Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation (Hardcover)
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Reading this book feels like taking a deep breath — grounding and meditative. Maclear’s reflections in the year when her dad’s health begins to fail are humble, honest, and somehow still gently encouraging in a way that keeps me returning to them again and again.— Maddie
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.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Birds Art Life chronicles [Maclear's] journey, exploring the many shapes passion can take, and the many spaces natural beauty can occupy."
“I can hardly put this down …Yes, it’s about birding. But so much more.”
“[A] fragile fluid commentary … The reader can relax in the solitude of [Maclear’s] musings as the words gently flow into the consciousness.”
—Manhattan Book Review
“[A]n incandescent exploration of beauty, inspiration, art, family and freedom that seems to leave no topic out of its binocular scope.”
"[A] literary jewel box ... 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."
"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 .... Writers and others will find inspiration in the advice to stop and hear the birds."
“Maclear’s musings will appeal to readers who enjoy nature writing focused most on the search for meaning in a hectic world.”
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