Bits and Pieces

Watching the surface of the bay out my front windows for more than 40 years is like having known a person for that long and still noticing all the different little quirks and habits. I just glanced out the window and then looked again–thousands of gulls across the bay on a large stretch of water! No….just the sun reflecting off the ripples in that section of water.

From you readers:

After reading my piece on Rachel Carson, Sher suggested I watch the movie, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. I got it through Netflix. It was an “American Experience” presentation (1993). Meryl Streep reads the excerpts from the book and the quotes from Carson. Well worth checking out!

I asked for readers’ “sea stories” and Doreen responded with some wonderful memories of her family renting little outboard motorboats at the dock in Port Gamble back in the ’50’s and taking Sunday cruises around the bay. Her dad was the “driver” and her brother and she took turns at the tiller. She can remember the “free feeling” of skimming over the water, “fast and magical.” Although they never went ashore anywhere, her dad would point out various locations, like the beach where they went to dig geoducks in Little Boston. They never fished. “Thinking back, the boats were probably less that 100% seaworthy….no life jackets, of course.”

One post featured the new Suquamish Museum. The timeline has since been installed on one long wall of the museum, so it’s worth another trip back just to see it! If you haven’t yet visited the museum, it’s time to go! You won’t regret it.

Suquamish Museum 050

Suquamish Museum 050 (Photo credit: WA State Library)

I wrote another piece about my most treasured possessions–two dead crow wings that I hang in the pear tree every fall which so efficiently keep away the crows that used to decimate that tree. The New Yorker recently ran a cartoon (by Kanin) of a farmer standing outside a barn with a friend and pointing out the five dead crows on top of poles in his garden. “It turns out crows find a bunch of dead crows more frightening than a man made out of hay.” That’s not funny–it’s true!

50th Anniversary of SILENT SPRING

Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School, recently wrote a stunning piece about Rachel Carson in The New York Times (October 28, 2012). Koehn had been creating a course on “history of leadership” when she became aware of the depth of Carson’s work.

Cover of "The Sea Around Us"

Cover of The Sea Around Us

We know Carson as the author of several sea books, including the award-winning The Sea Around Us, and then she published Silent Spring, a courageous book that called attention to the consequences of rapidly expanding technological developments, especially chemical pesticides like DDT. She became a key leader in starting the environmental movement.

But Koehn, the business professor, points out that Carson was not your typical leader. She was quiet and low-key, but she was also informed and resolute. She did meticulous research.

Douglas's review contributed to the success of...

Douglas’s review contributed to the success of Silent Spring, an important turning point for the environmental movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And she did it against amazing odds!

She had a breast tumor removed in 1950, and then took in her five-year-old grandnephew when her niece died in 1958. Unmarried, she also took in and cared for her ill mother until she died. In 1960 Carson was diagnosed with an ulcer and pneumonia, and then had two more breast tumors removed. More complications from the breast cancer, ulcers, and other health problems wreaked havoc on her writing schedule, but she persevered to publish Silent Spring in 1962. The book was 50 years old this past year.

Koehn quotes one of Carson’s early statements from Silent Spring, “How could intelligent beings seek to control a few unwanted species by a method that contaminated the entire environment and brought the threat of disease and death even to their own kind?”

She faced a strong backlash and attacks from the chemical companies who portrayed her as a hysterical woman. One biochemist called her “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature.”

Diligent and determined, but facing the ravages of her cancer, she chose public appearances carefully, appearing in venues where she thought she could do the most good, like testifying before Congress on pesticide use. She died in 1964 at the age of 56.

English: Rachel Carson, author of Silent Sprin...

English: Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. Official photo as FWS employee. c. 1940. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I particularly liked this reflection from Koehn:

“Carson’s life shows that individual agency, fueled by resolution and hard work, has the power to change the world. In this election year, when so much influence seems concentrated in ‘super Pacs,’ lobbying groups and other moneyed interests, her story is a reminder that one person’s quiet leadership can make a difference.”

I’m making a resolution, before this old year slips away, to re-read Silent Spring. In the meantime I have read one chapter from it, published in the book of essays, Sisters of the Earth (1991, Lorraine Anderson, editor). “Earth’s Green Mantle,” the chapter that is re-printed there, gently but very resolutely challenges the reader to action.

May many more of us today be accused of being “fanatic defenders of the cult of the balance of nature.”

English: Photo taken walking the trail at the ...

English: Photo taken walking the trail at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)