Sense of Wonder

For the Birds, and the Turtles, and the Deer

By Moira McGuinness

Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

The real wealth of the Nation lies in the resources of the earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, and wildlife. To utilize them for present needs while insuring their preservation for future generations requires a delicately balanced and continuing program, based on the most extensive research.
—Rachel Carson*

 

 

I consider myself a city kid with a country heart.  I was born in Washington, DC, have lived nearly my whole life in the DC suburbs, but I spend every weekend I can in the Shenandoah Valley at a cabin my parents bought in 1966. The cabin and the pond, fields, and woods that surround it are more home to me than the neighborhood I was raised in. Spending time out there just wandering around renews and heals my spirit like nothing else does.

A deer at the farm. Image by the author.

A deer at the farm. Image by the author.

This summer I asked a forester to produce a management plan for the 100 acres of woods on the property.  His plan included short-term ways to make the forest healthier and make room for the undergrowth that deer thrive on, and recommendations for longer-term growth. I agree with Rachel Carson that conservation requires a balanced approach based on research. I am thankful to have the help of a trained scientist in deciding how best to care for the trees and the wildlife that depend on them.

I know having such a connection to nature is a gift as well as a responsibility.  That’s why I especially enjoyed helping to get the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Finalists page ready to go online. The photos, essays, songs, poems, and dances, have inspired me to invite friends out to my little mountain retreat more often and share with them my own sense of wonder at the gift nature is. I invite you to cast your ballot for your favorite entry in each of the categories. Send an email with your favorites to aging.info@epa.gov or mail your votes to:

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Contest
C/O Kathy Sykes
U.S. EPA Mail Code 8101R
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Room 41284

Voting closes Friday September 27, 2013.

“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” ―Rachel Carson

About the Author: Moira McGuinness manages EPA Research web content. When not working with the Science Communication Staff in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, she likes to photograph wildlife she sees near her cabin.

*Letter to the editor, Washington Post (1953); quoted in Lost Woods:The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999) edited by Linda Lear, p. 99

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Rachel Carson Contest 2013

By Kathy Sykes

 

“The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.” —Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson

Seven years ago, the Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest began with the hope that it would inspire all generations—young, old, and middle aged—to join creative forces and in their own words describe a corner of the natural world that embodies a sense of wonder.

This creative expression contest has grown in its reach and breadth by popular demand. Entries have come from across the globe and in an array of shapes and media.

A few years ago, it seemed natural to add movement and dance to the contest. So, this year we invite songwriters to join the chorus and capture the sounds of wonder with their melodies of meadows, streams, and breezes.

When I was in second grade, my father took me and my brother out of school for a half day to watch The Sound of Music. I am sure he had a number of lessons in mind he wanted us to learn by taking us to the movie theater. A history lesson on World War II was the most immediate.  But I believe he also wanted to foster an appreciation for the arts and the environment.

Hiking in the Alps.

The cinematography was amazing. The surrounding photography of the Alps from the movie left an indelible memory for me. Many years later I climbed the Austrian Alps with an exchange student from a small town in Austria and his father—something I will never forget. And yes, we sang hiking songs, too.

My parents succeeded in giving my brother, sister and me a well-rounded education engendering a sense of wonder for nature’s beauty as well as for the arts.

I invite you to share that same sense of wonder and enter the Rachel Carson Contest. Please see more information about the contest at:

http://epa.gov/research/aging/carson/index.htm.

As Rachel Carson wrote in her book The Sense of Wonder:

You can listen to the wind, whether it blows with majestic
voice through a forest or sings a many-voiced chorus…

The deadline for entries is June 10, 2013.

About the Author: Kathy Sykes has been working for the EPA since 1998 where she focuses on older adults and the built environment and healthy communities.  In 2012, she joined the Office of Research and Development and serves as Senior Advisor for Aging and Sustainability.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Rachel Carson “Sense of Wonder” Contest

By Alex Gorsky

Being an environmental guy, I had heard of Rachel Carson. I saw a video about her in a science classes and I read her book, Silent Spring. It wasn’t until I started to intern at the EPA that I learned that there was a contest under her name. When I began to work this summer, I learned that I would be helping collect the entries and judge the contest. Not wanting to go into the judging blind, I went to the Rachel Carson Contest website to do research on past contestants. Each winner clearly showed how important the environment was for them. I couldn’t wait till I started getting submissions for this year’s contest.

I didn’t have to wait long. In my first week I was already working on the contest to get the entries ready for judging. By looking at the entries I could see the love that each team had for nature and the environment. Some teams were from the city and had not viewed nature other than in passing while other teams were brought up and brought up their children and grandchildren deeply immersed in the environment. Despite the variety of entries and the locations they were from, I could see that each team had the “Sense of Wonder” that Rachel Carson hoped for us all to have.
As the end of my internship approached, we began to judge the contest. Thankfully, we only had to pick out the top contenders from each category. Every entry was so well done that it was hard to determine which we had to cut out; not every entry could be a finalist. Through much deliberation we were able to make our choices and decide on the finalists for the contest. Each finalist received a certificate from the EPA as well as a letter of congratulations.

As Rachel Carson 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.” Voting for the contest has begun and will be open until September 30th.

About the author: Alex Gorsky is an intern in the Office of Public Engagement at the EPA. He is a senior at Beloit College majoring in Environmental Studies.

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

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.