J. Darris Mitchell
A Trip to New Mexico
Things are moving along quite nicely on the podcast! We have our first recording date set (early June) and are hoping to capture all of the dialogue for the first three episodes. From there, the amazing Flavio will have to pick the best takes (I try not to force too many takes, but we also normally do more than one!), splice them all together, then add sound effects. It’ll be a long way out before you get to listen, but I’ll be able to tell you about how it’s going next time you answer the bubblephone!
I’m ready for the next step of the Crane and the Wolf as well! I got a revised version back from Tiffany. I just need to implement those changes (I say just like it’ll be easy even though it never is for me) then format and get it to you! Hopefully by July, certainly by this summer!
I finally removed the pair of orange trees in our backyard that were both killed by the freeze. Each removal was difficult for different reasons. One of them was hard to take out because last winter it produced over three hundred oranges. I loved that tree, its spectacularly delicious oranges, and the magic effect its oranges had on everyone that tasted them. I felt like some sort of harvest spirit, or a god of citrus when I passed out bags of oranges to everyone I knew, only for them to gush and lay praise at my feet, as if I had somehow done anything besides prune a few branches and spread a bit of mulch.
God, I already miss those oranges.
The other removal was difficult because that tree was covered in four-inch-long citric-acid tipped spikes. This tree was a bitter orange, and despite being nearly as prodigious of a producer, made oranges that made grapefruit seem sweet by comparison. Wearing gloves, long sleeves, and jeans (instead of a kilt, my preferred garb for yard work) I snipped away at it, branch by branch, careful to toss all the tiny spines in a chiminea so they would burn away and not harm my children, me, or anyone else. The trunks were too big to be burned, and instead, I had to carefully remove spines so I could brace the trunks (there were like six of them) while I sawed them to the ground. Finally, I dragged them out to the street to be picked up, ground to mulch, and composted. I only got poked twice, though by the time I was done three of the fingers on my right hand burned, likely from the exposure to the tree’s acid.
I don’t miss that tree at all.
Bird of the Week
We went to New Mexico to visit my brother (road trip!) and of course I went birding every day while I was out there.
Most of our time was spent in the Bosque—a swath of cottonwood forest that grows on either side of the river that runs through the middle of Albuquerque. That was pleasant and easy, even with a four-year-old and toddler. They contented themselves with playing in the sand and looking for jackrabbits while daddy kept his eyes trained on the surprisingly colorful birds in this oasis in the desert.
But the Bosque did not produce my bird of the week.
That came on our way out, when I pulled into Embudo Canyon in hopes of saying a long-billed thrasher. The long-billed thrasher is not a particularly rare bird in New Mexico, and yet despite a few days there, I had yet to see one. I hoped to change that today.
We stepped from the car and the hostility of the canyon became immediately clear. To begin with, I was the tallest thing around except for the Sandia Mountains. There were no cottonwoods here. Perhaps a couple of the taller cholla cactus specimens were taller than me, but I was not about to suggest that my kids hide under them for protection from the sun (Both because I didn’t want them to get pricked but also because long-billed thrashers are supposed to sing from the tops of cholla cactus, and well, I wouldn’t want them to be spooked, would I?)
We made it about five minutes into the desert before it became clear that we would be going no farther. My wife had to carry our toddler or risk him being stabbed on literally all of the plants, and my son had wandered through a swarm of some sort of stinging gnat. It was time go…
Except a bird was singing… just of the path.
I considered the ten years that I’ve spent married with my wife, of all we’ve been through, the good times and the bad, and figured I could probably take a credit of a couple of minutes to see who was making all the noise.
So while the family turned back for the car, I stepped from the path and approached what appeared to be a singing cactus. Each step was a struggle. Not only did I have to make sure not to gore my foot on some desert denizen, but I also had to keep my eyes on the bird and not lose sight of my family. Closer and closer I moved until I became certain that it was singing from the top of a cholla cactus, not five feet in front of me. A bit of leaning and I spotted the bird.
Not a thrasher but a cactus wren! This was a bird I have wanted to see since I first went birding in the desert four years ago! It was singing, just out of arm’s reach. Its body blended in perfectly with the cholla, the richer colors of its head were almost reminiscent of a cholla flower. Spectacular, and it was all mine. I recorded its song, grinned stupidly to myself, and hurried back before my wife made it to the car and left me in the desert.
I don’t know what I did to deserve this woman. Because despite my birding obsession, she was smiling as she gave the kids snacks and water.
“Did you see the thrasher?” She asked.
No, but I did see the cactus wren, I told her.
She smiled. She knew what this meant to me.
We snacked and rehydrated and were just about to leave when I spotted movement in the parking lot. My wife and I both got our binoculars up, and who did we see?
A long-billed thrasher!