Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sense of wonder

Red maple, falling trees
Originally uploaded by marymactavish.
There is a book by Rachel Carson called A Sense of Wonder*, which I received as a gift from a woman I taught with and for, many years ago, my first Christmas with her.

The edition she gave me was published by the lovely and now defunct Nature Company, and had lovely color photos, and came in a box.

I'd read the book over and over, pulled deeply into Carson's descriptions of the time she spent with her young grand-nephew, whom she partially raised, their hours out spent looking for the tiny "Christmas Trees" they imagined the animals used, the seedlings that were the squirrels' trees, the saplings of the young deer; how she took him out night to see the stars on the rocky beaches of Maine, or look for nocturnal tidepool animals, frustrating well-meaning friends who didn't think she should have the child out past a reasonable bedtime.

In 1997, my apartment flooded during one of Sacramento's heavy winter rainstorms. The old storm drains with their narrow terra cotta pipes couldn't handle the rate of rainfall, and a few inches of rain came into my apartment, enough to soak the bottom shelves of the bookcases, to wick up the walls, and because, one particular storm, I was out of town at the time, to allow black mold to grow up the walls, as well. One of the victims was my copy of A Sense of Wonder.

Since then, I've found a copy at the Friends of the Castro Valley Library bookstore. I gasped in delight to find it, and though I had no money with me, the volunteers let me take it home anyway. I surprised them by coming back a few days later with the two dollars they were asking (and a donation of several boxes of good books for them to sell, as we were moving), grateful for their gift.

But this one is ... lacking. Not only are the photos in black and white, they weren't necessarily meant to be, so they aren't nearly as evocative as black and white can be, it is merely an expediency of printing in an earlier age. And again because the book is an earlier publishing, it's a bit faded .... it doesn't work as well. I sit and try to read the words, and I can read them, they're wonderful, but I want the lovely pictures too.

So I'm pondering typing the whole thing out, just for me, and either illuminating it with tiny watercolor details, or using my own photos to make a pdf, and print and bind a copy, just for me, for my own reading, my own coffee table. (I'd illuminate it Sark-style, except that my arthritis thinks it's a bad idea for me to write with a pen for very long at a time.)

Where is this going? I think I'm aiming this way, too:
1) This sort of thing, the sense of wonder that Rachel Carson felt so deeply, and shared with her nephew and the world, is perhaps the biggest chunk of why I love geography. Learning about the earth helps me to become emotionally intimate with it, and vice versa, and that matters to me.
2) I need to stop thinking about the "right" ways to use this blog, geographically, and share more about my own experience of geography.

A Sense of Wonder wasn't finished by the time Rachel Carson, who remains in my pantheon of saints, passed away. It was lovingly assembled from her notes. I am so grateful to the people who thought it was valuable enough for that.

*And googling that: How did I not know about the film? Why did no one tell me?