By Mary Dolphin, Special to the Independent
Here I am, like many others I know, believing that here in Laguna I inhabit my own personal paradise. Then, when someone or something intervenes like a big fly on the screen of this fantasy, I get grumpy. These interventions come to all sooner or later: a hedge too high, solar panels on a neighbor’s roof, a tiki torch, eucalyptus trees, skateboarders, kelp, dog poo, and on and on. Swatting away these distractions is time-consuming and emotionally draining.
For my neighbor and me, birds caused us to bump up against the reality that this is in fact neither her personal paradise nor mine.
My vision of paradise contains birds, with the exception of the California Towhee. It is called a Towhee because that is the sound it makes; a monotonous, high-pitched tweee tweee tweee. In early spring it begins at 5:30 a.m. and goes daily through June. Two years ago my husband and I tried several different ways to encourage it’s departure. We failed. That sorry saga ended with my neighbor, whose personal vision of paradise can’t possibly include me, screaming from her terrace “you are nuts,” to where I stood with my two plastic owls and a slingshot.
This year we renewed the fight when soon into April the first early morning tweee, tweee, tweee woke me. My husband and I went out on the terrace each morning with the slingshot and shot small pebbles into space. Mind you neither of us is anywhere near good enough to actually take out one of the avian roaches. My neighbor again spied us. It was last Friday that my doorbell rang.
“Ma’am do you have a problem with birds?” the young and well-mannered animal control officer asked me.
“Oh yeah!” I answered. “It’s called a California Towhee and it drives me crazy.”
“Ma’am, are there any dead birds in your backyard?”
“No,” I said, “Of course not. Would you like to see?”
He declined. “Ma’am do you know that Laguna Beach is a bird sanctuary? And that means it is against the municipal code to harass or molest any bird.”
Oh, well no, I didn’t know that. The episode ended with me being given a warning. It said that I had been observed, “molesting a bird.” I felt dirty inside and envisioned my name on some list that would forever ban me from good company.
When the young officer was gone I went back to my terrace confident of which neighbor had been the snitch. I saw her there looking down at where I stood. I picked up my slingshot and feigned shooting at birds.
Fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang again. Now the animal control officer was back but with reinforcements- another animal control officer and a regular police officer. The regular police officer told me that it was against the law to shoot a slingshot in the city limits. I told him I didn’t know that but now informed, I would no longer shoot the slingshot since I am a law-abiding citizen. I think he was pleased. After a few minutes and a powwow, they said they had decided not to open an official case against me. I was glad.
I don’t know how my neighbor took the news. I think as far as she is concerned my bad bird behavior warranted nothing less than 10 to 15 in some women’s prison for deviants.
I think the regular police officer knew there was more to this episode than one person molesting birds. No, he’d seen this before. This was a clear-cut case of two Laguna neighbors coming to terms with the painful reality that neither the California Towhee nor the busy body neighbor, nor the hedge too high, nor the eucalyptus tree, nor the dog poo, nor the skateboarder can be vanquished totally and permanently from our domains.
We are a grumpy lot here in our paradise lost.