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   Tracking Desire: A Journey after Swallow-tailed Kites
 

Tracking Desire: A Journey after Swallow-tailed Kites

Author: Cerulean, Susan Set In . . .
 North America, USA, Florida, Lake Okeechobee
Genre: Biography
Time Frame: Late 20th Century
Published: 2005
Description:

“My memory is etched with a clear image of how that bird swung into view and hung over me, suspended like an angel, so starkly black and white, with its wide-scissored split of a tail.”

It took just one sighting of a swallow-tailed kite to dispatch Susan Cerulean on a pilgrimage through its fragmented and ever-shrinking habitats. In Tracking Desire, Cerulean immerses us in the natural history and biology of Elanoides forficatus. At the same time, she sifts through her past?as a child, student, biologist, parent, and activist?to muse on a lifelong absorption with nature.

Once at home throughout much of the eastern United States, the swallow-tailed kite is now seldom seen. With ornithologist Ken Meyer, and then on her own, Cerulean roams the kite’s much-reduced homelands, gaining knowledge about the bird and the grave threats to its breeding grounds and migration patterns. Her quest takes her to the muddy banks of the Mississippi, to an enormous and vulnerable roost on corporate ranchlands in southwest Florida, and to the remnant pinelands of Everglades National Park.

In seeking the bird, Cerulean comes to question her own place in our consumerist society. “My journeys after kites have led me to understand that the power of our longings is placing the integrity of life on our tender emerald planet so greatly at risk,” she writes. “What are the fractured places in our hearts and minds and spirits that have allowed us to stand by and watch, and even to participate in, the destruction of so much of life?”

  
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