Subtitled 'the art of noticing the small and significant' this is a beautiful meditation on birds, music, creativity, reading and the art of observation. Maclear shares her experiences of a year of birdwatching walks with a guy she refers to only as 'the musician'.
At the beginning of the book, Maclear's father has just suffered two strokes, which changed both their lives in significant ways. She turns to birding as a way of coping with the grief and stress of her changed world. She learns to identify birds but also learns how to pay attention not just to birds but everything else around her.
Along the way, she recommends nature books, lists famous people who were also birdwatchers, shares thoughts about how to help her children develop an interest in birds, and comments on our often dysfunctional relationship with nature:
'Some of us may kill birds with guns or oil spills but most of us kill them with our lumbering ignorant love - invading their habitats in bouts of nature appreciation.....'
and later in the book she gives an example of this specific issue when she notices a crowd of people gathered round a well camouflaged screech owl in a tree, keeping it from sleep with a barrage of flash photography. The musician, a keen photographer, didn't take a photo on this occasion.
The book ends with some advice on how to birdwatch including:
'Birding is more than an activity, it's a disposition. Keep your mind and ears and eyes open to beauty. Look for birds in unprecious places, beside fast food restaurants and in mall parking lots.'
The book is short and easy to read, moving and inspiring. It is also beautifully designed, illustrated by the author and with photos from Jack Breakfast (aka the musician).