A writer's search for inspiration, beauty and solace leads her to birds in this intimate and exuberant meditation on creativity and life—a field guide to things small and significant.
For Vladimir Nabokov, it was butterflies. For John Cage, it was mushrooms. For Sylvia Plath, it was bees. Each of these artists took time away from their work to become observers of natural phenomena. In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a local Toronto musician with an equally captivating side passion—he had recently lost his heart to birds. Curious about what prompted this young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature, Kyo decides to follow him for a year and find out.
A distilled, crystal-like companion to H Is for Hawk, this memoir celebrates the particular madness of loving and chasing after birds in a big city. Intimate and philosophical, moving with ease between the granular and the grand view, it celebrates the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open, and explores what happens when you apply the core lessons of birding to other aspects of life. In one sense, this is a book about disconnection—how our passions can buckle under the demands and emotions of daily life—and about reconnection: how the act of seeking passion and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying life. On a deeper level, it takes up the questions of how we are shaped and nurtured by our parallel passions, and how we might come to cherish not only the world's pristine natural places but also the blemished urban spaces where most of us live.
Birds Art Life follows two artists on a yearlong adventure that is at once a meditation on the nature of creativity and a quest for a good and meaningful life.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When Kyo Maclear’s responsibilities caring for her ailing father compound her ennui, she finds herself at an impasse. Seeking a spark to jolt her out of professional and personal paralysis, the children’s book author discovers the joy of birding. A celebration of the power of nature and the importance of carving out mindful moments in everyday chaos, this magical, poignant memoir is a poetic gift that will resonate with anyone who’s looking for a perspective shift.
Maclear (Stray Love), a Canadian novelist and children's author, constructs a literary jewel box into which she places a year's worth of ramblings collected while urban birding with a Toronto musician turned hobbyist photographer. Her tiny gems of thought are borne of purposeful waiting, quietude, and reflection; her anecdotes are about being a daughter and a parent, a creator and an observer, and an essentially solitary person who seeks connection with others. Some of the book's passages feel overwrought, such as a section in which Maclear draws parallels between avians and humans who have been praised for their smallness. Her line drawings also feel frivolous compared with her often elegant language. But at her best, Maclear makes her nostalgic but unsentimental revelations appear serendipitous, and their seemingly haphazard manner belies their careful arrangement. These brief, well-paced tales possess a peripatetic air while touching on core questions of humanity. She finds quiet joy in engaging with a world that's largely indifferent to humans. Maclear's book is appealing in its appreciation of non-human nature in the midst of city life, agnosticism about the place of human activity in the midst of nature's rhythms, and exploration of the relationship between captivity and freedom. Illus.