Birding With Yeats

My daughter Mallory and I took a trip to Queen’s Park Circle in Toronto this year to check out Word on the Street, the annual festival of books.  While there were many different publishers represented, none were familiar to me.  My daughter however, recognized Anansi Publishing as having a good reputation, so we decided to stop at their table.

I was pleased to see a number of familiar books displayed, one of which was Birding with Yeats by Lynn Thomson. I was initially drawn to this book by its title – Birding with Yeats.  Was the author talking about William Butler Yeats, the Irish poet, or was there someone else named Yeats?  Either way, I was intrigued.

As I have recently completed a book called Writing Wild by Tina Welling, which discusses the benefits of writing outdoors, I was naturally drawn to any books about communing with nature.  I was not disappointed.  This book is indeed about nature, but more than that, it is a memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son who enjoy the art of bird watching. Lynn Thomson is married to Ben McNally of Ben McNally Books in Toronto so we also get to read about evolution of the book store: from the book launches, to the International Festival of Authors each November.  When Lynn isn’t helping her husband in the book store, she and her son Yeats (mystery solved) can be found bird watching.

When time permits mother and son travel to Vancouver Island, or the Galapagos Islands to pursue their hobby.  At other times, they stay closer to home and can be found at Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, Amherst Island, Pelee Island, and Point Pelee for the annual bird migration in May.

As a writer who likes to write about the Canadian experience, it was a pleasure to read another author who writes about my own back yard.  While I’m aware of the Point Pelee annual bird migration, I had no idea that so many people turned up for the event.  Nor did I know how many species of warbler there are: Wilson’s, magnolia, Blackburnia, yellow, bay-breasted, to name a few.  Or that the alder and willow flycatchers were once considered one species until 1970 because they look so much alike.  The thing that sets them apart is their song.

But as I said before, this book is more than about birding.  It is about the relationship between a mother and her son.  Yeats isn’t like the other boys.  He doesn’t like to party and prefers to spend time alone.  Lynn eventually learns to let her son be his own person and not some extension of her own expectations and upbringing — like the need to excel.  She also touches on her marriage to Ben and the stress caused by long hours at the book store.  And finally, after an accident that changes the dynamics of her relationships, she finds out that she doesn’t have to be everything to everybody.

As the leaves begin to fall and we are all drawn in doors for our winter hibernation, remember this book.  In it we have the opportunity to be close to nature without getting frost bite.

Categories: Book Talk

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