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26 July 2012 @ 03:33 am
I was recently inspired, by a post tetleythesecond made, to look something up. (I'm sure that's the first time that's ever happened to any of us, with all the interesting and educational things she posts.)

I realised that I had never looked up Rachel Carson's final resting place. This is surprising given a) my favourite film is Harold & Maude and I've always had a morbid fascination with death (my mother's and English teacher's words); and b) I realised I'd always assumed she was cremated, based on nothing at all. (Also, burial seldom comes to my mind, for some reason, because so many people around my life have gone for cremation. I think I will too, although I have also considered buying a casket before my death [to save on post-death-ritual money] and putting bedding in it for haunted houses and things or guest bed for people who want to be creepy [like the people I live with]. But I think I would still want cremation, so probably not. Though I would like a tombstone, so I'd vote to get one of those [even a small one] and make sure to put some of my ashes and maybe a few of my favourite things [like my old hip] there. I want there to be a place with my name on it for grandchildren to come trip over, since I've never had that and I've always wished I had somewhere to go to sit and mourn/think about them/pay my respects. See? I told you I think about morbid things.)

ANYWAY! Geeze, Kiwi. I finally looked it up: Rockville, Maryland (not surprising, since Silver Spring was her home in Maryland when she died).

That puts it at about 4.5 hours from where my family vacations almost every year (down where we just were, by Virginia Beach). I would be totally willing to get up early and drive for the day to have a Rachel Carson road trip all by myself (I'll appreciate the alone-time) to visit her grave and one of the places she called home. And since my house here is about 4 hrs from one of her favourite places in the world (and our family cabin is closer, since it's Maine and we love Maine) I can hit that with a road-trip, too.

I'd want to do some research first to see if I could get in touch with anyone and convince them of my love for Rachel Carson and see if there was anything extra I could learn/see/experience while there... but seriously doable either way. (I think I would die if I ever managed to get in touch with the relative of Dorothy Freeman who has the letters, or some of the places with Rachel's hand-written things, and if those people let me look. Those are the things of which dreams are made.)

The site, Find a Grave, also had two pictures: one of Rachel's grave, and one picture of Rachel I hadn't yet seen and which is now my favourite. (About once a year I Google through all the Rachel Carson pictures, but of course Google misses many from smaller and more personal sites.) I'll put the pictures here.

The grave site:

So easy to miss. Very like her, to have something so important and have it not be a big fuss or draw too much attention, and to be with her mother again. I'm not sure what I would leave there--perhaps some plants, or a little figurine cat, and perhaps a letter containing some of the things I say with her in mind when I need a presence but not a person to talk to (or the ashes of such a letter burned, but spread off to the side and not obviously placed so no one would think it was rude).

The most common picture of Rachel:

First one that came up--and repeated many times after. I'm not that fond of it. I don't like how it softens her edges or makes her look more femme, or how forced her smile looks; I tend to ignore her mouth and look at her eyes when I see it. I've always thought she was more of a closed-mouth person than open.

The picture of Rachel this website has:

I love it. I think it is the happiest and least-staged I have ever interpreted her in a picture. To be honest, there are many popular pictures of her out there that I'm not incredibly fond of, so this one makes me incredibly happy and is definitely how I will see her in my mind now. The wilder hair makes sense for an ecologist--especially for a marine one!--and I knew I would love her straight eyebrows, lined face, deep-set eyes, strong chin, and straight thin lips if presented more naturally; here it is. She looks authentically amused and exactly the sort of person prepared to head out and check under some tide-pool rocks (and it's highly unlikely she'd give a damn about the suit). Even most of the pictures in which she is out and about, doing science, she looks incredibly staged and posed: in many she's wearing pearls and all set up for the shot as if science had to be sexy--or feminine if you were a woman (but then as the first or second female full-time, professional-level employee of the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries I'm sure that's what she had to put up with). I'm just...so happy to have found this picture of what looks like such a Real Rachel, since she's always written as such a private person--and thus someone I can see needing to be staged for non-personal photos; she wouldn't put her real self there. I'm slightly surprised that I found the picture by looking up her final resting place, but this works for me as a universal "you're on the right track" gift.

I can tell I'm approaching another "read everything Rachel Carson" phase of my life but I don't mind it. It's 2012, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring; the actual anniversary date will be the 27th of September. I think it's a great year, then, for me to finally read all of her books: Under the Sea Wind, The Sea Round Us, The Edge of the Sea, Silent Spring, The Sense of Wonder (the essay she intended to elongate into a book), and Always, Rachel (a book of letters between Rachel and Dorothy), plus probably Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson; at this moment I have finished two, read most of one, and bits of the others. (And have I mentioned how happy it makes me that Beacon Press, a Unitarian Universalist publisher [even if it started Unitarian], published those last two?) Although I may continue slowly savouring, since I love being able to pick things up and having 'new' words by Rachel that I have yet to read. :P

I also came across a quote from a UU sermon about her relationship with Dorothy Freeman that I really liked:

The respect and affection each held for the other soon grew to a deep and abiding love. They were not, apparently, lovers, (my impression is that their circumstances and times didn't allow what would have been natural) - thus each ached from their almost-constant separation. They addressed one another as "darling" and "dear heart," gave constant assurance of their love and desire to be in one another's arms, and signed "with love," and "I need you," and "always." Their longing for one another is so intimate that even they decided to burn some letters lest their friendship be misunderstood.

(They met in 1953 and Dorothy was already married with children.) It is my opinion that Rachel Carson was a lesbian (knowingly and actively or not) based on all of her life story, and I do think she was in love with Dorothy and that for her Dorothy was it, was 'the one', whether she recognised or acknowledged parts of her love or not. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Dorothy was in love right back. If the sort of love involved is what makes a relationship lesbian, then likely; if it is even the hint of certain limited acts, then perhaps; if it is certain acts performed with intention, then probably not; if it is the declaration as such, then definitely not. What I find that I love about it is that I am thrilled any way: if they were romantic to whatever degree and there were mutual or one-sided feelings (though the base feeling of love absolutely ran each way, whatever kind); or if they were platonic dearest-heart friends with hand-holding and declarations of love and platonic bed-sharing and farewell kisses; or some combination of both, because goodness knows there is no black-and-white to the relations and feelings between people. Any way the truth falls, I am so happy that it existed, and that enough of their relationship survived for me to know about it, even if not the truly private stuff. (Since it is Rachel Carson I'm talking about, I wouldn't expect or seek to know the private stuff; that's hers and that's the way she liked it.)

I just...alskdjfakjsdf. It gives me the OTP (One True Pairing) feelings, however platonic the pair. Rachel alone gives me all sorts of incredibly strong feelings. If I could be...If I could be one-quarter of the woman she was, I will have lived my life well and with love, and be happy.

Hmm. Well, I don't know how many of you have made it through one of my Rachel-rambles before, but they happen every once in a while. I was introduced to her at 15 or 16 by one of my Environmental Studies teachers (she was one of only two female scientists on the list of environmental people I could do a paper on) and I haven't looked back since. She's my role-model in life and, really, in love (but in my times, not in hers). There's a reason my degree is in Ecology and Conservation.

(At least thinking about Rachel Carson helped me realise that, while my flisties may have big beautiful brains filled with endless education on the subjects they've been inspired to research, I have the potential and drive for the same someday even though I don't have such a brain now. I haven't had the years. The way I throw myself into learning everything I can about Rachel Carson [and a few other things] reminds me that I do the same, and that with the years, I will continue to do so with other topics [and probably women] that catch my interest. Someday I too will have a big beautiful brain filled with endless education of my own choosing. And, honestly, it feels amazing to read through all this stuff without having to write a paper for a grade--but knowing that I could write something up just for me. Perhaps, in the name of Rachel Carson, the next time I read an article on some topic in which I have some knowledge, and get that feeling of inspiration to research and write, I will do it; perhaps I'll even take a quick glance at publishing.)

The icon is Rachel and Dorothy.
minervas_eule: booksminervas_eule on July 26th, 2012 12:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this enlightening post: I do know "Silent Spring" (as a biochemist...), but I had no idea what kind of person the author might have been. Her relationship with Dorothy moves me deeply...
Kiwi Crocus: Alex || Laughing.cranky__crocus on July 26th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC)
Her relationship with Dorothy moves me deeply as well. (: As a lesbian and as a person who forms deep, platonic relationships with women...it fits me either way and I love to see and read of such a relationship.

I think many people, even during her life, had no idea what kind of person 'the author of Silent Spring' was based on anything that would reach the media. She was a very private person and was uncomfortable with a) the fame one of her books brought on and b) being pushed under the limelight by Silent Spring, which she felt was her imperative to write and was something about which she could not remain silent. But she certainly would not have personally picked being in the media the way she was--especially being attacked by the large chemical companies.

While I admire her science (her marine biology, her ecology, her science writing), I don't think I would be so drawn to her if not for the person that she was. A person I can now partially know, from my place in the 'future', based on Always, Rachel (the letters published after her death) and, at least her philosophies, from her essay The Sense of Wonder.

(I read that short book just after New Year's--it was the first book I read--and I read it with a dear-heart friend of mine in the room. I had never read it before and was speaking it out loud. My friend would frequently interrupt with how "Kiwish" some statement or idea was, or say "That's just like you, Kiwi!" It made my heart sing. Rachel even talks of fun little fantastical things, like faerie homes. The "Would you help me search for a fairy cave on an August moon and a low, low tide?" quote comes from Rachel, from one of her letters to Dorothy; they used to explore the tides together during their summertimes in Maine.)

There I go again, rambling away! Ahaha.
Feather Quillfeatherxquill on July 26th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this! I know nothing about Rachel Carson, but it's always fascinating to learn about Awesome Ladies that my friends love :D.
Kiwi Crocus: Lips || Golden.cranky__crocus on July 26th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
No problem! Teeheehee. Yes, she is definitely one of the Awesome Ladies that I love. A gentle and thoughtful and softly-but-powerfully-spoken pioneer, she was! ♥
therealsnape: decisions decisionstherealsnape on July 26th, 2012 01:03 pm (UTC)
Very interesting! My flisties do keep me busy - I'm currently reading Selma Lagerlof, but I see that Rachel Carson needs a place on the 'to read' list as well.
Kiwi Crocus: Rainbow || Starry starry night.cranky__crocus on July 26th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
My flisties do keep me busy
Yes to that! And you're not alone on Selma Lagerlof (no diacritic because it's difficult on my keyboard); I've requested one of her memoirs--the one about her young teens, I believe--to my library. I shall receive an email soon, I'm sure, to go and pick it up. (: So Selma is cutting in front of Rachel in even my life!

I realise that many of my flisties are more in the humanities than I, but I think Rachel is another one with a foot in both worlds. But there is definitely quite a bit of science!

(While I value Silent Spring for what it is and what it did, I can understand when many complain that it is boring and repetitive. I don't think I would have been able to do anything but enjoy it just since it was Rachel, though. What I've read from her first three books about the ocean have fit her more as she is writing about her positive passions, rather than trying to start a movement and take down chemical companies. (: But it is lay science in the end, so many people would still consider the lot of it boring. Her letters and The Sense of Wonder [which is very short] are less scientific.)

Not that I am saying you don't appreciate science! I just like to make sure the warning's out there for whenever people follow my Rachel-love--she was definitely a scientist! (There's a good warning for stories: Science, science, beep beep beep science, warning!)
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Kiwi Crocus: AoGG || Do attract trouble.cranky__crocus on July 26th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, you've definitely inspired another round of Admiring Awesome Ladies in my life (not that it ever stops: just switches between 'active' and 'passive').

I love the book of letters and the way it's set up. First, it's divided by years and by what is being written at that time. Second, it contains all these side-notes to what else was in the letters (an article clipping or some-such) and what comments may refer to, so it ends up being full of recs for what Rachel and Dorothy were reading/listening to/watching at the time. (Like Beatrix Potter! Rachel was also a great fan of Beatrix, another Awesome Lady who also did science and writing! She's high on my list of 'women to fawn over'.)

I think I need to go make an icon of this newly-found picture so I stop clicking to a random tab to admire it. I've found Rachel beautiful before, in a more touched-up way, but this picture...it makes her just my kind of woman, or just the kind of woman I want to be (I can't always tell, but since I'm a "similars stick" over "opposites attract", by nature, I'm not too worried either way).