Rachel Carson’s birthday: “No one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

This week I’ve been reading Rachel Carson in preparation for a short essay that I’m working on. Today is her birthday, so I thought I’d post a few quotes from her work. She is a fabulous writer, channeling her extraordinary passion through thoughtful metaphor and confident but understated prose. The quotes come from her article “Help your child to wonder” which ran in Woman’s Home Companion in 1956. I had not read this article before; it is not widely reprinted, but is full of gems. Thankfully, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Library has a scanned pdf available of the original.

“Out there, just at the edge of where-we-couldn’t-see, big waves were thundering in, dimly seen white shapes that boomed and shouted and threw great handfuls of froth at us. Together we laughed for pure joy – he a baby meeting for the first time the wild tumult of Oceanus, I with the salt of half a lifetime of sea love in me.”

“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

“It is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.”

When she received the  National Book Award in 1952, she said: “The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

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