Awareness is Growing: Rachel Carson
Women’s History Month may be over, but there’s one more female voice I want to call attention to and celebrate.
Rachel Carson, who is featured on Grapheme’s tiny letterpress calendar in April, was a marine biologist and nature writer, whose 1962 Silent Spring is sometimes credited as the catalyst for the modern environmental movement. It turns out she was also an avid letter writer, which is perfect because April happens to be National Letter Writing Month.
Some of my closest friendships have been forged over letters, but it’s been years since I’ve regularly and consistently written to anyone. So, this month I’ve decided to take part in the 30-day letter writing challenge set up by Egg Press (now in its 5th year running). The goal is to write a letter once a day for the entire month, and there are new snail mail kits up in the online store to help facilitate this, if you are inclined to participate.
Now, knowing how challenges and I go (last month’s March Meet the Maker is a case in point), I think it’s perfectly acceptable to “gang up” letters over the weekend or on slower days in order to get all 30 in. I have a short list of recipients already, but if you’d like to be included on mine, please don’t hesitate to reach out, and I’d be happy to send you some snail mail! I will also be giving away some free stationery later this month on Instagram and Facebook.
I discovered Carson while I was rereading Wendell Berry, another nature writer I love and who I featured on a tiny print last fall. One of Berry’s most famous quotes is the idea that “there are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places.”
It turns out that Berry was talking about the creative process in this poem, which I’ve included in full, below, because I think it holds some important advice for all of us: “Slow down. Be quiet. […] Shun electric wire. / Communicate slowly.”
Berry’s poem about writing poetry sounds–to me at least—a little like the process of sitting down to write to an old friend, so that is what I am going to do this month, one letter at a time.
How to be a Poet (to remind myself)
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.