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Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation
     

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation

by Kyo Maclear
 

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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,

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/31/2016
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. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Intricate and delicate as birdsong, Kyo Maclear’s clear-eyed observations of the natural world and our place in it challenge the velocity of modern life. A year spent birding is a year spent in passionate introspection. As she discovers beauty in urban cityscape, she leads us to turn fresh eyes to our surroundings. Her beloved birds become messengers of both loss and hope.
—Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way

"Every now and then you read a book that changes the way you see the world. For me, Birds Art Life is one such book. The writing is marvelously pure and honest and light. At the same time, magically, it is erudite, generous, and brimming with meaning and event. Birds Art Life is a book I know I will return to again and again for inspiration and solace.”
—Barbara Gowdy, author of The White Bone and We So Seldom Look on Love

"A beautifully crafted memoir that elevates the ordinary with intelligence and humility."
—Leslie Feist, musician

Kirkus Reviews
2016-10-06
A meditation on freedom and confinement and the creative tension between the two.Maclear (Julia Child, 2014, etc.) has written books for children and adults and some that blur the distinction with appeal for both, but she has never written a book quite like this. Also, few other books on birding are anything like this, for her “observation” is mainly restricted to urban Toronto, where the kinds of birds she sees aren’t likely to be exotic. What grabs and holds readers’ attention is the author’s own attention, as she describes in detail what she is seeing, how she is feeling, and how her perception and perspective are both shifting, however subtly. She began her unlikely bird year during “the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should….I had lost the beat.” Her father was ailing, her work was faltering, and, in what she calls her “roomy marriage,” she needed to explore something outside. “In my husband’s presence,” she writes, “I have felt my solitude dissolve, but I have also felt lonelier than the moon; such are the contradictions of intimacy.” The simple precision of Maclear’s prose belies the depth, as if the book were the tip of the iceberg and what she has elided or omitted constitutes the rest. She attached herself to a birding musician as a guide (her husband is also a musician; neither is named in the text), and it was through what she experienced with him that she discovered new ways of seeing and being. “The birds tell me not to worry, that the worries that sometimes overwhelm me are little in the grand scheme of things,” she discovered. By this point, she had outgrown the need for a guide. Writers and others will find inspiration in the advice to stop and hear the birds.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781501154201
Publisher:
Scribner
Publication date:
01/03/2017
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
37,002
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Kyo Maclear is a novelist, essayist, and children’s author. She was born in London, England, and moved to Toronto at the age of four. Her writing has appeared in The Millions, The Volta, The Guardian, and The Globe and Mail, among other publications. Kyo lives in Toronto where she shares a home with two sons, two cats, and a musician. For more information, please visit KyoMaclear.com or KyoMaclearKids.com.

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