SENSE OF WONDERRachel Carson
One stormy autumn night when my nephew Roger was about twenty months old Iwrapped him in a blanket and carried him to the beach in the rainy darkness. Out there, just at the edge of where-we-couldn’t-see, big waves were thundering in, dimly seenwhite shapes that boomed and shouted and threw great handfuls of froth at us. Togetherwe laughed for pure joy – he a baby meeting for the first time the wild tumult of Oceanus, I with the salt of half a lifetime of sea love in me. As Roger passed his otherbirthdays, we continued that sharing of adventures in the world of nature that we began inhis babyhood – a sharing based on having fun together rather than on teaching. I made noconscious effort to name plants or animals or to explain to him, but just expressed myown pleasure in what we saw. I think the results have been good.We let Roger share our enjoyment of things people frequently deny childrenbecause they are inconvenient or because they interfere with bedtime. We searched theshore at night for ghost crabs, those sand-colored, fleet-legged beings rarely glimpsed indaytime, our flashlight piercing the darkness with a yellow cone. We sat in the dark living room before the picture window to watch the full moon riding lower and lowertoward the far shore of the bay, setting all the water ablaze with silver flames. Thememory of such scenes, photographed by his child’s mind, will mean more to him inmanhood than the sleep he lost.A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. Formost of us that clear-eyed vision is dimmed or lost before we reach adulthood. If I hadinfluence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of allchildren, I would ask that her gift to each child be a sense of wonder so indestructible thatit would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom anddisenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, thealienation from the source of our strength.If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder he needs the companionshipof an adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in. Parents often have a sense of inadequacy when confronted with theeager, sensitive mind of a child. “How can I teach my child about nature – why, I don’teven know one bird from another!” they exclaim. I believe that for the child, and for theparents seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to
. Once theemotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the unknown, afeeling of sympathy or admiration – then the wish for knowledge will follow.Wherever you are and whatever your resources, you can still look up at the sky –at its dawn and twilight beauties, its moving clouds, its stars by night. You can listen tothe wind, whether it blows with majestic voice throughout a forest or sings a many-voiced chorus around the eaves of your house or the corners of your apartment building.