I am generally a respecter of private property, not least in my own neighborhood. Every year, walking, I pass thousands and thousands of houses, and it is a rare thing indeed for me to step a single inch off the public sidewalk. Perhaps I will shyly do it a couple times in the spring with my wife to smell a magnolia or lilac or two, and possibly petting a stray cat will bring my toes or knee onto someone's road verge, but that's the extent of it.
If a neighbor is growing tomatoes and those tomatoes are ripely and gloriously bulging out over the path I primly look the other way. A hedge of raspberries might be teeming with fruit and falling to the ground ripe and abandoned, but I manage to resist. Not a single one of those berries is mine. And I wouldn't dare to cut across anyone's yard for a short cut, even if I'm in a hurry. I'd feel just weird being in someone else's yard. I just stay out.
And as to flowers, well, I like looking at them. This is indeed a lovely time for it. I look a lot, but I would think myself mad if I started cutting myself a bouquet. I would never dream of popping up the path of some pretty house, pulling out my penknife, and clipping a few Asters for myself or something. What kind of person, I ask you, would reach into someone's yard and pluck out flowers that a person carefully planted and nurtured and grew just to make their yard, and the very world I'm walking in, prettier?
Me, it turns out.
I am that person.
I am absolutely incapable of walking past a blooming lavender plant and not pulling off a bit of flower. I take a little snip right from the end without ever breaking my stride. I roll and crush the small stalk of flower in my fingers and then I smell it. The smell to me is Summer. Right now I feel I can smell the ghost of lavender I crushed in my fingers on my walk in the morning 12 hours ago. I stole flowers from at least three different big, sidewalk verging, lavender plants. I will do it again tomorrow, from every single lavender plant I pass. It is a tithe I take from the world. It is the reason for summer.
Is it a crime? I ask you. Is it a sin?
Of course it is, but what a tiny one! The plants all live heartily on. The homeowners are oblivious. And without it the whole hot steaming mess of Summer would have no point. We might as well close up this place at the end of spring. We might as well shut down the world until the leaves have started to change color and there is a hint of bite to the wind. July and August have no beating heart without the smell of crushed lavender. Lavender saves summer.
Could I grow some lavender of my own? Alas, first of all I doubt I could because my yard is too shady. But more importantly I am beginning to think that lavender doesn't quite smell right if it is properly obtained. It has to be stolen wantonly and with religious consistency for its soft purple smell to come all the way out. Lavender, while lovely, is only made into summer by truancy and vandalism. I am here to do it.
I am the lavender thief.