by Shawna Carpentier
Everyone has a passion. Some people love to cook, others love to create art, and as Center City author Sue Leaf shows, some people love learning from the lives of other people.
Leaf will share her passion for Minnesota and nature when she reads from her latest biography “Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts” at 7 p.m. at Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge May 13.
“That’s why people read biographies, I think, to see if the other person’s answers can be useful to yourself,” Leaf said.
Leaf became intrigued by Roberts’ life, an educator, doctor and author, as she as was working on an assignment for Audubon Minnesota writing information on endangered and threatened birds in the state.
Roberts’ bird expertise is published in his two volume book, “The Birds of Minnesota.”
“He related his personal stories in the book, and it is clear that he had an unusually intimate and enduring relationship with the birds,” Leaf said.
The biography is the first of its kind, as it gives a full look into the life of a key figure in Minnesota history.
“Roberts’ life teaches us that a life of single-minded passion yields valuable fruit,” she added.
Writing, for Leaf, comes naturally, and she has been keeping journals since she was a child. Leaf’s passion is much like the book’s subject’s, who was the first Minnesotan to keep meticulous records of his sightings of Minnesota birds. He began keeping bird journals at the age of 16 in 1874. He was unwavering in his love for birds and the place he called home.
“I share with him an intense and perhaps irrational sense of loyalty to Minnesota,” Leaf said. “Call it a sense of place that ties me to the land.”
Leaf spent more than four years and hundreds of hours writing the biography in which she used Roberts’ bird journals and other personal papers kept in the University of Minnesota Archives and at the Minnesota Historical Society. Readers can learn interesting facts about Minnesota, its nature and its people as Leaf chronicles Roberts’ life and his bird discoveries in historical time periods that teach everyone something new about life.
“If people are interested in Minnesota, or in nature, (or if) they have bird feeders in their backyards, they will like this book,” Leaf said. “I deliberately wrote this book in a non-academic way so that general readers, not only historians, would like it.”
Leaf’s books, which are closely representative of Minnesota and its communities, can be found at Scout & Morgan Books.
“I hope the readers will engage in their own love affairs,” Leaf added.
Scout & Morgan Books is located at 114 Buchanan St. North in Cambridge and can be reached at 763-689-2474.