Rachel Carson and me

The statue of Rachel Carson over looking Woods Hole.
The statue of Rachel Carson over looking Woods Hole.

Woods Hole, Massachusetts

I never met her, but I think she’d be disappointed in me.

I had just finished a sandwich and I was sitting on a bench near the water. I wasn’t looking at the water. I had pulled out my cell phone to check my email – email I had checked 20 minutes ago. There were emails that needed responses and I started to respond.

Then I thought, what the heck am I doing? There’s a whole ocean out there? I looked up and saw that all the other people – all sitting near the water, were looking at their cell phones. A little boy yelled “Look at what I found! It’s over here!” His mother didn’t look up from her phone. The only adult person sitting near the water and not looking at a cell phone was Rachel Carson. Well, a statue of Rachel Carson.

Carson is a hero of mine not because of she helped start the environmental movement with her book Silent Spring about the effect of DDT pesticides on bird populations –  but because she writes with the soul of a poet about the ocean in her lesser known, but just as impressive, books about the sea. If you haven’t read the essay about eels in Under a Sea Wind, you need to stop right now and go read it! Go!

Taking a cue from Rachel (we’re on a first-name basis now) I went snorkeling and completely abandoned work.

Treasures found while snorkeling. Slipper shell, oyster drills, an ark, and a dove shell
Treasures found while snorkeling. Slipper shell, oyster drills, an ark, and a dove shell

 

The water was cold water and I saw the comb jellies bob in front of me and fish dart into the rockweed. Oyster drills dotted the rocks and crabs ate their suppers while wedged in the rocks.

The most amazing thing I saw was (that’s an palindrome!) a polychaete worm with his bristly body swimming through the water. I followed him for ten minutes thinking, “Worm! Don’t you know that this ocean has fish in it!?” But he didn’t mind. He did not crawl like the other worms. He swam until he tired and then dipped back into the rocks.

Refreshed by the cool Buzzards Bay I returned to Rachel to look out over the ‘hole’ of Woods Hole and write.

As she might have done decades ago.

David and Rachel, different eras, but both writers and both scientists.
Trying to draw inspiration from a fellow scientist and writer.

David and Rachel, different eras, but both writers and both scientists.

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