Scene in Edmonds: Edge of the Sea quote
What: Rachel Carson quote about the edge of the sea
Where: Pedestrian walkway by the beach at Brackett’s Landing North
The spectacular vista at Brackett’s Landing annually draws thousands of people to the beach areas just north and south of the Edmonds ferry terminal. They come to see the Olympic Mountains and — when atmospheric conditions allow — Mt. Baker in the Cascade Mountain Range, along with a large expanse of Puget Sound and the picturesque ferries that sail its waters in fair or foul weather.
Many of those who gaze appreciatively at the scene before them at the north beach area remain completely unaware of a poetic and insightful inscription literally below their feet.
Forty-six words, in letters ranging from three to four inches in height, stretch 50 feet in length along the pedestrian walkway’s vertical wall, where they face the water by the edge of the beach. They were written by Rachel Carson, a visionary American conservationist and ecologist who is best remembered for her 1962 book, “Silent Spring,” in which she warned of the environmental dangers of pesticides.
No signs indicate the location of the inscription. One must either venture out on the sand and notice the words when returning to the walkway, or be told about their existence by someone familiar with them.
Here are the words:
“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist over a great salt marsh…is to have knowledge of things as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” Rachel Carson
The presentation is remarkable for a number of reasons. Deciding to place the words out of sight from anyone who does not leave the walkway and step onto the beach is both playful and bold. There’s a degree of delight in discovering the words, by surprise, when walking on the sand. And knowing the inscription is there while watching the faces and body language of people on the walkway unaware of it can make one think the words are either wasted or profoundly true.
Half a century ago, Rachel Carson’s books — especially “Silent Spring” — attracted worldwide attention. The quote chosen for Brackett’s Landing is from an earlier work, “The Edge of the Sea,” published in 1955 as the third in a sea trilogy (the other two are Under the Sea-Wind and The Sea Around Us).
The quote on the walkway is nonetheless an edited version of Carson’s original passage, which goes as follows:
“To stand by the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”