LAS CRUCES — It’s the dark side of curb appeal.
I spent an early spring afternoon painting a four-foot pot my favorite color, lapis lazuli blue.
Then I epoxied a matching gazing ball on top and carefully positioned it in my front yard.
A few days later, I came home to discover the ball had been chiseled off.
Within 24 hours, the chiselers had returned for the matching pot, and ambled up to my front porch patio table to collect a bonus, a pretty little silver-colored pot filled with geraniums.
It was a gift from friends who no longer live in Las Cruces, and I thought of them every day when I saw it. I miss my amigos.
And the planters: I love the sight of silver and bright blue against adobe.
I guess the thieves did, too.
Though the sentimental value was a lot greater than the monetary loss, I decided I might as well report the thefts.
A kind and funny police officer called me right back.
“The sun is out and people are shopping for gardening stuff,” he told me, adding that on that first, unseasonably hot, springy day, there had been a rash of reported thefts of similar items in neighborhoods around Las Cruces.
It’s one answer to economic tough times, I suspect: Cruise the ’hoods to assemble a wish list, go home and plot your garden and dream patio.
Then, instead of heading for your favorite gardening center or superstore, wait until it gets dark and just pick up what you like from the most vulnerable looking neighborhood yards.
Part of me hopes people that desperate will at least enjoy my things as much as I have, but I suspect the police officer is right in his final conclusion that they probably swiped things to try to sell, and people desperate enough to risk jail for a few bucks are probably mired in a pretty deep maelstrom of misery.
Pundits are now saying we may have been a recession for as long as two years.
But for many, I think, the realization of the depth and scope of the economic crisis is finally being acknowledged as a daily reality … and part of that reality is that desperate times evoke desperate actions, and increasingly desperate reactions.
A post-theft walk around my neighborhood revealed things I hadn’t noticed before: more lights on early in the evenings, front yard benches chained to fences, pots and containers replaced by permanent plantings. We are moving from open porches to secluded patios, iron fences and padlocked gates.
Often, when people feel out of control themselves, they try harder to control others.
I’ve pretty well figured out my missions for this part of my life: to warn and heal, mix the medicine with a bit of joy and comic relief when possible, fly the occasional kite. And offer handy-dandy survival tips garnered in more than a half-century of a challenging life, during which I have often been blessed to meet and learn from some very wise souls.
One of them was prophet, philosopher-psychologist and author Tenny Hale, who talked a lot about the principle of spiritual vaccination. When there is sickness, you rush to help. You could well develop an immunity in the process, or if you act promptly and well, are more likely to find the resources for treatment and cure if you or your loved ones get sick.
Or, Hale said, if you learn of a fire, rush to help fight it. If we all pitch in and allocate some of our own resources, the fire may be out before it hits our neighborhood. If the fire does come near, we’ll know more about it, including ways to prevent its spread, stop its destruction, survive its aftermath.
I warned my nearest neighbors about the pilfering. We discussed locks and security systems and neighborhood watch programs. I thought about a big adobe wall and gate for my front patio.
But I’d rather have the bright light streaming into my living room and my porch, which again has a pretty pot, a heavier one now, filled with geraniums.
And I noticed my garage and back bedroom are overflowing with things I almost never use. Instead of a garage sale, it’s probably time to round them up and donate them to charities. Times are tough and there are a lot of desperate people out there who need help.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org