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"Birds Art Life"

“Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation” by Kyo Maclear, Scribner, 217 pages, $25

This small gem of a book celebrates the oft-ignored value of the commonplace. Author Kyo Maclear, like Nebraska poet Ted Kooser, uses her perceptive view of nature, in her case the avian population of urban Toronto, to comment upon more profound facets of daily life. Instead of simply stalking birds, she utilizes them to muse upon universal subjects such as regrets, waiting, endings and love.

The autobiographical “Birds Art Life” is organized according to the calendar and the seasons. Her short essays and vignettes leave the reader feeling connected to the introspective author as well as her English father, Japanese mother, musician husband and two young sons. Maclear uses her year of watching birds to ease her anxieties related to simultaneous roles as caregiver for her ailing father, wife, mother and creative artist.

Her accompanying ink drawings are whimsical complements to her thoughtful prose and are interspersed with appropriate nature photography.

Although the book flows rapidly through the year, it will linger in the reader’s mind and lends itself to multiple readings.

J.Kemper Campbell, M.D., is a retired Lincoln ophthalmologist and an experienced backyard bird watcher.


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