Cerulean, Susan

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Tracking Desire: a Journey After Swallow-Tailed Kites (2005)
From Publishers Weekly
Environmentalist literature often focuses on some charismatic species as an emblem of threatened nature, but seldom with the infatuation hinted at in this title. Writer and conservationist Cerulean (Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide) has spent years researching the graceful raptor and offers a rundown of its diet, mating habits and epic migratory itinerary while deploring the destruction of its habitat by agribusiness and sprawl. But the book owes less to ecology than it does to older romantic conceptions of nature as a mirror of the writer's soul. The bird thus prompts Cerulean's musings on her childhood memories, her psychotherapeutic history, her "hunger for intimacy" and her guilt over her and her forebears' environmental sins, and it becomes a living totem through which she returns to an authentic religion of nature worship after the abstractions of Christianity. Cerulean veers close to out-and-out fetishism, rhapsodizing "the wild desire that strained my body toward that awesome bird" and left her "ready to explode with a primitive, physical longing" that "felt like coupling, like making the baby." Overshadowed by its symbolic role as spiritual mentor or ecstatic trigger, the reality and particularism of the bird itself recedes. (Mar.)
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