Rachel Carson’s “Material Immortality”
This personal essay tells the story of David’s pilgrimage to Rachel Carson’s cottage by the sea in Southport, Maine. The pilgrimage was one of several David made to reconnect with his “literary ancestors”—wise elders whose literary works inspire his own learning. “Literary Ancestors” is the subject of David’s edited book in progress (with Mark Dickinson). Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, arguably launched the environmental movement. Its 1962 exposure of the chemical pesticide industry led to worldwide changes in environmental policy, thought, and behavior. Carson’s politics, however, emerged from her finely tuned “sense of wonder” nurtured by art and science. On his pilgrimage to Carson’s sacred place, David traces her sense of wonder for the world she loved through the tidepools below her cottage and through several of her literary works. The author weaves his travel narrative with Carson’s life and writing, and wonders about what it means to be human, mortal, and blessed with a sense of wonder for life on earth.