Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear
Bird on Shore of Amelia Island, Florida
Beautiful Endpaper


A writer’s search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this meditation on creativity and life – a field guide to things small and significant.

In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a musician with a passion for birds. Curious about what had prompted a young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature she decided to follow him for a year to find out.

Observing two artists through seasonal shifts and migrations, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in a big city, and explores what happens when the principles of birdwatching are applied to other aspects of art and life. It looks at the ecology of urban spaces and the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open. Far from seeking the exotic, Kyo discovers joy in the birds she spots in city parks and harbours, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Kyo begins to look to the small, steady, slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that give way to contemplation.

Moving between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, Birds Art Life asks how we are shaped and nurtured by our passions, and how we might come to love and protect not only the world’s natural places but also the challenging urban spaces where so many of us live.



Rating: 1 out of 5.

Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the concept for the most part, but I didn’t really connect with it as much as I’d hoped. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in a book that is about seeking alternative perspectives on life, especially as it relates to anticipatory grief, that was the part I found most revealing.

The Story
It was sort of this memory retrieval of everything related to birds whether interaction, simile in observed behaviors, ornithology as a whole, but lacked the insightfulness that I was seeking. It was very inside itself, one that I think is one of those books that probably has more meaning and is more therapeutic to the writer to write, in a cathartic way like a diary would be, than for the general population in its appeal or for broader consumption, at least from my takeaway.

It had interesting bits but then was bordering a dizzying rabbit hole search for everything related to birds. Then from there, even more exhaustive with everything small, subtle, and delicate in relation them in the finest detail. Became an exhaustive approach to all sorts of associations I didn’t really care to read about. Normally I also enjoy learning the etymology of words, but it was so dry and flat that I had a hard time being engrossed in what I usually find super fascinating.

Bits of more personal stories were intriguing but I had to meddle through all the boring parts to gets there.

Really started to skim at about page 83, April, Knowledge, when lists of bird references dominated the text. Kind of sped read the remainder of the stories thereafter, not sure how much I committed to memory or lingering emotional attachment and savoring afterthoughts which is what I was hoping to find in this book.

A lot of brand name references which became more distracting than relatable because of overuse. I did like the pop culture references to Stevie Nicks and the Grateful Dead though, that was endearing.

The Writing
There were a lot of words I didn’t know, words with duplicated meaning, and unfortunately I didn’t find it to be a book that I wanted to keep looking up words for.

All in all it wasn’t really about birds, in a concrete way, but more personal musings that I found quite boring. I’d be curious about more books from this author though, maybe about an animal also that I would be more interested in like sharks.

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