I have detected a thief in the garden. At first it was merely a suspicion combined with a generous amount of honest carefree forgetfulness. Did I have another few ears of corn on those plants? Was there another watermelon in that patch? I must have miscounted the amount of butternut squash.
Then I began to see empty patches where a watermelon had once lain. From the beginning I knew this was no squirrel or other standard variety furry garden bandit. Nor had I discovered a vegetable vanishing virus, although the thought crossed my mind. I just couldn’t conceive of an entire zucchini dissolving into mush without a trace in one day.
No, I have a human thief, rather educated as to the ripeness of things, and quite stealthy except for the small yet distinctly muddy trampled area their footprints leave behind. This human cuts with a knife and was slowly snatching away my delightfully colorful sugar pumpkins until I feared I would have none at all. I had to bring them all in, the corn, the pumpkins, the butternut, the not quite ripe watermelon.
I have been giving food away this year, a basket of lettuce to the food bank, to the neighbors, to people walking by, I even put a sign out for a day for free organic lettuce (with only 1 taker as far as I could tell). We gave away cucumbers and beets, daikon and tomatoes, and much more. But I knew I was donating these things, gifting them to friends and neighbors in need. I gave away what I had to give, what was ready, what was abundant, what was unmanageably plentiful.
So why do I feel so bothered and angry about a few missing pieces of produce in this prolific year? Why do I want to keep watch at night and set trip wires and sling shot traps of rotten tomatoes? Do I have that much attachment to my pumpkins? Am I struggling with the act of giving to those who may be questionably deserving?
A messier thief would have just been a nuisance. A drunken tromp over the zucchini could have been forgiven. A thief connoisseur, however, has me caught up in their web of treachery and I am plotting rows of cellophane covered paint, cayenne pepper bombs and even layers of thistle barbed diversions. I check my traps often. I anticipate the yelp of revelation as the thief becomes caught in my ambush. I wait no longer thief. I will not sit quietly as you steal my precious produce.
I don’t care who the thief is. I don’t care much about the watermelon. I probably have enough pumpkin and even butternut squash, although a few more would help through the winter. I reason that perhaps it is my larger security that is in question, and most of all, my victim hood. I don’t want to be the prey of anyone. An easy target for garden thievery might make me an easy target for a home break in and my idleness may communicate a vulnerability I do not wish to have broadcast. I don’t really relish the idea of a thistle stung and limping thief covered in rotting tomato flesh, but I do want to be able to stop looking over my shoulder to count my blessings.