“Mother of a Movement”, Rachel Carson

Holst, Rachel, Carson with Pelican Eggs, final.jpgBorn May 14, 1907, Died April 14, 1964

This piece was developed during the first Bartimaeus Institute Online Cohort (2015-2016), aka “The Feminary.”  These pieces will eventually be published in a Women’s Breviary collection.  For more information regarding the Feminary go here

By Sarah Holst

Visio Divina is a form of guided meditation, an intentional way of praying with an image. “Mother of a Movement” is a depiction of some of the pieces of Rachel Carson’s story. The following are steps to letting the visual representation of Rachel Carson weave into your own life experience.

1. Begin by opening your heart and mind to “Mother of a Movement”. What are your initial reactions and impressions as you look at this image? Become aware of the feelings and thoughts that you have as you take in the forms, figures, lines and textures. What do you find yourself drawn to? What are you curious about? What do you appreciate and not appreciate? At the beginning of your prayer, simply note your initial responses without judgment. Stay open to perceiving more as the prayer unfolds.

2. For a moment, turn your attention away from the image as you open yourself to Rachel Carson’s story. Rachel Carson (1907-1964) grew up in the small town of Springdale, Pennsylvania. Two forces that would continue to mold her impacted Rachel’s early life: a love of nature (taught to her by her mother, Maria Frazier McLean, who was a devotee of the nature study movement) and the pollution from two giant coal-fired electric plants that sandwiched the economically depressed area of Springdale and bordered the nearby Allegheny River. As Rachel grew into her identity as a writer and biologist, she deliberately maintained a voice that was meant for everyone, not merely the scientific community. It was Rachel’s love for the world, her belief in the reserves of resilience and strength found in nature, and her work of radically noticing the slow cycles and the suppressed narratives in ecosystems that led her to challenge the government and the post-war chemical industry about ominous trends that she was noticing. When it sparked a national debate about the use of chemicals and the limitations of technological progress, Rachel’s book Silent Spring was attacked and belittled by the fury of the multimillion-dollar chemical industry. Rachel remained steadfast. When she died two years after Silent Spring was published from a battle with breast cancer, the seeds of the environmental movement that she planted were already growing.

3. Return to the image with renewed senses. Remember how Rachel Carson was rooted in the web of life and defended it with compassionate ferocity. Take in new ideas, feelings and meanings as you look. Allow your initial impressions to change. Expand your understanding of the feelings that come up within you: where do they come from, what are they connected to? Be aware of your expectations and assumption, and gently challenge yourself to see in new ways. Hold whatever your responses may be in prayer. What might the spirit of Rachel Carson be saying to you? Meditate on how “Mother of the Movement” might connect to your own context and life experience. Take time to prayerfully express gratitude for Rachel Carson and whatever came up for you in experiencing her story.

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