4 Things Rachel Carson Believed In That Can Help You Stay Positive in Tough Times
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, Ph.D
Biologist and author Rachel Carson didn’t have an easy life but she had a luminous one.
Despite having the good fortune of being recognized as arguably the greatest nature writer of her generation – Carson sure didn’t win the luck lottery.
Rachel lost much of her family to illness, and she herself died of cancer. She valiantly managed to complete Silent Spring (the book that launched the modern environmental movement) only 18 months before she passed.
I just finished reading Linda Lear’s stunning biography, Rachel Carson: Witness to Nature. I casually mentioned to a girlfriend of mine that it was a powerful but sad reading experience.
My pal has a dark sense of humor, so I wasn’t shocked when she asked:
“Why do you keep reading biographies of Carson anyway? How the hell do they make you feel more positive? I mean you know the story doesn’t end well. And you know you’re going to get sad in the last two hundred pages, right?
My friend had a decent point.
But the answer to why Carson helps me stay positive despite her sad ending dawned on me the next day when I was out walking the oceanfront. A thought occurred to me as I was watching the very pelicans Carson helped save from extinction.
Here it is.
What Carson Did When She Knew The End Was Near
I think I keep inhaling Carson biographies because when Carson found out from doctors that the last 200 pages of her own life weren’t going to end well, she chose to do two super-human things, things I doubt I would be able to do:
First, she chose to stay positive. This enabled her to do the second thing she chose to do.
The second thing Carson did was to take her focus off herself and put it on the future of the world instead.
The stuff of heroes, right?
Despite being opposed by seemingly insurmountable hardships (like aggressive cancer and hostile chemical companies) Rachel Carson managed to leave something miraculous in her wake; a milky way-like star path of books, articles, and interviews that we can still follow today.
And as I was reading Lear’s book I noticed four things Carson believed in that I think helped her stay positive, drink deeply of life, and speak truth to power.
My hope is one of her four beliefs may comfort you through a seemingly insurmountable hardship you may be facing.
4 Life-Changing Things Rachel Carson Asks Us to Believe In
How Rachel Carson Can Help You Stay Positive Tip #1
Believe in that Wonder-Inducing Object of Your Childhood
Residents of Carson’s hometown in landlocked Pennsylvania tell a story about how Carson’s love affair with the sea began the day she discovered a fossilized fish she had dug out of a rocky outcropping on the family’s hillside property there.
“It provoked questions that Rachel wanted answers to,” wrote Lear.
“She wondered where it had come from, what animal had made it and lived within it, where it had gone, and what happened to the sea that had nurtured it long ago.” (Lear, 8,44)
Carson inspires me because she preserved the fire of wonder and curiosity ignited by that fossilized fish find of her childhood.
And she allowed that fire to keep burning in her heart her entire life.
(Check out my post-Rachel Carson: A Fairy Godmother for Artists and Writers.)
And we can do the same.
Journal on it or make art about it to explore and reveal its past hold on you.
How Old Treasures of the Past Helps You Stay Positive in The Present
Remembering the wonder of your smaller wild and free self from long ago and honoring what she loved and believed in then can help. Because it’s hard to be sad and curious at the same time.
How Rachel Carson Can Help You Stay Positive Tip #2
Believe in Lying Down and Looking Up
Carson was a well-respected biologist but what kept her sane, and stimulated her biggest ideas weren’t things to be found in the four walls of a laboratory.
“Carson walked the beach at all hours, at high tides and low, watching the comings and goings of shorebirds, observing the smaller shore creatures and collecting material,” wrote Lear.
“Sometimes she simply lay in the sandy dunes on her back, arms behind her head, watching and listening to the birds as they circled and dived overhead (Lear,94).
“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, as scientists or layman, are never alone or weary of life.”
— Rachel Carson
How Lying Down and Looking Up Helps Your Stay Positive
Being quiet in nature allows us to come home to ourselves. Dusting off and inhabiting our soul center (and metaphorically putting up some cute new curtains there) always helps us stay positive.
How Rachel Carson Can Help You Stay Positive Tip #3
Believe in Best Friends and Long Letters
Dorothy Freeman, Carson’s neighbor turned beloved friend illuminated the final dozen years of the author’s life.
For a wonderful look into the two’s unclassifiable relationship, peek at The Carson/Freeman letters by Brain Picking’s Maria Popova.
The near-daily correspondence between Carson and her best friend:
- Stimulated Carson’s intellectual and creative imagination.
- Helped Carson develop academic arguments and gauge the emotional impact of her writing drafts.
- Supported Rachel to stay positive and keep writing despite her debilitating bouts of loss and illness.
- Allowed Carson to overcome fear, keep believing in, writing about, and fighting for, her vision for a better world.
How True Friends Help You Stay Positive
When all feels lost, true friends remember (and remind us of) our best selves.
They tell us to never give up.
And if you don’t have a true friend at the moment, or they are taking a nap, I will say it to you; never give up, ok?
Our final way to stay positive involves Carson’s ability to thrive with the help of another kind of true friend- the kind with whiskers.
How Rachel Carson Can Help You Stay Positive Tip #4
Believe In The Solace and Magic of a Cats
We know writing and making art can be lonely businesses.
Carson, like many of us artists and writers, found cats to be wonderful companions.
She had several special cats over the course of her professional writing life.
Two of Carson’s beloved cats died shortly before she did.
Rachel was grieved but glad when they passed. Why? Because Carson didn’t want her cat friends confused and looking for her, or missing her after her death. She thought it best that she, not they, be the one to have to remain alive in a world without the other.
That’s how much our cats mean to us right?
How Cats Helps Artists and Writers Stay Positive
I believe cats (and all animals) heal us emotionally and physically if we share our studios, desks, and lives with them.
Cats teach us to stay present.
Because they wake us up to the blessing of living in just this moment, with all its wonder. Spend even ten short minutes today paying full attention to your cat. What will they teach you?
“One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?” –Rachel Carson
Have you ever had a cat? Did they ever help you through a hard time or help you stay positive? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your take.
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