Magnolia Warbler by Bill Majoros (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In this interview by Patricia Treble at Maclean’s, author Kyo Maclear talks of birds and bird-watching as an “ode to the beauty of smallness, of quiet, of seeing the unique in the ordinary… in an age in which bombastic noise often triumphs over quiet contemplation.”

Q: You have to keep very still when birding. We’re in a world now where everyone has to do stuff. This is the antithesis: you are the observer and the birds are working.

A: The one thing I’d thought of is that we spend most of our lives in survival time. There’s a sense of hanging off the ledge, trying to tread water, trying to keep ahead of the deadlines or the business of the city. Birds are the antithesis of that, for sure. I discovered that there were things that did not pay off in the birding world. Rushing, for example. Impatience. All the things that we do to self-optimize in our working lives don’t work out at all in the birding world. To realize that there’s an actually entirely different way of being if you’re watching birds.

I hadn’t thought it was about observing the birds in action, but it’s true: they are very industrious, very active. The grebes [mentioned in the book] are very collaborative. They are nest-building but doing it together. There is a sense that they are barn-raising together. It’s not about ego, you know.

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