Lyrics: One Life, by Bruce Trinkley

One Life:  The Rachel Carson Project                                                                         Bruce Trinkley (b. 1945)

                                                                                                                                        Text by Jason Charnesky


One Life is based on the life and writings of Rachel Carson.  She was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1907 and attended the Pennsylvania College for women, now Chatham College.  She worked as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Her major writings are Silent Spring, Under the Sea-wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea.  Silent Spring was the first publication to expose the dangers of pesticides and launched the ecology movement in America.  Rachel Carson died of cancer in 1964.


1. Opening



The wispy, almost invisible blanket that covers us all.

The sky-blue comforter of downy clouds that warms the cold earth through the longest of winters.



The simplest of gifts, the easy marriage of two elements to make a miracle.

Life-giving, life-nourishing, life-preserving dew that bathes the planet in storms and streams and rivers and seas.



The foundation of all our exploits, all our dreams.

The tiny rocky globe that circles the sun and gives us a home.


These three are here met together, miraculously, and make possible that most improbable of elements, the fire of Life!


This is one story of that Life.

This is the story of a woman whose heart and mind strove to understand the vast and intricate tapestry of Life.

This is the story of one woman.

And perhaps it is the story of all women, in a way we have yet to learn . . .

for we have yet to learn how to follow

the voices of the elements of our earth.



2. A Walk in the Woods


The call of the trail on that dewy May morning was too strong to withstand.

The sun was barely an hour high

and Pal and I set off for a day of our favorite sport

following the beauty of the spring.

The bobwhite’s nest, and the oriole’s aerial cradle,

and the jewel-like eggs of the yellow throat

all waited to be discovered.

Till the setting sun transformed the sky into a sea of blue and gold

and a vesper sparrow sand his evening lullaby.


The day is full of beauty.

The earth is full of life.

And we turned slowly homeward

Gloriously tired,

Gloriously happy.



3. Spring Song


More permanent than the stars, the earth turns again to spring,

as migrant geese streak the sky catching the air poised between

so firey an April sun and the lush green earth.


The woods themselves are melting, giving way to silt and sprout.

The permanent earth is ground from another ancient age’s permanent rock

and slips towards some other thing permanently.


More permanent than this our hope, our only place,

this earthly garden,

the ever returning spring of life and hope.



4. Silent Spring


March came this year with no butterflies.

The skies that should have carried clouds of gnats and graceful nymphs is empty.

No cricket sings.  No grasshopper wings from grass to leaf.

And all of spring is silent.


April came this year but the sparrow did not follow.

No robins roundelay, no ovenbird, no jay.

No buzz of bee, and the apple tree does not bear fruit.

And all the fields and all the sky is silent.


May came this year but no hawk flew about.

Silent rivers without trout.  And no tree frogs sang.

The forest never rang with the symphony of life.

And all the waters, all the earth is silent.


A cloud of poison came and gave a silent spring.



5. Rachel’s Creed


Retain the keenness of the child but tempered with an adult mind.

Gaze at the world with your own eyes nor fear what you may find.


Speaker:  Rachel’s reference to the selfishness of insecticide manufacturers probably reflects her Communist sympathies, like a lot of our writers these days.  We can live without birds and animals, but, as the current market slump shows, we cannot live without business.


Remember you are human, please, and only guess at what you know.

And each day can bring something new to alter all your certainties.


Speaker: The balance of nature is a wonderful thing for people who sit back and write books or want to go out to Waldon Pond and live as Thoreau did.  But I don’t know of a housewife today who will buy the type of wormy apples we had before pesticides.


Dream of the best and study hard. Observe with an unwavering eye.

Let prejudice and ignorance wither in the light of truth.


Speaker:  Why is a woman without any children of her own so concerned about genetics?


And though we may not triumph over pain, we can prevent the needless hurt

of humankind against itself and our common mother earth.


Speaker:  Silent Spring, which I read word for word with some trauma, kept reminding me of trying to win an argument with a woman. It cannot be done.


There’s so much that I want to do now that I have achieved the power to speak and act,

alas, to find I’ve reached my final hour.


Speaker:  The doctors found two tumors, one suspicious enough to require a radical mastectomy.


The hand that can no longer grasp,

the feet that fail now to support,

the cancer that so grows within,

the weakening heart.


Speaker:  After radiation treatments Rachel promptly became ill, and lay in bed with fever, aching and nauseous.  She developed sever inflammation of the iris and, unable to read or to tolerate light, she spent two weeks nearly sightless, in terrible pain.


O Dorothy! We are each a dot upon life’s vast bright tapestry.

We feel so much, we know so little.

It is a little thing to die.


Speaker: Severely anemic from the cobalt treatments, she failed to respond to transfusions.  Only a dangerous operation held faint hope.


Don’t ever be afraid to die.  It is beautiful.


Speaker:  Later in the afternoon on Tuesday, April 14, Rachel Carson suffered a fatal heart attack.


Don’t all into tears, there is no need to weep.

I have lived!

And I have been fortunate beyond my dreams.

I was able to explore life even when others said “no.”

And I was able to warn the world even when others said “Be quiet.”


Let those who follow after me not moan, but work!


Let my funeral music be not dirges, but a eulogy.



6. Finale


More permanent than this our hope, our only place,

this earthly garden, this earthly garden,

the ever returning spring of life.


The day is full of beauty. The earth is full of life.

We must turn slowly homeward gloriously tired, gloriously happy.

Gloriously tired, gloriously happy to return to the earth.

In all the earth there is only one life.

Only one life.