Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My mother gave me this book after I graduated from college. It was as if she was passing on hard-earned wisdom to me so that I would have the benefit of these thoughts before I needed them. This book is beautifully written, and its messages are as timely today as they were when Anne Morrow Lindbergh first wrote them down.
The book was written during Lindbergh’s stay on Captiva Island, Florida — a place where my parents vacationed specifically because of this book. I too wanted to go to Captiva after reading this book and was eventually lucky enough to visit. You can see why the author was inspired by shells (each chapter is a meditation on a different time of a woman’s life and is represented by a different shell). Captiva Island and the neighboring island of Sanibel is a mecca for people who love collecting sea shells. When we visited, we spent hours doing the “Sanibel Stoop” — collecting shells along the coastline. The variety of the shells was amazing — we even found intact sand dollars!
This is a book that I like to reread every few years — especially when I begin to move into another phase of life. I also like giving this book as a present, and if I had a daughter, I would have passed it along to her. I encourage you to obtain a copy for yourself. It is a beautifully written meditation on the nature of love, life, marriage, children and being a woman. It is truly a book that I think every woman should own. But perhaps the best way to get a feel for the nature of this book and its gentle wisdom is through an excerpt, so I leave you with this excerpt about the moon shell.
We are all, in the last analysis, alone. And this basic state of solitude is not something we have any choice about. It is, as the poet Rilke says, “not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so, yes, even to begin by assuming it. Naturally,” he goes on to say, “we will turn giddy.”
Naturally. How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it. It seems to imply rejection or unpopularity. An early wallflower panic still clings to the world. One will be left, one fears, sitting in a straight-backed chair alone, while the popular girls are already chosen and spinning around the dance floor with their hot-palmed partners. We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends and movies should fail, there is still the radio or the television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap-opera heroes at our side. Even day-dreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.