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.
When it comes to birds, Kyo Maclear isn’t seeking the exotic. Rather she discovers joy in the seasonal birds that find their way into view in city parks and harbors, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Maclear looks to the small, the steady, the slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that leave room for contemplation.
A distilled, crystal-like companion to H is for Hawk, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in the urban environment and explores what happens when the core lessons of birding are applied to other aspects of art and life. Moving with ease between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, this is a deeply personal year-long inquiry into big themes: love, waiting, regrets, endings. If Birds Art Life was sprung from Maclear’s sense of disconnection, her passions faltering under the strain of daily existence, this book is ultimately about the value of reconnection—and how the act of seeking engagement and beauty in small ways can lead us to discover our most satisfying and meaningful lives.
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.