Experiencing Spring: Then and Now
When Rachel Carson occupied the house at 11701 Berwick Road, she could observe her beloved Virginia bluebells, blooming in early May. It is our good fortune that they continue to flourish in natural areas of the property providing nectar and pollen early in the growing season. Walking near her home she could hear the very loud frog chorus beginning in March. Although fainter now than in earlier times, frog songs are still heard especially in early spring.
Rachel watched eagerly for birds through her home’s wide windows. Most of the avian species she observed as year-round residents or visitors still appear at various times during the year. Sadly, their numbers especially those of the migrants, have declined since Rachel’s day.
On Saturday, May 2, 2015, from noon to 3 pm a delightful and informative Open House took place at the Rachel Carson National Historic Landmark, site where the famous author lived while writing Silent Spring. This annual event to honor Carson’s major historic contributions and the relevance of her visionary voice today was sponsored by the Rachel Carson Landmark Alliance (RCLA) along with Cliff Hall, Diana Post and the Friends in Unity with Nature Committee of the Sandy Spring Friends Meeting (Quaker).
This year’s theme, “A Spring Full of Wonder” was chosen to reflect Rachel Carson’s sense of delight in her home’s natural surroundings and in the healing qualities that she found there. She called it “a place for wonder” and it still can be so especially during the spring season.
The weather was splendid on this Open House afternoon and the Carson property served as a hub not only for birds, bees and Virginia bluebells but also for the guests who gathered to celebrate Rachel’s life and work. At the top of the driveway an inviting canopy sheltered and native plants offered for sale and grown without chemical pesticides under the auspices of Chris Puttock from Chesapeake Natives, and his dedicated volunteers.
Nearby on the patio, visitors enjoyed the fine spring weather while listening to the indoor presentations, courtesy of Jay Kohn’s customized audio system. On the building’s enclosed porch the engaging Butterfly Brigade (Jean, Paul, and Kristi) provided wondrous ecological crafts for children and their parents. In the living room and part of the dining room, rows of chairs gave visitors a view of program presentations as well as opportunities to contemplate both the historic interior and the outdoor living panorama visible through the wide windows that Carson had chosen for her house.
The afternoon’s program began with a poem to honor Rachel Carson, written and read by Felix, who represented his Barrie School’s, 6th grade class, which had designed and constructed an original mural, “Green” donated to the Rachel Carson House and installed on the porch wall.
This was followed by several dynamic musical selections from Jay Mankita, whose award winning songs focus on the environment and social justice. His enthusiastic performing style and outstanding musicianship appealed to adults and children, alike.
As is customary at these annual Open House events, each speaker is allowed 20 minutes for a presentation followed by a 10 minute question period. (See presenters’ bio-sketches below.)
Scott Creary, entomologist/beekeeper and excellent communicator focused on beneficial insects, many of which were discussed in Silent Spring’s last chapter, “The Other Road.” Scott conveyed his excitement and intensity about insects as well as an outstanding command of this topic. Afterward he treated those who shared his interests to an outdoors, live, beneficial insect display.
Carson biographer, Bill Souder continued the high level of audience engagement with his presentation on historical details of Rachel’s later life. Souder concluded by exploring the question of the likelihood that another Rachel Carson could be coming along in the near future.
Next distinguished ecological poet and Maryland resident, Meredith Hadaway, presented a perfect interlude, reading amazing selections from her recently published collection, At the Narrows.
The final speaker, Holly Shimizu, nationally known former director of the US Botanic Garden discussed plants as a source of wonder and worth. She gave exceptionally valuable advice including how to attract pollinators, to a garden even when dealing with climate change.
Refreshments and Door Prizes
Gloria Villanueva, elegant and gracious, presided over organic fare from Green Plate Catering, and delicious carrot cake donated by Restaurant Nora.
Door prizes were donated by The Cricket Book Shop, & The Wild Bird Center of Rockville.
The varied activities and the 80+ visitors helped make this 2015 Rachel Carson Open House a most memorable and successful occasion.
Many, many thanks to those wonderful friends who generously contributed to planning and presenting our 2015 event!
Commendations from Visitors
“I was floored by the level of the conversations sparked by different speakers and the beauty and history of the Rachel Carson House itself.”
“Thanks for… good food, interesting conversations, the beauty of Rachel Carson’s legacy, and all the dedicated people who made this possible!”
“Congratulations on yet another terrific Open House.”
Biographical Sketches of Speakers & Performers
Scott Creary has degrees in plant science and entomology and is adept with the theory and implementation of biological control programs in horticultural systems. Through years of experience with plants and insects, he can identify hundreds of tropical and temperate plant and insect species on sight, along with knowing their lifecycle and ideal cultural conditions. Mr. Creary works at IPM Laboratories, Inc., providing technical support to customers on how to most effectively incorporate biological controls into their growing methods to manage pest problems without the use of chemicals.
William Souder’s work has appeared in many publications, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Smithsonian, and Harper’s. He is the author of three books. A Plague of Frogs (2000) followed the investigation into outbreaks of deformed frogs across North America. Under a Wild Sky (2004) told the story of pioneer and bird artist John James Audubon and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson was published in September 2012 on the 50th anniversary of Carson’s Silent Spring. It was a New York Times Notable Book of the year, and was named one of the Top 25 Nonfiction Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, as well as one of the Ten Best Biographies of the year by Booklist. Mr. Souder’s next book, Mad at the World: John Steinbeck and the American Century, will be published in 2019.
Meredith Davies Hadaway is an award-winning poet and teacher of ecopoetry, and the author of three collections of poetry: At the Narrows (2015), The River is a Reason (2011), and Fishing Secrets of the Dead (2005). Her work explores the birds, bugs, trees, marshes, and especially the waters of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, evoking memory and mystery as they shape our lives. Ms. Hadaway has read her work in literary venues and nature centers across the United States and in Ireland. She is a longtime resident on one crumbling bank of the Chester River and has spent countless hours on the water, reading, writing, teaching poetry workshops aboard a boat, and sometimes just dreaming and drifting. She also is a musician who plays harp at the bedside in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice, and in performance with her band, Harp & Soul.
Holly Shimizu has been involved with plants throughout her life. As a professional horticulturist and leader for public gardens, she was most recently the Executive Director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, during which time the Garden experienced a renaissance and was one of the partners of the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), which is the rating system for sustainable landscapes. Ms. Shimizu is the recipient of many awards and honors for her work and continues to write and lecture internationally. In addition, she is currently working with the Wilson Botanical Garden in Costa Rica, part of the Organization for Tropical Studies. The home gardens that Holly and her husband Osamu, a Garden Designer, have created are featured in a number of books and magazines and are recognized wildlife habit and sanctuary gardens.
Jay Mankita writes, plays, and records fun, funky songs on electric and acoustic guitars and invites participation by all ages of children and their families in his dynamic and educational concerts. He accompanies himself on an innovative, foot-driven percussion rig that he designed from found objects, recycled materials, and knocked-about, pried-apart drum gear. A masterful guitar player and award winning songwriter, Mr. Mankita combines humorous and serious material, addressing topical issues in an entertaining way. His children’s album, “Eat Like A Rainbow,” is a Parents’ Choice award winner and was produced in conjunction with the nonprofit New York Coalition For Healthy School Food. The title song also appears on the Putumayo Kids’ release, Picnic Playground, heard in more than 100 countries around the world. His “Junk Food Man” is featured on a 2011 Grammy-nominated release, and dozens of artists have performed and recorded his works. During the past 25 years, Mr. Mankita has recorded six albums and has performed in more than 1,500 venues.