Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Pre-dawn catkin pinching
As I was walking home yesterday I spotted a lovely tree covered in catkins and deliriously happy bees.
I lusted mightily for a little branch to take home to draw (the catkins were too far overhead to manage them well in situ), and was considering the perfect stem when I noticed a young girl raking leaves in the yard. We smiled at each other and I immediately felt guilty. I mumbled something inane about happy bees, and slunk away with what I hoped resembled only passing interest. Truth was, I was a woman obsessed. I wanted those catkins.
I walked past again in the early evening, but it was still broad daylight and all the windows of the house had their curtains flung wide.
They're on to me. I know it. They can see my black, tree-envying, catkin-nicking heart.
The problem is that, in addition to being an envious twig-desirer, I am also a law-abiding, property-respecting, tree-loving wimp. People have been known to cart off entire gardens without permission (just ask Snail). Me, I can't summon the courage to pinch 3 inches of twig dangling over the sidewalk.
When I woke this morning it was still dark. Damp. Cloudy. And the theme from "Mission: Impossible" was running through my head. By the glow of the computer monitor I pulled navy blue sweats over my pajamas, stuffed the kitchen shears into my pocket, and eased into the pre-dawn grey.
Faint smell of skunk musk, damp earth. Squeak of my sneakers across the wet deck. I practiced my technique on a tree at the edge of my own yard: Reach for the closest branch, snip! and into the pocket. Smooth. I headed for the target, five blocks away.
At this hour most houses in my neighborhood still slumber, although in a few the muted yellow glow behind curtains signals morning routines underway. I turn the corner.
Wouldn't you know it? The house is the only one in five blocks with a porch light blazing and all the interior lights on. But I am not to be deterred. I summon my best "casual" demeanor and reach up for the nearest branch, bracing for floodlights, sirens, and a shout from the house. I pull a twig toward me slowly, hoping anyone glancing out a window will believe I just happened to notice tree buds in the dark. Reluctant to reach for the kitchen shears, (it seems so premeditated now) I gently pinch the little cluster of catkins into my palm. I hesitate another moment in a continued attempt to look casual, then turn towards home and paintbrushes. I'm halfway there before I remember to breathe.
(I think it's safe to cross "life of crime" off my list of potential career moves.)