Life on the Wild Sides

The arrival of today’s weekly newspaper brought with it news of a black bear sighting. In addition, it offered additional confirmation that the Village is experiencing an unusual spike in the population of migrating Baltimore Orioles. I’d never seen a Baltimore Oriole in the feather, so to see them frolicking on our deck railing and climbing on our hummingbird feeders was a treat. For that matter, I’d not seen a black bear in the fur, either, and still have not. But the newspaper offered two photos, one of a bear in the vicinity of a yellow diamond-shaped sign warning viewers to “watch for ice” and one of a bear approaching the back door of someone’s house.

The photo of the bear I include in this post is courtesy of Mother Google, Lender of Images. I took the shots of the birds. You may have noticed the orange half in one of the images. Word on the street here is that Baltimore Orioles love oranges, so we used some as bait. Other people, more experienced in the ways of luring exotic wildlife to their environs, hammered nails into boards, then affixed orange halves, cut side up, to the boards. This prevents the birds from knocking the oranges off the deck. Every orange half we set out was eventually thrown to the ground far below by gluttonous and fiercely territorial birds.

We’ve been told black bears roam the forests around us; this was the first photographic confirmation since we moved here four years ago. And this was our first sighting of the birds since we moved here, as well. The morning I first saw the Orioles, I also saw a rose-breasted grosbeak, though I did not know what it was at the time. It took some digging to learn what it was. Another first-view for me. Others, far more attuned to local bird-ways of the area, when I told them what I saw, sniffed  and noted that the sight of the bird is not at all uncommon. I do earn respect of the bird people when I tell them we regularly see roadrunners up and down our block (apparently one of the few places in the Village where they are seen with any regularity). When I show the bird people my photos of the creatures, they swoon. As if I had anything to do with the beast landing on my deck. 

That’s the good stuff. Birds, bears, snakes in beaks. You know, life on the wild side.

The other wild side came up in conversation last night while we attended a birthday party for our neighbor. It was a lovely affair, with good food, champagne, wine, and entertainment provided by a highly skilled and talented musician and song-writer who played Spanish style guitar beautifully. About the conversation. The guy, nice fellow, talked about how crowded southern California (his home) is getting. And he spoke about the “homeless problem,” identifying the homeless as the problem, as if the solution would be to move them someplace. Their plight is their fault, for the most part, he suggested. I disagreed, but in a friendly way. I explained that I had seen documentaries about homelessness that suggested the majority of homeless people are absolutely NOT enamored of the lifestyle and that most found themselves homeless through no fault of their own. Things like illness, loss of a spouse who was the sole income-earner, loss of a job that had only barely paid the bills, etc. I told him I had read that, once people stumble into homelessness, their lives can spiral downward. With no address, it’s hard to get a job. It’s hard to find a place to get your clothes washed. It’s hard to look out after one’s personal hygiene. The mere fact that so many doors get slammed shut very soon after a person becomes homeless makes it critical to get people help early. Because after a relatively short time, hopelessness sets it. And attitudes toward the homeless don’t help. People get depressed. Depression exacerbates the problem.  Admittedly, I hogged a lot of the conversation. I expressed the opinion that municipal governments would do themselves and their privileged, non-homeless, people a favor by investing in getting the homeless into decent, private residences and a basic stream of income sufficient to cover bare necessity expenses as soon as possible after homelessness occurs so those folks can invest their time and efforts toward becoming self-sufficient as opposed to spending every waking moment looking for food and shelter for the next night. By the end of what was mostly a monologue, he seemed to agree with me. And he even suggested that the homeless people who are aggressive and ugly and angry probably developed their attitudes as a result of their experiences in homelessness. Homelessness is a wild ride I wish on no one.  But it’s so easy to dismiss it when it’s not very visible on a day by day basis.

I’m rambling on, as I am wont to do. Time to stop and consider what’s next.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Life on the Wild Sides

  1. Thank you for your compliment and for your comments. Your comment makes me wonder whether B. Orioles would be green if we lured them in with limes. 😉 Homeless is indeed problem and it’s ours to solve.

  2. Sidney Schwab says:

    Great writing! Among other things, now I know why B. Orioles are orange. And that bear looks pretty skinny, which explains a lot.

    As to homelessness and fault: in our school districts there are several children living in cars. Or in nearby canyons. The fault, most clearly, is not theirs. It’s ours.

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