Birds Art Life

Publisher: Doubleday Canada
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.

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One winter, not so long ago, I met a musician who loved birds. This musician, who was then in his mid-thirties, had found he could not always cope with the pressures and disappoint­ments of being an artist in a big city. He liked banging away on his piano like Fats Waller but performing and promoting himself made him...
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PRAISE FOR

"An incandescent exploration of beauty, inspiration, art, family and freedom that seems to leave no topic out of its binocular scope." —The Toronto Star

"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. It 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

"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

"Original, charming, a little eccentric even. This book is a delight." —Nigel Slater, author of Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger

"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." —Kirkus Reviews

"A literary jewel box. . . . [Maclear's] tiny gems of thought are borne of purposeful waiting, quietude and reflection. . . . 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." —Publishers Weekly 

"The beauty of her writing and playfulness with language leap forth. . . . These instances serve to remind readers that Maclear is not just an author who ponders the deeper meaning of existence and relationships, but also one who writes subversive children's books that have been highly praised as much for their buoyant text as for the author's willingness to take on unusual or sensitive subjects." —Quill & Quire

"[Bird Art Life is a ] strange, lovely, profound little book. . . . [Maclear's] prose here is direct and clear, each sentence carrying as much weight as a line in a picture book, or in a poem. . . . This book is a lovely song—a symphony." —The Star Tribune (Minneapolis)