3.21.2005

Vernal Equinox


Spring Beauty
Originally uploaded by ctb57.
Last week I picked up a copy of a really neat book titled, legends, women who have changed the world - through the eyes of great women writers. There are several women represented in the book, Georgia O'Keeffe, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, to name a few.

With drilling for oil in Alaska on federal lands a very possible thing, this entry on Rachel Carson by Terry Tempest Williams, moved me deeply.

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Rachel Carson. I first heard her name from my grandmother. I must have been seven or eight years old. We were watching birds--goldfinches and towhees--in my grandparents' garden. "Imagine a world without birds," my grandmother said. "Imagine waking up to no birdsong." I couldn't;

"Rachel Carson," I remember her saying. "Silent Spring." And then she and my grandfather engaged in a deeper discussion as my mind tried to grasp what my grandmother had just said.

Thirty years later, I find myself in a used bookstore in Salt Lake City. The green spine of Silent Spring catches my eye. I pull the classic off the shelf and open it. First edition, 1962. As I reread the text, I am struck by how little has changed:

One of the most tragic examples of our unthinking bludgeoning of the landscape is to be seen in the sagebrush lands of the West, where a vast campaign in on to destroy the sage and to substitute grasslands. If ever an enterprise needed to be illuminated with a sense of history and meaning of the landscape, it is this ... It is spread before us like the pages of an open book in which we can read why the land is what it is, and why we should preserve its integrity. But the pages lie unread....

Rachel Carson told the truth as she saw it. The natural world was dying, poisoned by the hands of corporate greed. Her words became a catalyst for change. A debate had begun: a reverence for life versus a reverence for power. Through the strength and vitality of her voice, Carson altered the political landscape of America.

In 1967, five years after Silent Spring was published, the Environmental Defense Fund was born, with a mandate, in the words of one of its founders, "to build a body of case law to establish a citizen's right to a clean environment." Three years later, in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established....

I want to remember Rachel Carson's spirit. I want to be both fierce and compassionate at once. I want to carry a healthy anger inside of me and shatter the complacency that has seeped into our society. I want to know the grace of wild things that sustains courage. Writer Jack Turner calls for a "sacred rage," a rage that is grounded in the holy knowledge that all life is related. Can we find the moral courage and sacred rage within ourselves to step forward and question every law, person, and practice that denies justice toward nature? Can we continue to bear witness?

This is the message ofSilent Spring Carson tells us, "The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings."...

I realize the innocence of those days. Now the idea of a spring without birdsong is indeed imaginable. Rachel Carson has called us to action. Her words remain as sacred text.

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On this, the first day of spring - the vernal equinox, let us celebrate and honor the rebirth of life.

Cher

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