The Sound of the Silent Spring

I first read marine biologist Rachel Carson ten years after she had published the book Silent Spring (1962). I had heard about the book because the first Earth Day and environmental concerns and protests were all around me in high school and college. Someone told me that I had to read the book — first serialized in The New Yorker in the summer of 1962 — that made her a name that was widely known.

She was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1907. I was surprised to learn that she was an English major at the Pennsylvania College for Women. In her junior year, she took a biology course and it so fascinated her that she changed her major to zoology.

Silent Spring was not her first book. She was working for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and wrote something for a department publication. her boss thought it read it read as more “literary” and suggested that she send it to Atlantic Monthly instead of using it in a government publication. She did and it was published in the magazine in 1937. It also became the starting place for her first book, Under the Sea-Wind (1941).

Carson continued to work in government jobs until 1952. Eventually, she became editor-in-chief for all the publications of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She resigned in 1952 after publishing two books in order to devote herself fully to her own writing.

She won the National Book Award in nonfiction for her second book, the best-seller The Sea Around Us (1951). In her acceptance speech, she said:

“The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction. It seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science. […] The winds, the sea, and the moving tides are what they are. If there is wonder and beauty and majesty in them, science will discover these qualities. If they are not there, science cannot create them. If there is poetry in my book about the sea, it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”

Silent Spring (1962) was the book that really gave her fame and allowed her messages about the environment to gain wider exposure. She opened the book with a little fable. The fable is about a time and place where a spring morning begins silently. No birds singing. No chirping insects. It is an ecosystem destroyed by the widespread misuse of harmful pesticides like DDT.

That opening may have hurt the book in its initial publication because some saw the book as “fiction” based on that fable. But the book was the result of six years of rigorous scientific research. She was also attacked by the chemical industry which had allies within and outside the government. Though today we know her message was accurate and one that needed to be heard and heeded, you can find many critics who attacked her at the time of its publication.  There were industry people who claimed that banning pesticides like DDT resulted in “millions of malaria deaths” while not considering the lives and damage that were saved by eliminating these pesticides from the ecosystem and slowly eliminating them from our water, soil, air, wildlife and humans via all those vectors and from our food sources.  She wrote. “I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.”

When President Kennedy read Silent Spring during the summer of 1962, it influenced him. He formed a presidential commission to re-examine the government’s pesticide policy and the commission endorsed Carson’s findings. Rachel’s writing and advocacy boosted public awareness of environmental matters. It helped start a new conservation movement and some say it eventually was part of the reason that the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970. Sadly, Rachel Carson never saw that happen. She died of cancer in 1964, just two years after Silent Spring was published.

The sound of the silent spring is still echoing in our world.

“….All the life of the planet is interrelated ….each species has its own ties to others, and….all are related to the Earth. This is the theme of ‘The Sea Around Us,’ and the other sea books, and it is also the message of ‘Silent Spring’.” Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine

At Home

Yesterday, I wrote about Memorial Day and the long weekend it has become. For me and my wife, it is an at-home weekend. No trips to the Jersey shore to kick off summer. I took a book off the shelf this morning as part of my cleaning-out process as I sell and give away most of the books I have collected over a lifetime. It is a rather sad activity as I hate to lose books and because the process is about getting older, thinking about moving to a smaller place. There is also the thought that when I am gone my sons will not want these books. Maybe no one will want physical books even for free.

Image by bedrck from Pixabay

The book I took off the shelf is Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. Clearly, the title resonated with me on this at-home weekend. And so, as too often happens, my cleaning paused as I sat down and dipped back into the book.

The COVID pandemic has made a lot of us spend a lot of time at home. I like being home. I like working in the garden, reading and writing inside and outside depending n the weather. I prefer eating at home to a restaurant. And even though I love movies, I have become much more of a home viewer than a theater viewer.

I had read other Bryson books and was ready for his blend of serious thoughts and humorous comments and lots of information both serious and sometimes good for trivia night stuff. (“Why do forks have four tines and not three or five?”) Remember that this is the guy who wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything. This book is very much about home. He does a room-by-room tour through his own house and each room becomes a kind of museum for the domestic artifacts we surround ourselves with to make a house a home.

In one section, he examines the electrical panel, which I grew up to know as the “fuse box.” As a kid, my dad showed me how to know if a fuse had “blown” and how to change a screw-in fuse. Later we got a more modern panel with breaker switches that “tripped” and you just snapped back into place. Bryson points out that if you think about the pre-electrical age, you realize that when we “Open your refrigerator door and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the eighteenth century.” I recall many power outages where we would light our supply of candles at night and gather the flashlights and make our way around the house. It gave you an appreciation for electricity in the home that disappeared as soon as the power was restored. When Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey hard in 2012 and we lost power for day or weeks, we really got a taste of home in the days before electricity. Of course, we had battery-powered things, generators and other cheats.

Bryson goes into detail about small things in the home. In his dining room chapter, he gets into spices. “Why not pepper and cardamom, say, or salt and cinnamon?” On salt, which he calls the mineral “most vital in dietary terms,” he also notes that we consume, “on average, forty times the amount needed to sustain life.” And with pepper, once the dried fruit of a vine that grew only on the coast of India, it was so treasured that ships would “arrive with gold and depart with pepper.” Nutmeg and mace, rare items, came from islands that are now part of Indonesia. Did you know that spices were considered such important commodities that King James I declared himself “King of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Puloway and Puloroon.” Keep that in mind for trivia night.

Bryson (now an OBE, FRS) was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951, but he moved to England in 1977. He worked as a journalist and became a full-time writer. He lived with his family in North Yorkshire, returned to the U.S., and settled in New Hampshire for a few years, but returned to the UK.

This book is about being home but he is generally known as a travel writer. His first travel book is The Lost Continent, where he humorously describes a trip in his mother’s Chevy around small-town America. Neither Here Nor There is about his first trip around Europe. He had a big bestseller about England with Notes From a Small Island. My favorite of his books is A Walk in the Woods which came from Bill’s decision to rediscover America by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Lots of information. Lots of laughs – many coming from or by the way of his walking partner, the out-of-shape Stephen Katz. For the true at-home person this weekend (like Stephen), you could also watch the film adaptation starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte as Katz.

Places That Aren’t There

wessex map
Map showing the Wessex of Thomas Hardy’s novels.

“It is not down on any map; true places never are.”
– Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

There are places that we have heard of, read about, and perhaps even seen on a map, but they don’t exist. Or, at least, they don’t exist in the world we walk through today.

These places appeal to me. You are reading now about a place called Paradelle that exists online but cannot be found (yet!) on maps. Maps and imaginary places have fascinated me since I was a kid. It started with places in novels (like Treasure Island) which led me to love maps, which led me to draw maps and write about my own imaginary places.

When I was teaching middle school, I had my students create maps of the fictional settings of novels they read. Even if the setting was a “real” place or based on a real place, the maps needed things that you wouldn’t find on existing maps – the empty lot or the church that burns down in The Outsiders; the roads and ranches in Of Mice and Men; Scout Finch’s hometown and Boo’s tree in To Kill a Mockingbird or where Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio or Friar Lawrence lived in Shakespeare’s play.

I started a novel years ago that was set in Camptown, New Jersey. That is a town that did exist on maps at one time. It changed its name to Irvington. But my Camptown is a blended town that mixed my hometown of Irvington with other places I have lived along with things I wish were included in the place where I live. The river that runs through the town is all the rivers and creeks and streams I have known. It is the Elizabeth River that I knew as a boy, the Peckman River that runs through where I now live and the Passaic River. That river cuts across New Jersey and is sourced from a now-swampy glacial lake that dinosaurs edged up to for a drink. It spills spectacularly over the Great Falls in Paterson and on to Newark Bay, New York Harbor, the Hudson River and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  As I wandered along riverbanks and paths such as the Lenape trails around me as a child and adult, stories were always coming to me from the past.

All this came to mind back in 2015 when I saw ads for the film Paper Towns which is based on a novel by John Green.  You’ll see the novel and maybe even the film labeled as for “young adults” but that is a term I never liked. Are Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird young adult novels just because they are often read by young adults? Green is a very popular novelist among teenagers, but a lot of adults know his writing either from his book, The Fault in Our Stars, or the film version of his bookJohn Green tweetedCelebrating the release of #papertowns with a road trip to a place that wasn’t, then was, then wasn’t, and now…is?”

In that novel, the character Quentin loves, loses and searches for Margo.  Clues lead Q to believe that Margo may be possibly hiding out (or buried) in one of the many abandoned subdivision projects (also known as “pseudovisions”) around Orlando, Florida. Those turn out to be dead ends, but he does find a map in an abandoned strip mall which he then connects with another map he made in an attempt to locate her. He matches up the holes from the pushpins in the mall map to his map and this leads him to believe that she is hiding in Agloe, New York.  He and some friends skip graduation and head to Agloe to find her.

I read the novel and since I first wrote this post in 2015, I have seen the film. I liked both of them and it led me to dig deeper into these imagined towns.

map
Fictional “copyright trap” showing Agloe, New York. This is a real 1998 Esso state map of New York, United States.

The Agloe in the novel is/was a fictional place in Delaware County, New York, that became an actual landmark, if not a real town.

In the 1930s, two mapmakers (Otto G. Lindberg and Ernest Alpers) made an anagram of their initials and placed it as a town at the intersection of NY 206 and Morton Hill Road, north of the real town of Roscoe, New York.

Were they merry pranksters? No. The town was meant as a “copyright trap.” It turns out that mapmakers sometimes place a fictitious place on their maps so that if someone plagiarizes it, they have a way to easily check.

However, in the 1950s, a general store was built at that intersection and was named the Agloe General Store.

agloe store-001

The fictional town appeared on Esso (now Exxon) gas station road maps that were widely distributed. Agloe appeared on a Rand McNally map and Esso threatened to sue Rand McNally for copyright infringement. But that never happened because Rand McNally pointed out that the place had now become “real” and therefore no infringement could be established.

That store went out of business, but Agloe continued to appear on maps until about 25 years ago when it was deleted.

But – update –  it appears in Google Maps and the very official United States Geological Survey which added “Agloe (Not Official)” to the Geographic Names Information System database in February 2014.

Places that aren’t there are nothing new and there are lots of examples.  There are the ones created by writers, such as Stephen King’s Castle Rock and Derry, Maine, and Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. In my abandoned novel, I considered placing Camptown in the county of Wessex in New Jersey as the western portion of the real county of Essex.

There are also places created by mapmakers.  Besides the paper towns, another copyright-protection technique is to include a “trap street” on a map. This fictitious street on a map, often outside the area the map nominally covers, has also been used as a way of trapping copyright violators. Alternatives are nonexistent towns, rivers or perhaps a mountain with the intentionally wrong elevation inserted for the same purpose. Of course, you don’t want to add something that confuses users or just looks like an unintentional mistake. The mapmaker may add nonexistent bends to a street, or depict a major street as a narrow lane, without changing its location or its connections to other streets.

Phantom settlements are settlements that appear on maps but do not actually exist. They can be accidents or copyright traps. Some examples are Argleton, Lancashire, UK and Beatosu and Goblu, Ohio, USA.

map
The Zeno map of 1558 shows Frisland – a phantom island in the North Atlantic

As a lover of islands, I have always had an interest in “phantom islands.”  They are islands that appeared on maps for a period of time (sometimes centuries) during recorded history, but were later removed after it was proven not to exist.

These are not copyright traps. They often came from reports of early sailors exploring new waters. Some were purely mythical, such as the Isle of Demons or Atlantis. Sometimes actual islands were mislocated or just a plain old mistake. The Baja California Peninsula appears on some early maps as an island but was later discovered to be attached to the mainland of North America. Some phantom islands were probably due to navigational errors, misidentification of icebergs, or optical illusions due to fog or poor conditions.

An interesting subset are islands that existed and were destroyed by volcanic explosions, earthquakes, submarine landslides, or rising waters and erosion. Pactolus Bank, visited by Sir Francis Drake, may fit into this category. It was discovered by Captain W.D. Burnham on the American ship Pactolus on November 6, 1885.

It has been postulated that this was the sunken location of Elizabeth Island, discovered by Sir Francis Drake’s ship the Golden Hinde in 1578. Drake anchored off an island which he named “Elizabeth Island,” (for Queen Elizabeth I) where wood and water were collected and seals and penguins were captured for food, along with “herbs of great virtue.” According to Drake’s pilot, their position at the anchorage was 57°S. However, no island has been confirmed at that latitude. A map was drawn by a priest that accompanied Drake, Francis Fletcher.

Elizabeth Island might be a good setting for another novel – or for my Paradelle.

Francis Fletcher’s map of Elizabeth Island

In this video, John Green talks about finding Agloe on an old Esso road map

Tiger Moms and Tigger Dads

cover

I saw a reference on this windy March day to the “blustery day” from A.A. Milne’s Pooh books and it had an illustration of Winnie-the-Pooh, and Tigger getting blown into the air in a clearly delightful way.

That got me thinking back to a book I “reviewed” back in 2011 called  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother back in 2011 when it was getting a lot of attention lately. I picked up the book at the library because I had seen it on the cover of Time magazine. I never did finish reading it.

The author, Amy Chua, is a professor at Yale Law School. Her two earlier books wouldn’t lead you to think she might write about parenting. Look at two of her book titles: World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability and Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance–and Why They Fall.

But perhaps the titles do tell us something of the way she raised her children and the way she was raised. The book and author are rather proudly “politically incorrect” (by American standards) about the “Chinese way” of raising children.

It had gotten a lot of criticism, especially from the Western parents that it criticizes. A Wall Street Journal piece titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” got more than a million reads and thousands of comments and when the author was on the usually lightweight Today show, host Meredith Vieira was clearly on the critical side.

You can find excerpts from the book online if you’re curious. One example that rubs many parents the wrong way is that she turned a simple piano piece into forced practice for her 7-year-old daughter that ran “right through dinner into the night,” with no bathroom or breaks for food or drinks until she learned it. Does it bother you that she would call her daughter Sophia “garbage” for being disrespectful? (Chua’s father did it to her all the time.) She threw back a handmade birthday card at her daughter saying, “I deserve better than this.”

Chua has said that “To be perfectly honest, I know that a lot of Asian parents are secretly shocked and horrified by many aspects of Western parenting.”  She is baffled by our willingness to let our kids waste hours on games, television, Facebook, and other things. And she can point to research that supports some of her ideas, such as that American parents do too much insulating of their children from the discomfort and distress of everyday life.

I taught in the K-12 world for 25 years in a wealthy school district that had a large Asian population. About a third of my students were Chinese and Korean and I certainly came face to face with their parents. Chua writes that these parents “assume strength, not fragility, and as a result, they behave very differently.” That was true of the parents I met in conferences that were always about grades.

One father told me that he believed that all children could be “A” students – it was just a question of how much time and work was needed. “My daughter might only need to study two hours for an A. My son might need 10 hours.”

I believed that not everyone could be a top student or a great musician or athlete. I think realizing that is also a part of growing up. Despite my childhood dreams, I was not to be the shortstop on the NY Yankees no matter how many hours I practiced. I don’t think even a Chinese mother could have made me an NBA forward or a Nobel prize-winning mathematician or even have gotten me to score an “A” in calculus.

If protected kids don’t have to deal with difficult tasks on their own, will they be unable to develop what psychologists call “mastery experiences?”

Does the dreaded “drill and kill” repetition style of learning also kill creativity?

A cognitive psychologist quoted in that Time article says:

“… if you repeat the same task again and again, it will eventually become automatic. Your brain will literally change so that you can complete the task without thinking about it. Once this happens, the brain has made mental space for higher-order operations: for interpreting literary works, say, and not simply decoding their words; for exploring the emotional content of a piece of music, and not just playing the notes. Brain scans of experimental subjects who are asked to execute a sequence of movements, for example, show that as the sequence is repeated, the parts of the brain associated with motor skills become less active, allowing brain activity to shift to the areas associated with higher-level thinking and reflection.”

Sounds like the drill work is a good thing, right?

As a teacher and as a parent, I can see some valid points in her approach. There are definitely some children who need very strict boundaries, rules, and consequences, at least at some times.

Tigger via pixy.org

Still, I am glad that I didn’t have a Tiger Mom. I’m glad that I was encouraged to explore things and go out and play for hours and hours and try new things and give up on them so that I could try other things. I’m happy with the way I turned out.

In Milne’s Pooh books, you have models of different ways of approaching life. Tigger is on the crazy, anything for fun extreme, but there is also wise Owl

I raised my sons the same basic way, though probably with more psychology and ambition included than my own parents. But I was definitely more of a Tigger Dad. I wanted to bounce around, watch movies, try, fail and then try again and try new things as much as they did. And I am very happy with the men they became.

The original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed toys playing. Clockwise from bottom left: Tigger, Kanga, Edward Bear (aka Winnie-the-Pooh), Eeyore, and Piglet.

It intrigued me in my adult life to discover that A.A. Milne was a pretty lousy father. His son Christopher, who owned Edward Bear and is the model for the fictional Christopher Robin, came to hate his father. He found his father’s fame a kind of torture. There was a bitter rift between the two men that never healed and has been documented in books and films. take a look at Christopher Robin and Goodbye Christopher Robin. Ann Thwaite’s A. A. Milne biography was the inspiration for the 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin.

Readers and critics have gone much deeper than just viewing the Pooh books as children’s literature. Too deep, perhaps.

I do like the philosophical takes on the gang from the Hundred-Acree Wood. (see The Tao of Pooh & The Te of Piglet) I’m not a fan of the psychological analysis of them. A tiger mom might agree with the psychology though. I do think that all of us “have some issues” and are at least “a little bit crazy.”

But is Christopher Robin a schizophrenic, and his “friends” are simply manifestations of his moods?

Tigger does seem to suffer from ADHD and a case of “risk-taking behaviors” causing him to be very impulsive and willing to try just about anything.

Piglet has an acute case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and self-esteem issues.

Kanga is British but like many American moms is perpetually over-protective of her little Roo.

The voice of reason and intelligence, Owl, seems unable to spell out words, and his misspelled words hint of dyslexia.

I always liked Eeyore but he is the most obviously in need of therapy for his depressive disorder and “chronic dysthymia.”

Poor Rabbit has some OCD and an odd sense of his importance that doesn’t often match that of his friends.

Just before he died, the real Christopher reported that he had at least come to terms with his love-hate relationship with Winnie-the-Pooh, if not his father. He said that “Believe it or not, I can look at those four books without flinching. I’m quite fond of them really.”

Scarlet Letters

I had to read Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in high school. I didn’t enjoy it. The premise sounded interesting and a bit sexy but the novel didn’t hit me in either way. I wasn’t ready for it. (There were several TV and movie versions of the novel. One starred Demi Moore as Hester. That might be the version I was hoping for in high school.

I read it again in a college course and it made more sense.  It is a truly American novel. It has strong men and women characters. Even if you never read it, you might know the basic story. It is set in Puritan Boston in 1642-1649 and tells the story of Hester Prynne. She had an affair and got pregnant and has to wear the scarlet letter A to show she is an adulterer. That situation still doesn’t sit well with American society but in the 17th century, it was almost inconceivably unacceptable. Lots of sin and guilt.

One of my favorite novelists is John Updike. He wrote a kind of trilogy of novels that bring aspects of The Scarlet Letter into modern times.

His A Month of Sundays is about a clergyman gone bad. Reverend Tom Marshfield is a Puritan Arthur Dimmesdale who is sexually disgraced and gets sent away from his parish to a desert retreat for some spiritual renewal.

The novel is a collection of his weekly journal entries about a variety of topics including his wife (the daughter of his ethics professor) and the organist he had an affair with at the parish. While in the desert, he finds himself desiring the woman who runs the retreat –  Ms. Prynne.

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered
as to which may be the true.”  –  Hawthorne

In Updike’s novel Roger’s Version, Roger Lambert is a middle-aged dignity. professor of divinity and Roger’s version of the story is a modern version of Roger Chillingworth’s version of the love triangle from Hawthorne.

Roger, the modern cuckold, is battling a computer scientist named Dale who believes he is gathering evidence of God’s existence. Professor Roger debates Dale and is determined to disprove Dale’s evidence.

Being it is an Updike novel and related to Hawthorne, Roger’s much younger wife, Esther, ends up having an affair with Dale.

Like A Month of Sundays, there is humor and allegory here and a battle of faith and reason with a shot of revenge,

HawthorneBefore I get to Updike’s third novel, you need a bit of background. In 1841, Hawthorne became a charter member of Brook Farm, an agricultural collective founded by Unitarian minister George Ripley. It was near Boston and Hawthorne thought this farm life would give him some inspiration and time to write. It didn’t work out that way.

This transcendental sort-of-utopian commune had him cutting straw, milking cows, and shoveling manure. He left after just a few months, but he did use the experience in his 1852 novel The Blithedale Romance.

Updike’s comparable version is simply called S. He plays off both Hester’s story and some of the idealism of Blithedale which falls apart as egos clash and the idyll proves unsatisfying.

The “S”  is Sarah Worth. She is a descendent of Hester and a native New Englander.  Sarah leaves her husband and children and heads to a commune of Buddhists led by a mystic called the Arhat. At this ashram in Arizona, she tries to find salvation.

Updike’s form for the novel is Sarah’s letters and tapes that she sends to her husband, daughter, brother, dentist, hairdresser, and psychiatrist.

Updike completes his trilogy with this Hester Prynne version of the story. I liked this book but I wasn’t happy with the parodies of the spiritual pilgrims, Buddhists and enlightenment. Then again, Hawthorne also satirized the people of Blithedale, so I suppose it fits.

“The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.”

The Diamond Sutra

Diamond Sutra

I wrote something earlier that briefly referenced the Diamond Sutra, but it’s a book that deserves its own reference.

The Diamond Sutra was printed in 868 A.D. and is probably the world’s oldest book. At least it is the oldest bearing a specific date of publication.

The Diamond Sutra is a collection of Buddhist teachings. “Sutra” comes from Sanskrit and means teachings or scriptures. The writing is presented as a dialogue between the Buddha and Subhuti, one of his elderly disciples.

The copy of the Diamond Sutra that is considered the oldest was printed with seven woodblocks. Each block was one page and the seven sheets were bound together to form a scroll about 16 feet long.

The Diamond Sutra itself is relatively short and was meant to be memorized. It can be recited in about 40 minutes, which made it popular with Buddhist practitioners.

“As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning
view all created things like this.”
(Buddha speaking in the Diamond Sutra as translated by Red Pine)

The Buddha declares that the sutra will be called “The Diamond of Transcendent Wisdom” because wisdom can cut like a sharp diamond through illusion. In the sūtra, the Buddha has finished his daily walk with the monks to gather offerings of food, and he sits down to rest. Elder Subhūti comes forth and asks the Buddha a question. What follows is a dialogue regarding the nature of perception.

The Buddha often uses things that later in Zen Buddhism came to be known as koans.  For example, he says “What is called the highest teaching is not the highest teaching.”  It is generally thought that he was trying to help Subhūti and his followers “unlearn” preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality and enlightenment.

All conditioned phenomena
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;
Like drops of dew or flashes of lightning;
Thusly should they be contemplated.


It is said although The Diamond Sutra looks like a book, is really the body of the Buddha.

The book was discovered in a series of caves near Dunhuang, China which came to be known as the “Caves of a Thousand Buddhas.” I have written separately about the discovery of the caves.