just a logical next step, like learning to drive a stick shift or welding. Nor was the outcome the real goal. But the desire to grow food and share it was the real grail. Because sometimes you will fail. Your best efforts amount to bare vines. But love survives.
A man told me that he spent $85,000 this year on fertilizer alone. He farms five quarter sections. He is small bananas these days. In him personalism is not fully extinguished. The largest farm in this region farms 160 quarter sections. That’s forty, one mile square parcels of land. Guys like that never talk about love. Industrial agriculture is without a soul.
Me? I just grow food for others out of love and give it away. And now my old truck – a stick shift – needs a new bed. I don’t need a new truck. Not needing a new truck means that I do not need to squander my life working for people without souls. I just need a new bed. And I have the skills to do that. And love.
Any more I do not sleep more than a few hours at night. So Sunday I was up turning on the lights. My $50 Forney arc welder humming. Sticking steel together. Just like in the beginning. Two pieces at a time. And they are strong, beautiful welds. They are not perfect. I am not a professional welder. But they are good enough that they will allow me to drive this truck. To grow food. To love for a little bit longer. A little bit more. And then I shut down the welder and showered and went off and played liturgy at Mass. And came back. And finished with it all at 9 p.m.. And went back to bed. And it was a great day.
You see. Everything that increases love. Increases me.
Not missing the opportunity. To. Love.