I was down at Shelf Life books, listening to a wonderful double book launch by German Rodrigues and J. Pablo Ortiz. It was a very unique evening of spanish language literature, celebrating the launch of German Rodriguez’s The Time Between His Eyes (El tiempo entre sus ojos) and J. Pablo Ortiz’s Open Sea (De mar abierto). It was an excellent event and I was happy to reconnect with Pablo and to hang with his partner and my longtime friend, Brian. After the reading, I set about looking for the book, Birds Art Life because I had heard an interview about it and knew that it would affirm my experience of the pond, the discovery of birds and the resulting experience of art-making.
It was a bit of a search, but before I left, a copy of the book fell into my hands.
Very linear in my approach to books, I finished the McCullers title, before snapping up this beautiful object of my obsession.
I rushed through my earlier two reviews, books I’ve read in the past month, so that I could get to this recommendation, Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear. In this book, I found something kindred to everything I have become in retirement and in the past six years of loving a single ecosystem, a pond environment within the boundaries of the City of Calgary.
I kept putting the book down, and lifting off of the sofa or my bed or the bench out in the back yard, in order to pace and whoot and say, out loud, “YES!” Since reading The Diviners so many years ago, I have not had such physical reactions to what I am reading.
Here is an extract from the book that speaks of my philosophy and experience, very clearly.
I discovered, through the book, that my ‘SPARK’ bird, was a sparrow, more precise, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow, some eight years ago. Hardly romantic or colourful, strange that my true attraction to birds was discovered looking out from my kitchen window, across at the open vent of my neighbour’s kitchen…several nesting seasons…widowing…lost youngsters…and determination through all sorts of weather conditions. I began to watch. I took out the camera, for the first time, to take photographs of sparrows.
From that kitchen place, my exploring began at a pond environment that I call Frank’s Flats, named after a homeless man who most evenings, watched me gather up litter into a bag a day for several years. He drank six beer in the time it took me to fill a bag with plastics, straws, newspaper flyers and other human garbage. He chatted with me, thanked me and visited at the end of most evenings, as I put my collection into the bin, near his viewing spot.
I think that the first time I really noticed the birds, I was drawn to the red winged black birds because of their determined mating calls.
My experience of the pond has, since discovering birds, coyotes and little field mice, become magical. The lessons I have learned about compassion, care, art and writing, have been many and profound. I am so grateful for the number of stories and discoveries that come my way because I am always looking for the little miracles.
If you are looking for a way to deepen your experience of life and living, pick up this book. It is a treasure and my new favourite! It contains countless references to other writers, thinkers and artists…book titles…and the author’s connections with her own story. I hope that my readers will discover urban nature and hold on to the power of that experience.
Today at the pond…