A big year: what urban birdwatching reveals about being human

Kyo Maclear learned to apply the "stamina and fortitude" she saw in birds to her own hectic life.

Kyo Maclear finds humanity in watching birds

5 years ago
Duration 0:55
Kyo Maclear finds humanity in watching birds

At a time when she was trying to balance caring for her ill father, raising her young family, and trying to find time to write, author Kyo Maclear needed an outlet to unwind from her stressful surroundings. Enter birdwatching.

"What you really learn even if you spend an afternoon with birders or with birds is that all the things you usually apply to life like rushing, impatience, self-optimizing - all those will get you nowhere when it comes to looking for birds," Maclear tells host Mary Hynes. "Actually the lessons of birding are that you need to learn and cultivate patience and you need to wait and you need to endure disappointment because often you won't see the thing that you came to see."

(Courtesy of Kyo Mclear)

Maclear set out into the wilderness of Toronto's urban sprawl in search of birds with musician and photographer Jack Breakfast.  What she found was a slower pace of life and an appreciation for the "common bird."

"A lot of people don't like the house sparrow, people think of it as a pest or a flying rat. I marvel at their robustness, their sturdiness, the fact that you can spot a sparrow at the top of the Empire State Building and also at the bottom of a mine...Whenever I see a shrub shaking with sparrows I feel cheered on in my life. There's a kind of stamina and fortitude that they have that I feel like I can learn from," she says.

She wrote about this incredible year in her memoir, Birds Life Art. You can read a short excerpt here.

(Submitted by Jeannette Ridley)
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Click LISTEN above to hear more about how the tranquility of watching birds can teach you to slow down and honour the beauty of the "common" in our lives.