In the Library ~ Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson ~


Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring“, an early voice for our environment in 1962 

Silent Spring

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Rachel Carson, writer, scientist, and ecologist, grew up simply in the rural river town of Springdale, Pennsylvania. Her mother bequeathed to her a life-long love of nature and the living world that Rachel expressed first as a writer and later as a student of marine biology. Carson graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham College) in 1929, studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

She was hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries to write radio scripts during the Depression and supplemented her income writing feature articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun. She began a fifteen-year career in the federal service as a scientist and editor in 1936 and rose to become Editor-in-Chief of all publications for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She wrote pamphlets on conservation and natural resources and edited scientific articles, but in her free time turned her government research into lyric prose, first as an article “Undersea” (1937, for the Atlantic Monthly), and then in a book, Under the Sea-wind (1941). In 1952 she published her prize-winning study of the ocean, The Sea Around Us, which was followed by The Edge of the Sea in 1955. These books constituted a biography of the ocean and made Carson famous as a naturalist and science writer for the public. Carson resigned from government service in 1952 to devote herself to her writing.

She wrote several other articles designed to teach people about the wonder and beauty of the living world, including “Help Your Child to Wonder,” (1956) and “Our Ever-Changing Shore” (1957), and planned another book on the ecology of life. Embedded within all of Carson’s writing was the view that human beings were but one part of nature distinguished primarily by their power to alter it, in some cases irreversibly.

Disturbed by the profligate use of synthetic chemical pesticides after World War II, Carson reluctantly changed her focus in order to warn the public about the long term effects of misusing pesticides. In Silent Spring (1962) she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government, and called for a change in the way humankind viewed the natural world.

Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist, but courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment. Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.

March 19… First Day of Spring

Hummingbird taking pollen from pink Spring flowers.

The first day of spring (March equinox or vernal equinox) is when the sun shines directly on the celestial equator passing from south to north and the length of day and night are almost the same. This is referred to as astronomical spring or the March equinox or vernal equinox.

Astronomical spring starts at different times around the planet because of the different time zones as related to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC, same as Greenwich Mean Time based on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London [1]). For countries located west of UTC your spring will start earlier than countries located east of UTC.

1944 – Martha Graham’s ballet “Appalachian Spring” premiered at the Library of Congress.

Erick Hawkins in the first production of Appalachian Spring. In the background, left to right: the four Followers, Martha Graham, May O’Donnell, 1944. Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Performed to music by Aaron Copland and commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, the minimalist sets for Appalachian Spring were designed by Isamu Noguchi, costumes by Edithe Gilfond, and lighting by Jean Rosenthal. The work premiered on 30 October 1944 in the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The cast included Martha Graham (The Bride), Erick Hawkins (The Husbandman), Merce Cunningham (The Revivalist), May O’Donnell (The Pioneering Woman), Nina Fonaroff, Pearl Lang, Marjorie Mazia, and Yuriko (The Followers).

Copland’s music for Appalachian Spring is scored for a small, thirteen-member chamber ensemble and, the composition received the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Originally, Copland called his work Ballet for Martha; however, just before the premier, Graham suggested Appalachian Spring, a title that was inspired by Hart Crane’s poem, “The Bridge.”

One of Graham’s most iconic and enduring choreographies, the story is based on a wedding and is a celebration of the American pioneers of the early nineteenth century. Noguchi’s sparse set, designed to represent the new couple’s farmhouse, included a platform with a slim rocking chair, a bench, a section of fence, and a tree stump that The Revivalist uses as a pulpit. The music and dance were perfect companions, reflecting youthful desires symbolized in Romanticized notions of the open prairies of America’s frontier–a stark contrast to the world events of 1944. Robert Sabin, writing for Dance Observer (December 1944) noted “Appalachian Spring works outward into the basic experiences of people living together, love, religious belief, marriage, children, work and human society.” Critic John Martin in The New York Times (5 November 1944) observed that the tone was “shining and joyous. On its surface it fits obviously into the category of early Americana, but underneath it belongs to a much broader and a dateless category. It is, indeed, a kind of testimony to the simple fineness of the human spirit.”

The concert included two other works, also commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge: Mirror Before Me (later called Herodiade, to music by Paul Hindemith) and Imagined Wing (to music by Darius Milhaud).