Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The lily thief

This morning I took some pictures of the Formosa lilies in Sara D. Roosevelt park, to show that they grow pretty well in some high, dappled shade. They are planted under tall plane trees in the park overseen by Robert McLean.

I planted them!

Three springs ago, in 2006: 100 of them in clumps, and this year many of them seemed pretty tall and strong. And this morning I was just admiring this little patch right across from our street level offices, even though I noticed that some of their fellows were snapped off, mid-stem.

Lilium formosanum. The loveliest and purest of them all. Indigenous to the island of Taiwan, formerly Formosa. And these specimens, now, formerly of Sara. D. Roosevelt Park.

They look so much better here, at their proper bloom time, than forced for Easter.

I was rolling up some drawings late this afternoon in the office when I looked up. Someone was gardening in the park? Gardening near my lilies. PICKING my lilies?

I spun my wheels like a cartoon animal looking for my camera. I sprinted out the door and over the street:


Silence. A resolute backing away. An armful of lilies, upside-down in her hands. I was as mad as hell. I hope I scared the living daylights out of her. I hope I hiccuped her pacemaker.

She got stuck on the fence for a bit.

Didn't even look at me. Stuffed her flowers upside-down in her cart, crushing them and my heart.

I stormed around and caught her on the basketball court in the middle of the game. She pulled the old no-speak-Eenglish trick. Yeah, right. You bloody cow.

No, I didn't say anything terrible. All I said was,

You. are. a. thief.

She did what Robert Mclean said they would do. The ladies of the Lower East Side: If it isn't nailed down they'll take it. I had looked at him askance. I was happy when nothing from the Median we planted was trashed, as predicted.

All those snapped-off lilies. The pilferings I have not witnessed. Too much temptation. Beautiful white, scented lilies. Maybe she lives in a horrible, tiny apartment. Maybe she is very poor. Maybe she's getting along fine. But she has the lilies, and now no one else does.

And that was the whole point.


  1. damn...why is it so hard to understand that things in public places belong to everyone...

  2. Yes, Marie, that IS the point, isn't it.
    I nearly broke my back working on a Community Garden and thieves broke my heart.It was there for the sharing, but...
    Gardeners' grit is unstoppable, thank goodness!

  3. liewe hel, ek sou myself moes keer om die vrou nie 'n dwarsklap te gee nie.

    red 'n volk.

  4. This story is heartbreaking. And, to see it captures makes my heart sink. I'm so, so, sorry. :( - Stephanie

  5. i had left a 9-year rel'ship, forced to leave behind my cat, dog, and my prized (by me) iris collection. i took my favorite ("praise the lord," ironically, for me). i planted it at my apt complex outside the front door. i eagerly awaited the first bud--every morning, every evening. i came out one morning, sure it had opened up overnight, to find-- a stem, cleanly cut off.

    at the time i was living in a small apt building, 4 units, 2 were vacant. the other couple, living below me, had terrorized me already by screaming & threatening, and i mean SCREAMING at me about how loud i was, sometimes at my door, sometimes not bothering to leave their own unit to do their screaming. pounding on the walls of the building at 5:30a when they awakened (to punish me for walking, barefoot, around my apt at 10p). i was 15 years younger and unable to deal with them, having been lucky enough to have never encountered someone so mean, self-centered, and/or mentally unwell.

    then i saw the iris in a vase on their kitchen table. and the illicitly clipped iris sent me over the edge. my landlord had pretty much poo-poo'ed my concerns, "oh, they won't hurt you," but they listened when i called about the iris. it must have been my fury. i began stopping & staring in the 1st floor neighbor's windows. they closed their blinds. it least i could deprive them of light (they never left their apt, except for work & shopping). i was already scheduled to move out, to move to boston.

    it sounds silly but i was seriously traumatized by the entire affair, and even thinking about it leads to "anxiety stomach." (present now)

    some people will take anything, in Indiana, too. now my flower garden is very public, along a busy town center sidewalk. i plant only what i can part with. marie, how can you do that when you build gardens for a living?

  6. The Median planting on East Houston made me a bit complacent, I guess: nothing stolen or stomped. It IS stuck between 6 lanes of traffic, after all, making pilfering a tad trickier.

    But perhaps a lily is too much to bear. Too beautiful.

    Maybe growing a lily in a public park is entrapment.

  7. Ms Hound - we're going to order paint guns to shoot lily rustlers...

    QC - it's payback for the lilac I stole when I was little.

    Dinahmow - I'm considering bear traps.

    Arcadia - dwarsklap. Dis lanklaas dat ek daai woord gehoor het. Ja. My feelings exactly.

    Stephanie - it was sad - as naive as it sounds.

    Yikes, Donna, there's a whole short story there. The iris bud.

  8. Too bad you didn't get a photo of the greedy fat cow's face. I would have gone after her and confiscated her shopping cart.

  9. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Grinding tooth nubbins even flatter.

  10. Marie, you are much, much nicer than me. Well done on your restraint.

  11. Pritha, that is the funniest image ever! You're hysterical. My own nubbins are getting flatter, too...I'm still laughing.

    kbd - howzit and welcome. No, I doubt I'm nicer. But as the daughter of a lawyer it was instilled in us at a tender age that committing murder in a public park in front of 100 witnesses is best avoided until one is Zen enough to cope with the consequences :-)

  12. People take from my garden all the time. A neighbor, in her guilt, admits it regularly. Then there's the kids the other night who I heard wacking wacking in the garden. I prick open the blinds and yell WTF?! Lost our ball! The next day, I found their ball and my echinacea buds too, grounded.

    I had a sculpture in Queens once that kids kept smashing, I just kept on fixing.

    Its okay, in the public realm means accepting all that nature calls forth in us- from selfishness to magnanimity. Sometimes people give,sometimes take. Its good that you called her on it, though. Really, if you think about it, its A-M-A-Z-I-N-G how many people see what you've done and do not take anything and that is heartening.

  13. Ah, Frank a voice of wisdom. You sound like Vince. You Zen people, you're so reasonable.

    Of course you are right.

  14. But its only because so many people appreciate it that I can go on with the damage. Doesn't mean it doesn't suck, cuz it duz.

    I was away for a couple of days, had excess wisdom, needed to expunge.

  15. This upsets me. So much for public enjoyment.

    Ah, the tragedy of the commons...


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