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In Isolation: April 19, “Silent Spring Song”

An introduction to this “In Isolation” blog series appears at the top of the March 22 post.

I was first introduced to the work of biologist/researcher/author/ Rachel Carson while in secondary school. I was privileged to have a biology teacher who was so taken with her work that he coloured outside the lines in terms of our curriculum and focused on the conservationist efforts of Ms. Carson. One of our primary study resources was her book, “The Sea Around Us”.

Leslie Stovall, our teacher, was so excited by Carson’s 1962 book, “Silent Spring”, that he offered an all-school talk on it and her work. Just two years later, Carson died of breast cancer. It was rare for me to see a man as broken as Mr. Stovall was upon learning of her passing.

I read her books in high school primarily because doing so was assigned. What I remember so vividly, though, was Carson’s mantra about the connectedness of everything.

In 2008, my close friend, Shirley Murray, wrote a poem called “Silent Spring Song”. The note which was attached to it when I received it read simply, “inspired by Rachel Carson”. All the memories of those high school biology classes with Mr. Stovall passionately reading aloud passages from “The Sea Around Us” came swirling back.

On Saturday, I received an email from a friend who is a retired Anglican Bishop. The subject of his email was “Connecting”. I read the word and what flashed through my brain were Carson’s thoughts and Murray’s writing about “the connectedness of everything”.

Shirley’s “Silent Spring Song” is a marvellous text for Earth Day (or any other day for that matter) but I think especially for these days. In some ways, what Rachel Carson wrote over a period of four years leading up to the publication of “Silent Spring” was a prophetic look into our here-and-now. Should humankind survive this pandemic — and I find myself seriously wondering about that as I hear more and more rhetoric about the economy ‘trumping’ science — I’m convinced there will be others to come unless we make radical changes in our behaviour and our relationship with the earth to which we are so tenuously connected.

Now is the time for a reckoning,
now all is flowering and flourishing,
God, help your children
mindfully listen:
soon there may be just a silent spring.

Silent the voices in bush and tree,
silent the creatures of air and sea,
God, help your children
mindfully listen:
ours are the hands that took earth for free.

We are the root of the earth’s unease,
we are the pirates who dredge the seas,
God, help your children
mindfully listen:
ours is the creed doing as we please.

We are the spenders of precious store,
we are the greedy who take no score,
God, help your children
mindfully listen:
ours are the mouths wanting more and more.

We take the bounty of all you give,
we are the sorrow that makes you grieve,
God, help your children
mindfully listen:
mindfully choose how the world will live!

Words by Shirley Erena Murray

Copyright © 2008 by Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, Illinois • USA