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  • J. Darris Mitchell

Abandoned Fields are nothing but Baby Meadows

Good morning and thanks for checking in on the Bubblephone!

How are you? I’ve been well, thanks for asking!

I’m still working through revisions of the Crane and the Wolf and still liking it! Not much more to report on that front.

November approaches! November is National Novel Writing Month! Are any of you thinking about writing novel? If so, let me know and perhaps I can add you to my writing cabin. I find that completing a rough draft (especially of your first novel) works better if you have some accountability. Translation: tell me that you’re writing a novel in November and I will repeatedly tell you that your first draft is going to be trash and to KEEP WRITING. Writing a novel is not all that difficult. It just involves typing a certain amount of words a day and not looking back at the previous day’s work no matter what!


Transforming that into something decent is a whole ‘nother thing. You can do that too, but first you MUST FINISH the rough draft!


Personal Note

My eldest son turned four years old! We went to a dinosaur park and learned about creatures that went extinct because they were too stupid to adapt to global climate change.


Ha! Stupid dinosaurs! Us humans would never do anything that dumb. We’d never ignore a changing climate, pretend like a lethal pandemic doesn’t exist or completely brush off the most massive extinction event of human history that’s happening right now. Err… wait.


I watched David Attenborough’s “A Life on Our Planet,” and let me tell you, that shit got me thinking about the future that my sons will inherit. If we (talking to Americans right now) continue to eat meat every day, sometimes multiple times a day, use fossil fuels to sit in traffic, and obsess over wasteful green lawns instead of local plants that better sequester carbon, my sons’ future is fucked. And why? Why keep doing what we know is unsustainable so a few of us can get richer while the earth itself becomes impoverished of precisely that which makes it so precious: a richness of life seen nowhere else in the universe.


A great thing about the film is that it’s not all doom and gloom. Attenborough understands that all the natural world needs is a little bit of space. I too can attest to the truth of this! Birds flourish in the oddest spaces, but they need those spaces to exist! We can bring back biodiversity. My backyard is living proof of this. We must work together, united as the people of earth, to convert much of the farmland we use to grow grain to fatten animals back into wild places and to protect our oceans. Plus, if we eat less meat and more veggies, each of us will live longer. It’s a win-win!


I encourage you to watch his film and think about what you can do to help. We made a list! We’re doing great on some things (solar panels on the roof, a biodiverse backyard what-what!) but could do better on others (we are researching the best charities to donate to in order to preserve and restore the rainforest and educate the poor). We are also committing to eating meat once a week or less. However, much of this cannot be solved simply by citizens making smarter choices. Take the ocean, for example. Ain’t no way I can do a thing about the plastics in the oceans or their rising temperature by myself. The only way to solve problems like these is through the uncomfortable vehicle of politics.


One pressing thing us Americans must is vote this science-denying piece of crap out of office. He literally got sick because he’s too dumb to wear a mask (or too malicious. Not sure which is worse). If he wins, the climate is screwed. We can’t wait four more years. Period.

In Texas, early voting has already begun, so please go vote! Otherwise my birding days are numbered.


Bird of the Week

This week I found living proof of the principle that animals simply need space to thrive. I drove east until I found an abandoned lot across the street from a Whataburger. That this lot was abandoned farmland was obvious from the decaying barn and piles of brush cleared long ago and left to decompose in enormous, vine-choked piles. As I walked into this field, I counted over a dozen different kinds of grass and forbs. No one planted these or tended them. They were volunteers, thriving simply because this place was left alone.


Meadowlarks called to each other from hiding places amongst the plants while a phoebe perched atop a corner of the barn, wagging its tail at the human walking into this place the wild was in the process of taking back. This was not some hidden nature preserve or ancient, virgin forest. This was a forgotten place. An abandoned project. An afterthought. A place of weeds and not much else. It didn’t take long to find the Harris hawk, swooping from brush pile to brush pile, hunting hidden prey. The hawk didn’t care about the traffic, or that some of the plants in the field were obviously non-native. It was just thankful to have somewhere to hunt that wasn’t a parking lot or a pristine lawn a quarter of an inch thick.


I revel in these places and see great potential in them. So much of the last century has been spent attempting to subdue the wild world yet the wild world is not yet subdued. It won’t be, either. It will continue to fight back and try to survive, more desperately and tenaciously than humankind will ever be able to. So when the last field is plowed, and the soil is reduced to nothing but dust, and our species’ time on this planet crashes to a pathetic, avoidable end, it is the wild that will come back, and us that will be forgotten.


Avoidable environmental collapse has happened before to people all over the world. It’s happening again right now. Only this time, we’re lucky enough to have David Attenborough to tell us to cut it out before its too late.

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