I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature

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9781595340313: I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature

During her days as a park ranger, Lucia Perillo loved nothing more than to brave the Cascade Mountains alone, taking special pride in her daring solo skis down the raw, unpatrolled slopes of Mount Rainier. Then, in her thirties, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In I've Heard the Vultures Singing, Perillo confronts, in stark but funny terms, the ironies of being someone with her history and gusto for life being suddenly unable to walk. ("Ground-truthing" is what biologists call entering an environment and surveying what is there via the senses of sight and sound.) These essays explore what it’s like to experience desire as a sick person, how to lower one’s expectations just enough for a wilderness experience, and how to navigate the vagaries of a disease that has no predictable trajectory. I've Heard the Vultures Singing records in unflinching, honest prose one woman’s struggle to find her place in a difficult new world.

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From Booklist:

In her thirties, Perillo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—a difficult thing to hear for anyone but especially poignant for an outdoors type as much in love with nature as Perillo, who when younger worked as a ranger in various wilderness settings. Back then, she took her body and good health for granted. The early days of the diagnosis and the attendant uncertainty of not knowing what kind of future awaited her became nearly unbearable. In one essay, she describes her conflict over what to call herself. "Cripple" or "disabled"? Disliking the latter's negative connotations, she preferred clinging to the fantasy "that I could do anything with the right technology." She describes her physical symptoms, muses about Greek and Latin tragedies, and reminisces about former occupations, including a stint teaching remedial English at a college attached to a Benedictine monastery before her limp became pronounced. Whatever the memory, the illness haunts her without actually defining her. Written with the sensibility of the poet that she is, a lovely portrait of resilience, hope, and true grit. Sawyers, June

From Publishers Weekly:

In this thoughtful and eloquent memoir, comprising previously published essays, poet Perillo (Luck Is Luck) observes the world around her from her four-foot-high wheelchair. Once an intrepid park ranger in the Cascade Mountains, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s and must now navigate the world without the use of her legs. Like the memoir, her life moves at a slow pace, full of bird watching, pondering and even occasional sex; she uses her heightened senses and a poet's prose to give a vivid, tragicomic portrayal of her current life and reflections on her bipedal past. Whether she's taking notes on seagulls, trees, salmon, poetry or herself, she writes astutely and gracefully. However, in her close observations, she rarely steps back to see the forest, and her nonlinear organization provides little emotional resonance. Nevertheless, Perillo's physical debilitation has only strengthened her poetic voice, which remains healthy, alive and breathing that fresh mountain air.
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