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A bird’s nest is a tiny marvel of architecture, a puzzle that requires looking deeply into a tangle of twigs and straw, then gradually sorting it all out in layers of watercolor. To draw a bird’s nest, you must first heed the age-old advice of zen masters and high school math teachers everywhere: pay attention.

I’ve been thinking about birds this week, and about paying attention, mostly because I am halfway through an unexpectedly wonderful book:

I picked it up a few weeks ago at the bookstore, attracted by the beautiful linocuts that illustrate each chapter.  They are the work of Seattle-area artist Daniel Cautrell (whose unique approach to public art consists of creating elaborate and anonymous wood carvings on felled trees by the roadside, then leaving them for the enjoyment of passing drivers).

The book is naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s account of a personal journey of discovery, her gradual realization that the wild world is everywhere — even in the heart of the city. And as she writes about crows, the wily and adaptive survivors who thrive and multiply alongside the human population, she reminds us to look for the ways that nature has followed us into the urban world. It’s out there in the back yard, in the corners of the garden shed, under the rafters of the house. All we have to do is pay attention.