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Discover It, Share It and Pass It On: Nature – A Sense of Wonder

2011 February 28

By Kathy Sykes

My own guiding purpose was to portray the subject of my sea profile with fidelity and understanding. All else was secondary. I did not stop to consider whether I was doing it scientifically or poetically; I was writing as the subject demanded.

These were the words stated by Rachel Carson during her acceptance speech for the National Book Award she received in March 1952, for her work The Sea Around Us. Carson was a pioneer of the environmental movement and an inspiration to generations of women and men who have grown to appreciate the natural world.

Rachel Carson was an inspiration to my mother, Marguerite, a chemist who was one of a few women who worked at USDA’s Forest Products Research Laboratory in Wisconsin. Prominent on mom’s bookshelf were a series of books by Carson: The Sea Around Us, Sense of Wonder, and Silent Spring.

Carson wrote eloquent, beautiful prose. What mom read, she wanted to share with her children and later her grandchildren. Growing up in Madison was fun filled with long walks to parks and lakes including the Arboretum, the duck pond, Cherokee Marsh, and Picnic Point.

Our summer vacations were spent hiking nature paths with waterfalls, fishing for trout, and skipping flat water- smoothed stones along the shores of Lake Superior or some other smaller northern Wisconsin lake. During these hikes, mom taught us to recognize the first flowers of spring–hepaticas, spring beauties and marsh marigolds. We could distinguish among the songs of the red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, bluejays and the whip-o-wills.

Rachel Carson’s last work A Sense of Wonder is the inspiration of the EPA’s Rachel Carson intergenerational contest. She wrote “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

Our contest is to continue in Rachel’s footsteps–to discover and rediscover with someone older or younger the joy and excitement of the world we live in and have nature serve as an inspiration for a creative work, a poem, an essay, a photo or even a dance.

About the author: Kathy Sykes began working for the U.S. EPA in 1998. Since 2002, she has served as the Senior Advisor for the Aging Initiative and launched the Rachel Carson Contest in 2007.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    February 28, 2011

    Shakes For Rachel, Marguerite and Kathy

    Like quakes around of us
    Like waves on the beaches
    Like hurricanes in the skies
    Like wildfires at the forests

    Like you are, step down to us
    Like rain, step down to the ground
    Like messengers, step down to the mankind
    Like environmental movement, step down to the people

    We need to be linked
    Forever and ever
    Like Rachel, Marguerite and Kathy
    And perhaps us
    And next generation, forever.~

  2. Alexander permalink
    February 28, 2011

    I should like to add:The nature serves as inspiration for human life too.

  3. Kathy Sykes permalink
    February 28, 2011


    With a relative or friend, you should consider an entry for the 2005 Rachel Carson sense of Wonder Contest.

  4. Kathy Sykes permalink
    February 28, 2011

    Alexander, You are quite right in saying that nature inspires human life. There is also a sense of healing that can accompany a “sense of wonder experience.” Rachel Carson wrote,
    “There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter.” And it is also important to remember how nature can serve as a source of strength, as she noted with the comment from the book, that, “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

    We humans are intertwined with nature.

  5. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    February 28, 2011

    Rachel was a great writer, one of the best, and one of the founders of the environmental movement with the books she wrote. Because of her work, we have the U.S.EPA and the CalEPA today , and critically important laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. I think its very important for the environment and public health to continue with the traditions Rachel gave to us; while, at the same time, looking toward the future. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  6. armansyahardanis permalink
    March 1, 2011

    Thank you so much. Could you add the contest with the songs? Please try to hear “Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland, or “Sunshine on My Shoulder” by John Denver, and also “Deep Blue Sea” by John Mayall. They are genius musicians. Good luck on your 2011 contest…!

  7. kathy Sykes permalink
    March 1, 2011

    You are right on Michael. I could not have said it better. She is indeed a great inspiration for both public health and the environment.

  8. custom essay writing services permalink
    August 13, 2011

    The good thing about your information is that it is explicit enough for students to grasp. Thanks for your efforts in spreading academic knowledge.

  9. Chris Harris permalink
    November 4, 2011

    You have been a great resource, likely to get back, you are awesome..
    Chris Harris

  10. stephanie derry@Nature's life permalink
    January 3, 2012

    As I have read the blog above, I was really interested with it. from the title itself. Very accurate and indeed, share it and pass it on. I really do it for the sake of our mother nature.

  11. June 30, 2012

    As I have read the blog above, I was really interested with it.

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