By Jay Parini
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Additional info for American Writers, Supplement IX
Each place is a life zone in itself, and each life zone contains a myriad of smaller divisions, each a world unto itself, yet influenced by and influencing all the others. Edges are places long known to ecologists, bird-watchers, and field biologists. The places where field and forest merge, riparian areas, and the littoral zones between tide lines are places of genetic exchange, places of extraordinary evolutionary potential. The Edge of the Sea was first proposed to her as a field guide to the shorelines, but Carson took the concept of a field guide and radicalized it.
The birds, for example—where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh. . In the gutters under the eaves and between the shingles of the roofs, a white granular powder still showed a few patches; some weeks before it had fallen like snow upon the roofs and the lawns, the fields and streams.
Aesthetic experience implies for her an interrelationship between reader, text, and world. She hopes to encourage a perception of the relationships between earth and sea, between the human and the environment. Looking into a tidepool "paved" with mussels, Carson sees the following: "The water in which they lived was so clear as to be invisible to my eyes; I could detect the interface between air and water only by the sense of coldness on my fingertips. " The edge here between air and water is invisible, yet cool to the touch, and in this passage Carson does not insist that we see this permeable boundary, but that we look at it not only with our eyes but with all our senses and our imaginations.
American Writers, Supplement IX by Jay Parini