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Robin Hood.


Many years ago, maybe ten or so, I opened my blinds to find an older man in the front yard. This in itself was not unusual, as we often find men in our yard taking a nap in the hammock or peeing on a tree. What was striking about this man was that he did not stick to the periphery of the yard in the shade of the firs. Instead, he had boldly traipsed the invisible demarcation line of the yard and was shoveling into the flower bed directly outside the window in which I spied him. He was a giant hulk of a man, easily over six feet and well into his 70s, huffing and puffing as he plowed the hard soil of the unloved bed. I watched him for a few minutes wondering if he was lost or simply digging to the other side of earth. He obviously wasn't leaving any time soon, so I abandoned my spy perch and joined him in the front yard. 

"Hey there. Whatcha up to?" Look at me. So casual. It's normal to have this type of unsolicited activity, right? 

He shook his head, a sprinkler of sweat flinging every which way. Silence. He held the handle of the shovel, boot depressed the shovel head still deeper into the ground. I waited. He grunted. We stood locked into our stubborn positions for several more minutes. And then finally he barked, "You need the other one."

The other one? Shit. I may have a new delusional friend on my hands. Deep breath. 

"Other one?" 

"Yeah, the male. You can't have flowers without the male." Spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth as the words left in anger. I hadn't realized my plant had been deprived of sexy time. 


And then I saw it. To his right was a heap of root and stalk that vaguely matched the plant already growing in my sad planter. Once the hole was big enough, he jammed the new plant heap in and then knelt down on his hands and knees to gently cover it with the questionable, nutrient depleted soil. He pointed to the water spigot, my cue to do something productive. Once I added water to the new addition, his anger cooled and he explained that the female plant needs to be cross-pollinated. It had been bothering him for days to see her alone, so he found her a mate. And by "found" he had ripped up a plant from another garden in the neighborhood, liberating it for the powers of good. Over the course of the next several weeks, I would find "new" plants sprinkled all over my yard---raspberries, ferns, succulents, roses, more of the weird wunderplant that sparked his original mission. He scoured the neighborhood gardens reducing abundance from one location and providing its wealth to another. I don't know how many of us enjoyed the fruits of his thievery, but I suspect his Robin Hood efforts were widespread. And then one day, he and his deliveries were simply gone without explanation.

Much later, his daughter would confirm my suspicions. These manic episodes, although not exactly easy to live through on her end three blocks away, were incredibly fruitful to the lushness of our neighborhood. (She was already beyond the worry stage and onto the "this is painful, but I get it" stage that comes with the manic ride. An important observation I would stash away for later use). 


"My life is precious," my text is offered in protest, as I feel I am being erased. This is mid conversation about the expectations and "exalted" status of caregiving. Martyrdom is not holy or interesting to me.

"Yes, you are precious." she texts in return. 


But of course, yes. 

But no. 

I mean something else. But her response confirms my belief. Only I am responsible for the quality of my life. 


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?"

Mary Olivered, again. Third time this week. 

The question, which comes at the end of Poem 133: The Summer Day, is often taken out of context. Understandably, because it's a beautiful prompt. However, it's the lines that come before that are more interesting to me. 

"I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?"


I think about our plant Robin Hood now as I attempt to pull the grassy intruders surrounding his initial offering. My good friend, Joyce, who lovingly took care of our yard last summer had wisely instructed me to rake all our fallen leaves into the bed, creating a cover that might bring life back to the soil. My fingers claw at the earth. Still undernourished in some parts, but overall, it might be making a comeback. I am optimistic. Once the clumps of anemic grass are uprooted, I stab the rake into the dry leaves. Their brittle surfaces slice and dice into red and brown confetti. Look at me! I am making this bed better! The satisfaction runs deep as my rake creates a party. 

Amidst the leafy confetti, an additional flutter becomes apparent. Then another. Then another. And another. 

A jewel-toned army emerges. 

They are not butterflies, the supermodel of the winged insect world. This is not a story of unearthing spectacular Ariana Grande Disney-fied beauty.  

These specimens are different. Hardy. Of the earth and not of dreams.

Moths. Some would consider them lowly. They make sense to me. 

Mottled with gold and copper. And now of the sky and not the earth. 

Ask the question. Do it. 

What will I do? 

With this one precious life? 

Oh Mary Oliver. 

This is it. This is it. This is it. 

1 Comment

Jun 27

Beautiful. This is it. This is it. This is it. ❤️

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