Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—
waiting for a gift from the sea.
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
My family and I just returned from a beautiful weekend on the Washington coast. The ocean has such a calming and meditative effect on me. During an inspiring evening stroll along the beach, I was reminded of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book, Gift From The Sea, wishing I had brought it along with me. If you haven't yet discovered this little gem, I urge you to place it at the top of your list - something every woman should read. My book club devoured it in a matter of hours.
It's a lyrical and thoughtful reflection on the life and challenges of the American woman in the mid-20th century, written during a brief solo vacation on a little island off the coast of Florida. She shares her philosophical meditations on youth, love, career, children, life stages and human relationships in the modern age. Although her musings were written down over 50 years ago, it's amazing how relevant this book still is today. Her daughter Reeve, who wrote the introduction, admits to reading the book at least once a year...
After just a few pages, I always begin to relax into that movement and to feel like something that belongs to the tide - just another piece of flotsam floating in the great oceanic rhythms of the universe.
- Reeve Lindbergh
I dug into the book again as soon as I returned home, underlining my favorite passages and scribbling notes into the margins. I thought I'd share with you a summary of her poetic insights, inspired by five shells she collected during her time on the island...
1. Channeled Whelk: This bare and empty shell reminds us to simplify life, to put in practice the art of shedding, and to embrace freedom - like the hermit crab who once lived inside.
2. Moon Shell: This smooth and round shell, with a perfect spiral winding inward to resemble a mysterious single eye, reminds us of an island - of being alone, and the importance of finding time for solitude.
3. Double Sunrise: This whole and unblemished shell has two halves, both exactly matched, like the wings of a butterfly. It reminds us of the first stage of relationships and youth, beautiful and fragile, temporary and fleeting.
4. Oyster Bed: This humble and awkward shell, encrusted with accumulations and formed by its struggle to survive, reminds us of the later stages of relationships and middle age - a period of comfortable familiarity, a departure from worldly ambitions, and readiness for spiritual growth.
5. Argonauta: This extremely rare and delicate shell reminds us of the final, perhaps unattainable, evolution of relationships, when two whole and fully developed individuals are able to exist together side by side, in a dance of mutual love, distance and respect.
Perhaps this is the most important thing for me to take back from beach living: simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of a relationship is valid. And my shells? I can sweep them all into my pocket. They are there to remind me that the sea recedes and returns eternally.
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh