Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson - Rachel Carson, Linda Lear (1999)
Chapter 2. My Favorite Recreation
RACHEL CARSON KNEW from her earliest conscious memory that she wanted to be a writer. A solitary child, she read voraciously and was particularly influenced by the children’s literary magazine St. Nicholas, which not only offered writing of exceptional literary quality, but also awarded prizes for and published children’s work. Carson submitted five stories in all and in doing so joined the company of such future literary luminaries as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, e.e. cummings, S. Eliot Morison, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and E. B. White, all of whom won prizes and were published in the pages of St. Nicholas.
Carson’s last story appeared when she was fifteen. She had already achieved the esteemed status of “Honor Member” of the St. Nicholas League and been paid $10 for one of them. This story about exploring the Pennsylvania hills was her first about nature and was submitted in the category of “My Favorite Recreation.” It shows something of Carson’s already acute observation of the natural world and is noteworthy for the inclusion of her favorite bird, the wood thrush.
THE CALL OF THE TRAIL on that dewy May morning was too strong to withstand. The sun was barely an hour high when Pal and I set off for a day of our favorite sport with a lunch-box, a canteen, a note-book, and a camera. Your experienced woodsman will say that we were going birds’-nesting - in the most approved fashion.
Soon our trail turned aside into deeper woodland. It wound up a gently sloping hill, carpeted with fragrant pine-needles. It was our own discovery, Pal’s and mine, and the fact gave us a thrill of exultation. It was the sort of place that awes you by its majestic silence, interrupted only by the rustling breeze and the distant tinkle of water.
Near at hand we heard the cheery “witchery, witchery,” of the Maryland yellow-throat. For half an hour we trailed him, until we came out on a sunny slope. There in some low bushes we found the nest, containing four jewel-like eggs. To the little owner’s consternation, we came close enough to snap a picture.
Countless discoveries made the day memorable: the bob-white’s nest, tightly packed with eggs, the oriole’s aërial cradle, the frame-work of sticks which the cuckoo calls a nest, and the lichen-covered home of the humming-bird.
Late in the afternoon a penetrating “Teacher! teacher! TEACHER!” reached our ears. An oven-bird! A careful search revealed his nest, a little round ball of grass, securely hidden on the ground.
The cool of approaching night settled. The wood-thrushes trilled their golden melody. The setting sun transformed the sky into a sea of blue and gold. A vesper-sparrow sang his evening lullaby. We turned slowly homeward, gloriously tired, gloriously happy!