Caterpillars Crossing in a City at a Crossroads…


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A sign in my front yard warns visitors to look where they step, as the yard is a habitat for several creatures. One of them is a type of caterpillar. During warm weather these caterpillars cross a narrow patio between the yard and the house, to find a place to become a cocoon. They hang themselves underneath the sill of the house, under branches of plants and ornaments, and after a few days butterflies come out!  These are the colorful Monarch butterflies.

At times so many are born that they glide in a group all over the street. The neighbors enjoy them, and help to take care of them by telling the children to be gentle if they catch them and to let them go.  They thrive in my yard because I’ve got milkweed, which supports their life cycle. When the weather gets cold, they’re off to warmer places in Mexico. Experts say that their numbers are decreasing significantly due to loss of native vegetation and habitat, and excessive use of pesticide and herbicide.  The loss of beneficial insects affects the pollination of plants and our food chain.

Besides caterpillars and butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, ladybugs, lizards, finches and doves, occasionally a hawk chasing a bird – all of these are seen in my yard. Sages, lavenders, succulents, roses, lantanas and mulch cover the ground and impregnate the place with fragrance and colors.  The milkweed seeds itself, and some have landed in the neighbors gardens.  I got most of the plants at one of my favorite places in northern Orange County, the Fullerton Arboretum. This place is a hidden treasure, a tranquil relaxing one.

Milkweed, essential to a growing caterpillar!

I had to remove a beautiful tree in the front yard, which had grown too large and was lifting the concrete in the driveway. I remembered reading about the turf removal program in the city’s utilities newsletter, and now we are the only house in the street without a lawn.  Perhaps in the whole neighborhood.  My daughters had enjoyed the lawn and the tree when they were infants, and now we could afford to make a small contribution to water and ecological conservation.

A downside of this project was that I had to dispense with the services of the gardener. There was not much to maintain now, as the lawn in the backyard had also being reduced. A small push lawnmower and a broom replace the gardener’s very noisy and polluting gas lawnmower and leaf blower. The economics of his trade force him to use his noisy machines – he can’t afford to get newer, less-polluting ones. He still comes around to work in the neighborhood, from somewhere in Riverside.

We still chat, and we talk about the butterflies as he is from Michoacan, one of the Monarch’s reserves in Mexico.  We talk about our  hopes of a better life for our children, and about the “un-contacted” people. They are indigenous people who live in the mountains and rainforests of Mexico, Central and South America, without contact or minimal, with the urban industrialized world. They are also found in other parts of the world, in Africa, Asia, even in Canada.  We wonder how happier they may be in comparison to us, not worried about freeway congestion, car maintenance, power outages, mortgages/rent payment. Maybe they are missing out on the modern benefits, the internet, smart phones. We agreed that their lives, very different than ours, do not contribute to the major ecological problems we are experiencing.

We also talk about the city where we work and I live, Anaheim. The outrage provoked by the Teddy Bear mockery is an indication of the progress reached against the bigotry and arrogance of the elite governing the city. The reluctance of the Chamber of Commerce to distance itself from the Public Relations agent representing them, and author of this mockery, is understandable. It’s not that they are not aware of the impact furthering their negative public perception. They must be trying to work out an arrangement so that this PR operative does not disclose compromising information, especially involving Curt Pringle. The eventual release of the Chamber’s audit, and the release of the tapes of the security cameras where the Teddy Bear mockery took place, may finally force the Chamber to terminate the contract with the disgraced PR agent.

Two other events are putting Anaheim at a crossroads. One is the settlement on the districting lawsuit. Will whether to have districts or not be determined by an election? If yes, what if the voting pattern is repeated, where backers of the status quo outnumber districting proponents?

The other event is the election of the Mayor. The movement to reform city government is momentarily divided between Mayor Tait and Ms Galloway. I do not agree with the reasons presented by Ms Galloway for running against her erstwhile ally. I doubt that she can do any better of a job than Mayor Tait, not because of personal abilities but because the council majority is determined to push their agenda no matter who opposes them. The remaining major issue, the Angel’s negotiation, makes me wonder what Ms Galloway’s position would be if her main known supporter is the editor of The Liberal OC.

This challenge framed among partisan lines, Democrats vs Republicans, bring us down to the unpleasant reality of politics. These major parties end up imposing a choice that is not necessarily the best solution at the city level especially in term of candidates. The qualities and positions of the individuals can easily be evaluated, and in the last election I voted for candidates not because of their partisan ideologies, but because of their position on transparency and good government. Mostly partisan ideological reasons driving participation in the city’s issues can be counterproductive. One of the arguments of our good conservative friends against the bad conservatives is to avoid the liberals from taking over the city government. Likewise, some liberals aim to displace conservatives regardless of their performance while in office. Being conservative or liberal is something to consider to a certain extent, but should not be the main criterion all the time. At this point in Anaheim, we need somebody who implements transparent government and the changes needed to celebrate our diversity in a genuine way.


About Ricardo Toro

Chilean native and Anaheim resident for several decades, who just recently got drawn into the great fray!