High Theft

This is my mother-in-law. She is a thief.

I am her accomplice.

Prior to her ten-day visit, I plucked–and really, pruned, they should thank me–bits of blooms from the neighborhood. I did this out on walks. N would shake his head in shame and pretend not to notice. Hide behind an azalea bush.

But his mother. OH! His mother! She is a voracious bloom thief and plucked every shade of lilac, both kinds of heather, several bleeding hearts, and god knows what when I wasn’t home. Between the two of us, the house looked like a nursery.

I had planned on taking a quick walk this evening to capture that spring slant of seven o’clock sun. But the clouds. They have the final say around these parts. Instead, I found myself eyeing all that would make a good everyday bouquet: flowering kale, lilac, wisteria, golden chain tree branches. Is it wrong to get as excited over my neighbors’ yards as I do mine? I promise to not pluck their first and only iris.

Or the first peach-fuzzed poppy head.

In exchange for the fruits of their labor, they can have some of mine:

Will these guys make it all the way to fall? Our first pear crop from our 5-way pear tree wedding gift. Plenty to go around the block.

And I might be able to spare one or two of these guys:

I know Valerie Easton’s subtitle is Bouquets From Your Garden, but no one household can use all that wisteria. Maybe I’ll just leave a mason jar bouquet on each porch from whose yard I pluck. How can you shake a finger at a girl delivering spring in a jelly jar?

Do It for Betty

Loot from Betty

The neighborhood cats and I set out at the same time for an evening prowl.

I didn’t want to go. In fact, I was half-way through a completely different blog post when I realized that I had to move my booty, lest it be glued to the sofa for the next 30 years. Begrudgingly, I traipsed outside.

The sun was giving way to gravity and a whiff of forest fire scented the air. I cruised up and down alleys, peered into gardens, admired leaning sunflowers, pompomed zinnias, the fact that even the best looking squashes had powdery mildew. I found another secret patch of wild blackberries and a plum tree. My old haunt called me, so I crossed Division Street and wandered over to my favorite gardens by my little house of yesteryear.

A man reshingled his garage while his trusty dog watched on. Two kittens–a grey and a black–crouched in the gutter, stalking the bugs of twilight. A garden sign announced: “In Bloom’s Color Winner” amidst explosions of hydrangeas and fuchsias.  Another house boasted royal purple dahlias big as a dinner plate.

I saw an older woman cross behind the house. “Your garden is beautiful,” I called out, pointing to the spiky blossoms.

Her name is Betty, and the little guy at her feet, Mr. Chips. His girlfriend lives next door and when he goes to visit her, all Betty sees is his “hiney wiggle under the fence.” She’s lived on the corner for twenty-nine years and she has friends who retired from Sedro Woolley High School and they’re traveling the world now, and she works to raise money for cancer awareness, and all the while, she’s piling these huge dahlias in my hands–a bouquet for your kitchen table, she’s saying–and her gold capped teeth are flashing and I can’t believe she’s not exhausted after weeding all day in the sun. “Someone must have taken the big yellow guy,” she ponders out loud, “But that’s okay, so long as it’s bringing a smile to someone’s face. I garden for the neighborhood, and no one thinks twice about seeing folks in my yard. You bring your scissors by next week and get some asters,” and next thing I know there are two yellow zucchini, long as my forearm, piled in my open hand.

I walked home with a grin on my face and produce in my arms. I stopped to pet the kittens and watched the last glow of light leave the sky. Yes, I did walk through a few gossamer spider webs, and no, I did not get my heart rate up high enough to make up for the pile of brownies I had eaten earlier in the day.

But the next time I lack any motivation, say…tomorrow, I’m going to conjure Betty’s gold-toothed smile. And I’m going to put on my exercise clothes and head outside. Because you never know what awaits.