Rachel Carson and her Sense of Wonder


Senseofwonder_2by Susan
The DC Environmental Film Festival offers oodles of films to choose from – but just try getting a ticket for any of them.  Lucky for me, my super-organized friend Kathy Jentz acquired press passes for the sold-out world premier of the Rachel Carson biopic Sense of Wonder, written by and starring Kaiulani Lee.  Here she is dressed and coiffed as Carson, so it was quite a shock to see her rise to answer our questions as her very glamorous and much longer-looking self (click on her name to see for yourself.)

The back story for this film is particularly interesting.  Lee’s childhood in the same Maine woods so loved by Carson led her to an interest in portraying Carson in a play, so she began a long search for the perfect playwright to make it all happen.  She even enlisted the help of William Shawn, the New Yorker editor who serialized Carson’s works, and he  finally told her that SHE was the perfect person to write it, which she did.

The play and movie are in two acts, both set in 1963 around the time of the publication of Silent Spring, with all its attendant hoopla.  The first act takes place in the woods of Maine, the second at her winter home (near me) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Fast forward through 16 years of performing Sense of Wonder on the stage, until finally Lee was approached by some first-class filmmakers, and the result is this little gem.

Oh, is this where I’m supposed to analyze and criticize the movie?  Sorry, I was too focussed on Carson’s every word – and to me this actress WAS Carson – to remember to think analytically or critically.  I DO remember feeling in awe of what Carson accomplished, and very moved to hear her express my very own feelings about nature. 


  1. I agree – she does a great job. I haven’t seen the film yet, but the play was transforming even with just a chair and a bookcase with no beautiful scenery.

  2. Off topic – though I have a copy of Silent Spring on my bedside table, and look forward to seeing this film – just found the following in my dsily clipping service about community gardening news. Wow, there’s gardenrant in the Washington Post! Cool! And it’s a pretty darn good story, too. Congrats! In a few years, somebody will be doing films and plays about you four pioneering garden visionaries. Heck, maybe a musical?

    Even when I’m too busy to leave notes, I still read you guys – you all are my favorite garden essayists these days. Check it out, and congrats:


  3. Thanks, Don! This gift from Adrian Higgins turns out to just keep giving and giving as his original story in the WashPost turns up all over the damn place. the wonders of syndication!

  4. Thanks for telling us about this. I read Silent Spring when I was 16 back in the 60s (gulp!). It made me garden and be aware throughout my adult life. She was my hero. I hope to see this soon.

  5. I saw Lee perform her play in Urbana just last fall…

    It (and she!:) was absolutely wonderful!!!

    I’ll certainly want to see the film…don’t know when and where that might happen…

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