Author Tags: Outdoors

Sharon McInnes is a Gabriola Island resident, amateur birder, owner of The Island Book Shoppe and author of Up Close & Personal: Confessions of a Backyard Birder.

Published by: Isle of the Arts Publishing
ISBN: 9780986745300
Price: $21.95

Up Close & Personal, Confessions of a Backyard Birder (Isle of the Arts Publishing $21.95)

from Susan Yates

I have the usual assortment of bird identification guides that any West Coast nature lover uses to discern a finch from a sparrow, but I don’t consider myself a birder. Neither did Sharon McInnes until she moved from the city to Gabriola Island.

As a relatively short anthology of essays originally written for a local island newspaper, McInnes’ Up Close & Personal, Confessions of a Backyard Birder (Isle of the Arts Publishing $21.95) is probably the only book (not including my daily staple of children’s picture books) that I have ever read in one sitting. Each chapter describes that special connection between humans and nature that happens when humans become birdwatchers.

“I found birds,” McInnes writes, “in much the same way, it seems, that some people find religion.”

McInnes provides bird tales that leave the reader bemused, delighted, and connected to the natural world. My favourite is Bird Seed in my Boots that involves mice (with which I’m all too familiar) and birds, and the trials of learning to live in harmony with nature. Being able to laugh at our own misconceptions of the natural world is always a good remedy for the problems inherent in a rural dwelling.

Up Close & Personal has inspired me to observe and relate to the creatures in my own back yard as never before. Teenage towhees squawking and splashing in the bird bath have me mesmerized and completely oblivious to whatever I was doing before I looked out my back window. How much time elapses before my attention goes back to my chores, I don’t know, but the image of those soggy, oversized fuzzballs splashing water everywhere, and looking like something only a mother towhee could love, brings a silly grin to my face.

The chapter Birds: Better Than Prozac begins with a line from songwriter Carly Simon: “The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” McInnes, a former counselor, explains: “Birding is a much safer, much more life-affirming antidote to all kinds of stress-related conditions.” Safer than most drugs, and possibly more life-affirming than exercising in an indoor gym. 978-0-9867453-0-0

[BCBW 2011]