Missed Treasures: Summer Spirituality Book Club, Part 3
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea
A biographical note: As a spiritual teacher for almost twenty-five years, I’ve come to believe that teachers are only as worthy as their actions. Do teachers whose actions contradict their teachings have wisdom to share? Probably. Can it be shared, at least in book form? Yes, but only if the reader has been forewarned about their behavior outside of the book. I need to forewarn you that Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s forty-five-year marriage to one of the most famous men in the world, the aviator Charles Lindbergh—a marriage that provides the backdrop for Gift from the Sea—sucked. He was cruel and absent, and it goes downhill from there. Having said this, her 1955 book—which often focuses on the attributes of a good marriage—is still in print, and when I ask older friends for the best spiritual books they have ever read, she always makes the cut.
Gift From the Sea: Originally published in 1955, this book grew out of several visits that Anne made to Florida where she holed up in a ramshackle cottage on the beach. Her purpose was to figure her life out—where it was headed, what mattered, and what didn’t. How could she be at peace with herself? She lets the beach and its gifts teach her what she needs to learn, starting with a call for patience. Acknowledging this, Anne reminds the reader that it takes a little over a week to shake off the pressures of our overcommitted lives. Only then can we sift through the aspects of ourselves that we want to study. Only then, “the mind wakes, comes to life again.” That mind, the relaxed, awake one, is the mind that has the capacity to respond to our heartfelt questions.
The answers that surface for her aren’t rocket science. It turns out that there are many things we can do to be more at peace with ourselves as we are, in the lives we are living. Different shells become metaphors for the kernels of wisdom she shares. A crab shell represents the need for simplicity. Snail shells represent the gift of aloneness. The double sunrise shell is a reminder to strengthen our (healthy) existing relationships while oyster shells reflect the need to remember that every relationship has its own unique characteristics and struggles. A paper nautilus shell signifies the freedom to grow as a person at any age.
By the times she heads for the beach, Anne has become an aviator herself, has raised five children, and is known as an acclaimed writer. No matter. She has yet to figure out how to be her own woman. The good news is that the sea gives her the peace she is looking for. That she takes good notes is her extraordinary gift to the rest of us.
Questions: (Apologies for the essay-like aspect of the set up.)
“If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it.”
- What do you need to do to give yourself a period of solitude each day?
- Ditto for a day of solitude each month?
- What do you need to do to have a room of your own (part-time rooms are okay)?