There’s a tree in front of my house. It’s the only one on our block; small, spindly, but still dignified, like a statue of a war hero in a town square. No one remembers the war hero, but the statue is still a beloved part of the public space. My sidewalk was public space, so with the reverence accorded a statue, I decided to plant some succulents in the tiny plot at the tree base. I had never tended a garden before, but I would learn. It would be my gift to the neighbors, to the city. It would be my own two-foot-by-three-foot civic offering.
And so I took it very personally when the first large dog poop landed and stayed on the painstakingly placed redwood chips. I was crestfallen when the first succulent leaf was broken off by an errant paw. Then the sidewalk was strewn with debris. The corpse of an uprooted plant was found in the street. Now I was angry. I was an animal lover. But I cursed the dogs. I cursed the dog owners. How dare they maul my civic offering!
I decided to buy a surveillance camera. I consulted my friends. Home security, one said, good idea. It’s for my tree, I responded darkly. Is it possible to get a system that ties right into the police? another asked. I mete out my own justice, I said.
The surveillance camera I bought was inexpensive and easy to set up. I could even monitor the situation by a video feed on my phone! There was also a way to set up alerts by text whenever there was movement. This was only for the truly obsessed, and since I was, I did so.
The dappled play of light on the sidewalk set off alerts. The wind in the meager tree branches set off alerts. The passing cars set off alerts. I didn’t care. I patrolled my tree with the vigilance of a predator on prey.
Everything was quiet.
And remains so. It’s been weeks and not a disturbance to the replaced succulents, the re-layered redwood chips. I see that just as a watched pot doesn’t boil, a watched tree isn’t soiled. But still I wait, patient, for the one alert that will catch the un-neighborly culprits. Who knew waiting could be so fun?!
Caroline Paul is the author of “East Wind, Rain” and “Fighting Fire.” Her latest book is “The Lost Cat,” an illustrated collaboration with Wendy MacNaughton. Find out more at www.carolinepaul.com and www.wendymacnaughton.com.Tags: Downtime,Gadgets & Devices,Lifestyle