A Jarring Encounter

Yesterday morning I was on the late shift. As I drifted into consciousness at the delicious hour of eight o’clock, the first thing I heard, as usual, were the chattering sounds of conversation between my husband and daughter in the next room. These conversations are always pleasant, and sometimes quite amusing, to overhear. This morning’s topic was, however, a bit mystifying. As I came to completely, I realized that the two of them were discussing a birdfeeder hanging in the lemon tree outside of our living room window. Nothing abnormal about that. Except that we don’t have one.

I lay and listened with increasing curiosity as the “birdfeeder” was referred to again and again. It was when my husband asked:

“And where did it come from?”

And Myra-Jean replied: “Ummmm…Mommy hung it there,” that I finally got out of bed.

Entering the living room in my robe and pajamas I asked what birdfeeder was being referred to. Mike looked surprised at the question. MJ looked elated.

“Good morning, mommy!” she shrieked. “It’s out there!”

And she pointed outside. I walked to the picture window and looked. There, as usual, was our sprawling lemon tree, taking up the bulk of the view. I peered into its branches. At first I saw nothing. But then, there on an upper branch, I spotted a glass object. It was large, bulbous on top, flatter on the bottom, and hanging from a metal hook. It appeared to contain a murky liquid. Formwise it was attractive, in a retro way. Functionwise? I had no idea. But I didn’t think it was a birdfeeder.

And I definitely didn’t put it there.

After I informed Mike of this we decided to go outside and take a closer look. Myra-Jean followed, all excitement.

This is what we saw:

The object had an opening in the middle — Mike reported that it was shaped “like a bundt pan” when you gazed at it from underneath. It appeared old fashioned and sort of blue-ish. The liquid inside looked like it had been there forever. Exactly one dead yellowjacket graced the inner reservoir. This last fact led Mike to speculate that it was some kind of trap. I agreed.

But none of that explained what it was suddenly doing in our tree. Mike and I were both ready to swear that it had not been there the day before. My recollection alone, mind you, might not be trustworthy, but Mike is an observant guy, and there’s no way an object of that size would have escaped his attention.

My best guess: the city of L.A. stuck it there to catch an exotic fly that is threatening citrus fruits. I think I remember hearing that they can do that without an owner’s permission. But would the City really use a trap of such, um, folksy quality? I mean, I guess it’s possible. They are almost out of money. Bug traps are probably far down the list of necessary expenditures. Maybe they’re still using hand-me-downs from the gold rush. But I don’t know. Wouldn’t they have left a note, a card, something to alert us to the fact that they had come? And what is that crap in the bottom? Arsenic? Hemlock? Do I want that near my lemons? Doesn’t the whole thing belong in some kind of pesticide museum?

The question now: what to do with it? Ought we to pull it down in a defiant gesture at the cryptic demi-God who insists on strewing our path with arcane objects? Or should we embrace it as another mystery — like the avocado in the aloe plant — that makes this house special — separates it from the other, less inexplicably gifted abodes in the neighborhood? Put another way: do we accept that we are not normal, no matter what we may like? Or do we insist, by taking it down, that we are like everyone else! We do not find strange objects in our greenery! We have a child, a dog, and two Hondas! We loved “The Wire,” we buy organic produce, we are ambivalent about Obama but still plan to vote for him…we fit in, Goddam it!

For now the “object” is still there. And so it shall remain, most likely. We probably can’t escape the fact that we, for whatever reason, attract the bizarre. Why fight it? Our new jar may catch some bugs, it may just reflect light. It may disappear one day, as suddenly as it came. But in any case it’ll be a good story, and ultimately that’s how you make lemons out of — well, you know.

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