It feels indecent, the way I inspect my semi-dwarf Mexican lime tree, looking for signs of happiness or illness. There’s a lone grown lime on a branch, the size of a large glass marble, which I use like a scrying crystal to try and diagnose its bearer’s future. The tree spent a week in one corner of the patio before I made the wholly unscientific and faith-based decision to drag the heavy pot to a sunnier spot. When I find new flower buds on its stems finally, after weeks of wondering whether or not it has responded to its new environment, my devotion surges with a vigor I find a little unsettling.
Of my three tomato plants, the bushy little Tumbling Tom in a broad terra cotta pot has started to fruit first, its savory-smelling foliage dotted with sunny flowers. I squat down between the two eucalyptus trees whose thin bark is molting in the early summer heat. I lean against the larger trunk to search for the little green orbs at the end of the shriveled blooms. It takes restraint not to rummage through the leaves. I am mad with curiosity.
And my worms! For my worms I save my most devout voyeurism. I am endlessly fascinated by this little environment I’ve made. Though there are flies and beings of all kinds in there, it is the worms I care about. I lift the wet newspaper every day and disturb the
nematodes annelids as they writhe and dine and possibly copulate en masse. I got gloves in preparation for digging up their castings, and a special pump-activated atomizer that oh-so-gently moistens their bedding of coconut coir and shredded Korean-language newspaper, reserved from a trip to the local nursery. I wrap the front of the composted with foil to regulate the morning heat. I open the spout to check for runoff. Oh no, I’ve fed too much. I haven’t fed enough.
It ain’t right, and I know it. I worry that these are unhealthy obsessions for a single woman who works from home, typing madly, bathing her face in the bluish light of a computer screen, speaking aloud only a few times a day. My friend Jeanne in Brooklyn sends me a care haiku via text message.
I’m worried about u
Are u spending a lot of time alone
Go to the library
But I am helpless against the power of my infatuation. Surely the tiny flowers that bloom under my intense adoration are an affirmation of something reciprocal. Here I recite the only bit of Shakespeare I still have committed to memory:
I know I love in vain, strive against hope
Yet in this captious and intenible sieve
I still pour in the waters of my love
And lack not to lose still