Nonfiction - Essays
Published in 1955
Finished on April 9, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
A modern-day classic: here are Anne Morrow Lindbergh's elegant and wise meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, solitude, peace, and contentment, as she set them down during a brief vacation by the ocean.
She helps us see ways to reconcile our most deeply personal needs with obligations to family, friends, lovers, and work, ways to separate loneliness from replenishing solitude, and ways to find solace in the simplest of daily tasks.
Now more than ever, Gift From the Sea serves as a spiritual compass guiding us toward inner tranquility in the face of life's deeper questions.
I listened to the audio edition of Gift From the Sea in 2007, but somehow never wrote about it on this blog. I remember that I enjoyed it immensely and had planned to re-read the print edition in order to quote some of my favorite passages in my review, but that never happened. Now, 14 years later, I have re-read the book and am sad that it didn't resonate with me the way in which it did when I read it all those years ago. In 2007, I was in my mid-40s (rather than approaching 60), so maybe Lindbergh's essays spoke more to me at that particular time in my life. Or, it could be a case of audio versus print. I loved the narration of the audiobook, which is read by Claudette Colbert. She does a superb job and it didn't take long for me to believe that I was actually listening to Anne Morrow Lindbergh rather than Colbert.
Here are a couple of notable passages from my most recent reading:
The beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down the faced straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even--at least, not at first.At first, the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one's mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea-shore. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings.
and this one, which reminds me of traveling in our RV:
Here on this island I have had space. Paradoxically, in this limited area, space has been forced upon me. The geographical boundaries, the physical limitations, the restrictions of communications, have enforced a natural selectivity. There are not too many activities or things or people, and each one, I find, is significant, set apart in the frame of sufficient time and space. Here there is time; time to be quiet; time to work without pressure; time to think; time to watch the heron, watching with frozen patience for his prey. Time to look at the stars or to study a shell; time to see friends, to gossip, to laugh, to talk. Time, even, not to talk. At home, when I meet my friends in those cubby-holed hours, time is so precious we feel we must cram every available instant with conversation. Here on the island I find I can sit with a friend without talking, sharing the day's last sliver of pale green light on the horizon, or the whorls in a small white shell, or the dark scar left in a dazzling night sky by a shooting star. Then communication becomes communion and one is nourished as one never is by words.
I'm not sorry I reread this book, but I do wish that I had enjoyed it as well as I did with my first encounter. I'm pretty sure that I would have given it a 4/5 rating, at that time.