We are born with a sense of wonder. Taking delight in the warmth of the sun, the colours of the rainbow, the leaves dancing in the wind. Mesmerised by the beauty of fireflies and dragonflies. Amazement in the smallest of things. It is a sense to celebrate and recapture if it has been buried under day to day distractions.
The Sense of Wonder, published posthumously in 1965, shares Rachel Carson’s thoughts on how to maintain the awe and wonder in our lives. Lives that as adults often seem to be disconnected with nature and the elements. In the introduction to the 1998 version of the book, Linda Leary says that it “is Rachel Carson’s gift to the remembered child in all of us.” The book takes us to a world where the enjoyment and discovery of nature is shared between Rachel and her young grand-nephew Roger. It is a very personal story where we are urged to explore nature with feelings and emotions and to use all of our senses.
A quote from The Sense of Wonder gives life to some of the wonders that children and adults alike can experience and share:
“I believe children can be helped to hear the many voices about them. Take time to listen and talk about the voices of the earth and what they mean – the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of surf or flowing streams.
And the voices of living things.”
Roger and Rachel shared their adventures in the world of nature on the rocky beach and in the woods in Maine, USA. They took notice and delight in the little things, some of natures most exquisite handiwork on a miniature scale. They woke up early to hear the chorus of birds singing at dawn, went out at night to see the stars and search for ghost crabs.
Rachel did not pretend that she and Roger reacted with similar emotions to these experiences, but she was pleased to “see his infant acceptance of a world of elemental things, fearing neither the song of the wind nor the darkness of the roaring surf.”
Rachel Carson was a marine scientist, best known as the author of Silent Spring. This book, published in 1962, warned the world of the danger of pesticides and is credited with having a major impact on the modern environmental movement. While The Sense of Wonder is less well known, it is also a motivational book. One that the author hoped would inspire both adults and children to experience the sensory and emotional in nature, and knew that if they did, they would have less appetite for those activities that threatened the living world.
The final words of The Sense of Wonder are “The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place themselves under the influence of the earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.”
These lasting pleasures are worth celebrating.
It’s fascinating to me that Rachel Carson wrote both Silent Spring and the Sense of Wonder. As you point out here, it makes complete sense as both books are an attempt to motivate us to turn our love and attention to the natural world. Now it’s your turn! 🙂