Birdbrain (Go Ahead. Love Your Planet. Just Not Too Much.)

Genre: General Fiction

For Fans Of

Ed Abbey, Tom Robbins, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Pam Houston, Rachel Carson, Carl Hiaasen Experimental comedic-drama eco-fiction. Integrates real earth ecology into the plot, promotes environmental protection/activism while dealing with relationships, grief, romance, coming-of-age in a realistic yet humorous way. Main source of tension-the societal price the protagonist pays as she develops into an "environmentalist".

Book Summary

Ed Abbey meets Tom Robbins meets Carl Hiaasen meets Pam Houston all on Barbara Kingsolver's porch while Rachel Carson bird-watches in the front yard.

Think of it as a chronicle of the American environmental movement circa late 1970′s-80′s through the eyes of an innocent but partying young country girl who has suppressed so much while waiting for her working class guy to get a clue…

It’s accidentally gazing at an eastern bluebird that cracks the thin veneer of her life, finally jolting her out of a marriage-induced lobotomy to the realization that the world doesn’t end at her skin. Life bashes her around a bit which releases her intellectual tendencies, pissing off her rural friends–”Drink Another Beer! Enjoy the Barbecue! Lighten Up!”

The more interested she becomes in nature, political causes, maybe attending college, i.e. adventuring out of the womb of her rural Michigan, the more maligned she feels from her family and friends, especially Patty, her life-long best friend. Will their friendship survive all the changes (they are both going through)?

Of course, for those of us who love the land of our country, at some point, like Ellie, we dare to question the tendency of our own species to bulldoze its own planet. There was a lot going on during this period. Ellie is further transformed as she dives ever deeper into the world of ecology then she meets Kate who she could become, and nobody likes Kate. Kate is a professional biologist. Kate is always pissed off.

Adding to the turmoil are colossal losses Ellie has little idea how to deal with. Ellie leaves “Shake” to undertake some kind of pilgrimage, a subconscious attempt to heal herself but her feeling of alienation does not abate simply because she changes her geography. Her taking to the road makes for a very ‘biodiverse’ set of experiences, from roaming spirits in the desert, gnatcatchers in California, accidental crusades against development, ascending tufas at Mono Lake, to dancing cowboys and hoodoos in Wyoming, not to mention those sympathetic truckers on I-8O. In addition to being humorous, birds and ecological science are woven throughout the novel so you may just learn something.

The novel is based on the real-life experiences of Virginia who has been a professional field biologist for over 20 years. Virginia grew up in Ohio where she watched everything around her get bulldozed out of existence. She did the trip west, the one we all do sooner or later, only to see the same thing happening 'out west'.

Are we at a point now where it’s too late and denial is our only (perceived) protection?


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About the Author

When my home burned down in the CA Cedar Fire in 2003, I came face to face with one of the fundamental thoughts of Buddhism--impermanence. The Buddhist tale about getting hit in the head with a board? This was my big ____g "board" across the face though I am not sure it led to my enlightenment...Among so many other treasured things, family heirlooms, photographs, boxes of music, the fire destroyed ten journals, the first one started when I was ten years old.

I have always written and I have always read. I am a child of the new America--suburbia in Ohio in the 60's--pillage and plunder, raze and grade, bulldoze and destroy. My street was the first one of a mega-subdivision the problem being nobody told me the nearly pristine farm that surrounded us would be destroyed. My mother was a store detective for Sears and Roebuck at the new mall. There was no child care then so I went with her, sometimes acting as a decoy so she could pick up shop lifters, a daring job for a petite woman during those times. Her life was threatened more than a few times, particularly when she broke up shoplifting rings. She was damn good at her job. Of course, all her co-workers were men and she outworked them all. Sometimes she would drop me off at Walden's Bookstore in the new mall. Apparently she had some kind of agreement with the manager because I sat on the floor and spent hours there. The greatest excitement was when she would give me a few dollars so I could buy a book, ANY book.

So what did I buy? The classics, and I still love them. Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Emily Bronte (of course Jane Eyre). I bought American poetry anthologies and read them like novels. I bought a lot of botany books, my favorite, the little Golden Guide to Botany, was destroyed in the fire. I grew to love nature essays, poetry, and settled in with Walt Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson (Self Reliance!). A guy named John Muir made we want to see the American west really really badly. Theodore Roethke is still my favorite poet (of the poets I know. There are a lot of poets).

By the time I was a teenager, I was claustrophobic. The subdivision was built out. My family had rescued a lot of wildlife. I was angry by the injustice that the wild place I grew up in had been systematically destroyed. You can't imagine the biodiversity that was destroyed--I can list it but I remember where hundreds of lady slipper orchids grew within the rich woods of the eastern deciduous forest. I still remember trying to find this place. I couldn't because it didn't exist anymore. Somebody's kitchen is on top of it now. This is how I grew up. Watching this! For years! So by the time I was teenager, I wanted the hell out.

I went to college on the other side of the state, still pretty wild, Athens, Ohio (now also greatly built-out, developed). I had a grand time. Upon finishing my B.S. in Field Biology and M.S. in Botany/Ecology, I began my career only to figure out I wasn't so great in one place and I was terrible caged in a cubicle. I had some great jobs but found many of them suffocating, the dysfunctional relationships within them intolerable. I wanted to explore, not sit in on some stupid meeting. Financially, this did not turn out to be the greatest decision...(please buy my books, ha) but spiritually, as far as my soul is concerned...

My most exciting field work was in Alaska where we were dropped by helicopter or fixed wing then we camped/hiked for weeks at a time, our duty to roam and collect as much biological data as possible. I was with the botany team. I figure nothing will top this though I am still trying. There was a stint in Colorado with the National Park Service--inside an office building 99% of the time, a stint in Wyoming. Great field work that included working on a project in Bridger-Teton NP, on the Snake River. I met Mardie Murie. Lord we were rude. My co-worker wanted to meet her and we just rapped on her door, caught her sleeping. I felt terrible but man, what an honor.

Anyway, as long as I was in the field, I could handle it but no doubt this was a strike against me when it came to promotions. I was kind of like a caged wild animal in the ole' cube and always trying to come up with excuses to set myself free.

There was and still is too much to see on our incredible planet and just like when I was a kid, I want to see it before it all gets destroyed. I don't hold the human primate in high regard. We could do with some global scale humility but our life spans dictate our selfish desires...this works against us making any grand changes for future generations.

I have grown more introverted with age, as many writers do. Nothing makes me happier than a few days before me, my Subaru, my dogs, by camping gear, kayak, an open road and sky. For me, this is heaven and I intend to be in this heaven on earth as much as possible.

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