I was working by myself in the formal garden this morning, pulling out a few weeds and transplanting a couple of native annuals into the beds. Charlie hopes the annuals will flower and set seed and so come up again next year. Much of what we do here is shaping, creating assemblies of plants that function in ways similar to wild communities, but we also weed out exotics and add in natives that Charlie thinks belong here and are missing--that is one reason why we encourage her plants to self-maintain and to spread. Where we put a plant is always secondary to the design--because if we do it right, it's going to move and find its own place.
Specifically, I was working around the little frog pond on the edge of the garden. It's cool there and relatively dark under the trees, though you can see the bright, sunny meadows through the line of northern white ceders along one side and look over to the Mansion and its gardens through the pines and hemlocks along the other side, a little further away. The pond is artificial, with a deliberately waterproofed bottom, since it sits well above the water table, but it provides good nursery habitat to half a dozen different amphibians. Deer and foxes drink here, and the air smells of water and stone.
I paused for a minute in my work and happened to see movement through the trees, near the Mansion. I got up and walked over to see who it was, and spotted Karen coming along the margins of the gardens. She didn't seem to have noticed me. She did notice Greg's Cat, who was walking along the same path but in the opposite direction. He saw her, looked up, and meowed. She spoke to him, but I could not hear her words. She held out a hand to the cat, to greet and to pet him, but he turned a little away from her. He had raised his tail, as cats usually do around humans, and he still looked towards her, but he seemed tense. She knelt, holding out her hand, and he turned and trotted back the way he had come. He won't let anyone but Greg touch him.
Karen stared after him for a moment, then stood and took a couple of steps backward before looking up at the Mansion. From where she stood, I think she could see Greg's window and was staring at it, almost reverently. Then she came out of her reverie and walked on. She came to the secret door, looked both ways to be sure no one was watching her, then unlocked the door and went in.
I think it bothers Karen that she can't pet Greg's cat, and it bothers her because he is Greg's. She wants to be like him, but the cat clearly recognizes some difference. She is the youngest of the Masters, the most recently hired, and the quietest. I mean that she is shy, and also that when she walks by, not speaking, a kind of silence follows her the way noise, even subtle noise, follows most other people. Greg, I think, is the only one she ever seeks out, the only person whose regard she really wants. I think, sometimes, that Greg has the devotion of two cats and that Karen is the other one.
I also think that I am getting altogether too good at spying on people. I do not mean to spy, and today, in fact, I would have been perfectly visible to Karen if she had just looked in my direction. Perhaps she did look and I did not catch it--she's quite aware of her surroundings, as you'd expect of a martial artist. But still, it's like I watch but am not in turn watched. Why do I do it? How do I do it? Is it ok to do?
Even as I had those thoughts, I turned and looked up towards the branches of the young pine trees, knowing what I would see.
Charlie had been watching me, watching Karen.