Scattering Blue

Exciting news: one of my thesis essays, “Scattering Blue,” has been published on Entropy as part of their “The Birds” series!

You can read the entire essay on the Entropy site:

Entropy: Scattering Blue

Check out my essay, and then spend some time clicking around the rest of their site. There’s some good stuff there.

This essay evolved from a writing exercise I did at the Environmental Writing Institute last fall, a writing workshop put on by the Environmental Studies department here at UM. Our instructor was David James Duncana fantastic author, speaker, and teacher. If you’ve never read him, you need to. Buy all his books. Granted, I might be slightly biased because he had some extremely kind and inspiring things to say about my writing, but he really is an amazing writer, and many, many people, myself included, are mesmerized and deeply moved by his words.

Apparently the essay I submitted for the workshop, which was about albatrosses, reminded him of Norman McLean, the author of A River Runs Through It— I can’t help but think he was confusing me with one of my co-attendees, because I find that compliment a bit overwhelming. Hence my slight bias.

Also: if you are ever wondering if you should cut that passage about vomiting baby albatrosses, leave it in. Explanatory interlude: It’s a defense mechanism– albatrosses feed their young regurgitated fish, which they have previously digested down to a nutrient-rich oil. The young will puke this up on intruders as a defense. Since it’s oily, it can lead to a loss of insulation and waterproofing of feathers/fur, which can be a fairly bad thing if you’re a marine animal. End explanatory interlude. DJD will approve, and his comment will be, “Maybe this explains why I don’t enjoy teaching high school aged kids. They cause me loss of insulation & waterproofing!”

I’m working on getting “The Flight of the Albatross” published, but until then enjoy blue jays and “Scattering Blue.”

blue jay

from The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed. Accessed from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.


An excerpt from “Scattering Blue:”

Blue jays are not especially uncommon birds in this part of Ohio, the northeastern corner where the Crooked River twines through forested hills. Though they can be found in any wooded area in the state, blue jays tend to prefer the edges, the liminal habitats where forest gives way to farm field or meadow. Resident birds, they are loyal to their natal habitats in a way I am not. A year before the wedding, and six months before Grandad’s funeral, I moved to Montana for graduate school. Before that I was living in Wyoming; before that Colorado; before that a list of other states, East and West. For someone who studies birds for a living, this is normal. Three months here, maybe six there, working with different species and different projects, following the birds and the funding. I’ve spend the last few years traveling in crooked lines across the country, but I always find my way home.

Galapagos Islands albatross

Not a blue jay.


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