National Book Month: Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder

Most of us familiar with writer and environmentalist Rachel Carson know her National Book Award-winning The Sea Around Us or her groundbreaking 1962 work Silent Spring, which sparked the modern environmental movement.

Fewer of us know The Sense of Wonder, a slim volume that began as a magazine article in the 1950s. In it Carson passionately, persuasively calls on adults to nurture the oftentimes fleeting sense of wonder about the natural world with which every child is born, even if the adults can’t tell one bird from another:

it is not half so important to know as to feel.

Look up at the sky with your child, Carson writes. Listen to the wind blow, “and in the listening, you can gain magical release for your thoughts.” This stuff isn’t just for parents; it’s for all of us.

I first encountered The Sense of Wonder on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine with my husband several years ago. Until then I could see the beauty of the landscape around me but not its details; I understood its sounds but not its language. Carson’s book, which I flipped through every night of our two-week vacation, taught me how to see. It opened up the natural world to me, and me to the world. I will be forever grateful.

“There is other living music.” Indeed.