For the last five years I’ve spent Mother’s Day birdwatching with my teenaged son, Yeats. We drive to Point Pelee to look for migrating birds, birds that are on their way to build nests and become parents themselves. It is one of those cycles of life.
We all know that Mother Nature wears many guises, not all of them kind and nurturing. But in mid-May in southern Ontario, she is usually fairly benign. Most years our days in the forest or along the shore are easy – a gentle wind ruffling the feathers of black terns perched on a railing, or sunlight glinting off the backs of black-bellied plovers. We spend ten hours a day patiently wandering around looking for birds, and I consider myself lucky that something this simple is all it takes for me feel fulfilled.
But some years the wind is cold and the rain falls in great gusty sheets, and we go out to look for birds anyway.
On one such Mother’s Day, as I followed Yeats around Hillman Marsh, my shoes clogged with mud and my face dripping with rain, I felt myself succumbing to gloom. I just wanted to be inside with a cup of coffee and a good book. I imagined my sister at home eating breakfast in bed, a rose on her tray. I took another squelching step and looked at my son, who loves this kind of weather. He prefers rain to sun and there he was ahead of me, no doubt humming to himself, raising his binoculars to look at the flock of dunlin flying past, while I tried to pull myself together.
Then he turned and looked at me. He gave me one small, sweet smile and said, “Come on, Mom. It’s a beautiful day!”
What?! The small child who had needed loving reassurance for all those years had grown into a young man who was now encouraging me. I felt deeply blessed. This was the true gift of Mother’s Day – time spent with my boy, out in the lap of Nature, whatever Her aspect.
In fall 2007, Lynn Thomson experiences a huge life shift. Her teenage son, Yeats, is just beginning high school. Yeats has always struggled against the system, against the pressure to conform. He is a poet at heart: acutely sensitive, highly intelligent, and solitary by nature. Lynn and Yeats have always been close, but after fourteen years as a stay-at-home mom Lynn is going back to work for her husband, Ben, who has just opened his own bookstore.
When Lynn and Yeats take a trip to Vancouver Island, they discover a mutual love of bird watching. Lynn is the only other person Yeats has found who loves nature and watching birds. Plus, she has a car. Lynn describes in wondrous detail the many trips she and Yeats take, from the Wye Marsh and Pelee Island in Ontario, to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, to an ill-fated trip to the Galapagos Islands. The two grow closer with each bird-watching expedition. At the same time, Lynn notices that her son is beginning to pull away — and she must learn to let go.
Birding with Yeats is a delicate, sensitive, and gentle reflection on the unique bond between a mother and son, and the magic that is the natural world.