Someone was in the yard this morning. I woke to Trixie pacing alertly on the bed, leaning toward the window. Bright sun streamed through the curtains for the first time in days. The storm had passed. I could make out a gray-haired visage just past the front steps. She bent down and yanked an entire echeveria plant up by the roots, put it in her satchel, then calmly walked away.
This woman, which might explain why she has such a terrific potted garden in her front yard.
I reached for my shoes to chase her down, but then hesitated. What would I say to her? I wasn’t sure, having seen her wander our streets for years, how compos mentis she was. If plucking plants from neighboring yards and gathering them to her bosom gave an old woman happiness and purpose, who was I to deny the widow’s mite?
On the other hand, she snatched the whole plant with a seasoned hand. Remorseless! And I just planted that echeveria, for which I paid cash. This isn’t exactly picking fruit off the ground, or even from a branch overhanging the sidewalk. This was covetous.
There is a complicating matter. I am not exactly an innocent myself. There are succulents in my yard, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, which were once upon a time spilling over the curb into the street in front of someone else’s house, and if a few branches just happened to snap off at the ends and fall into my pocket only to be repotted elsewhere, was that so wrong? In my defense, I argue I was merely pruning, doing what the owner would have done for himself anyway, and look how much thicker it grows back.
Then again, if it was so harmless, why not just knock on the door and ask? Why be shady? Why place oneself on the road east of Eden?
Because there is a primal pleasure in picking a flower or a piece of fruit on the sly. This is how we are made.
Perhaps I summoned the Echeveria Thief into our yard like Jehovah’s Curse. If so, I offer our tangerine tree to the commons in recompense. Anything you can reach from the sidewalk is fair game, with our blessings. We’ll never manage to eat all of them ourselves.