[My Mom has owned this little book for as long as I can remember.  She gave it to me some years ago. I hadn’t read it until now.  

Upon first impression Gift From the Sea might appear a bit dated.  After all, it was published in 1955 when life was considerably simpler and the majority of American middle-class women were housewives and the men breadwinners.  Yet in this book the author is imagining (and predicting) a near future when women would have roles much like men, wondering what that would look like and how men and women might best prepare for this eventuality.

This book is a real surprise.  I found it to be much more than the little memoir I had always presumed (unfairly) it to be.  Yes, it is a very personal philosophical and spiritual exploration but it also addresses larger social issues such as cultural norms, relationships and gender roles.   It’s quite amazing how much of the book is still relevant.  Many of the issues the author addresses continue to evolve in our society.  It’s a perfect example of how genuine, heartfelt, thoughtful expression can never really become dated or obsolete.  This is a wise book.  – jbm 7/2017]

“The Beach is not the place to work; to read, write or think…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 – not at first.”

“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.”

“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.”

“But there are techniques of living too;  there are even techniques in the search for grace.  And techniques can be cultivated…There are in fact, certain roads that one may follow.  Simplification of life is one of them.”

“What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives…For the problem of the multiplicity of life not only confronts the American woman, but also the American man…Yet, the problem is particularly and essentially woman’s.  Distraction is, always has been, and probably always will be, inherent in woman’s life…woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of the Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence.  It is more basically:  how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center, how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

“In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life…One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much…Physical shedding to begin with…Next, shelter.  One does not need the airtight shelter one has in winter in the North…”

“I find I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships.  What a rest that will be!  The most exhausting thing in life,  I have discovered, is being insincere.”

“I remember again, ironically, that today more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life.”

“I no longer pull out grey hairs or sweep down cobwebs….”

“I love my sea-shell of a house.”

“One is free, like the hermit crab, to change one’s shell.”

“No man is an island,” said John Donne.  I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.”

“We must re-learn to be alone…I find there is a quality to being along that is incredibly precious.  Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”

“And it seemed to me, separated from my own species, that I was nearer to others…”

“It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love.  It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger.”

“Eternally, woman spills herself away in driblets to the thirsty, seldom being allowed the time, the quiet, the peace, to let the pitcher fill up to the brim…If it is woman’s function to give, she must be replenished too.  But how?  Solitude, says the moon shell.  Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week and each day…the world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.”

“But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves:  that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.”

“Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work…”

“For the need for renewal is still there.  The desire to be accepted whole, the desire to be seen as an individual, not a collection of functions, the desire to give oneself completely and purposefully pursues us always, and has its part in pushing us into more and more distractions, illusory love affairs, or the haven of hospitals and doctor’s offices.”

“It need not be an enormous project or a great work.  But it should be something of one’s own…What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.”

“…we wish the “one-and-only” to be permanent, ever-present and continuous.  The desire for continuity of being-loved-alone seems to me “the error bred in the bone” of man.  For “there is no one-and-only,” as a friend of mine once said in a similar discussion, “there are just one-and-only moments.”

“All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.  But there is no single fixed form to express such a changing relationship.”

“For, in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward.”

“Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself.  And what a liberation that would be!”

“But there is still the afternoon opening up, which one can spend not in the feverish pace of the morning but in having time at last for those intellectual, cultural, and spiritual activities that were pushed aside in the heat of the race.”

“One cannot expect statistics on her physical reaction to add much knowledge or nourishment to her inner life, to her basic relation to herself, or to her long postponed hope and right, as a human being, to be creative in other ways besides the purely physical one.”

“Woman must come of age by herself.  This is the essence of “coming of age” – to learn how to stand alone…Perhaps both men and women in America may hunger, in our material, outward, active, masculine culture, for the supposedly feminine qualities of heart, mind and spirit – qualities which are actually neither masculine nor feminine, but simply human qualities that have been neglected.  It is growth along these lines that will make us whole, and will enable the individual to become world to himself.”

“This is what one thirsts for, I realize, after the smallness of the day, of work, of details, of intimacy – even of communication, one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.”

“Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined.”

“We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.”

“Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”

“Intermittency – an impossible lesson for human beings to learn.  How can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one’s existence?”

“Island-precepts, I might call them if I could define them, sign-posts toward another way of living.  Simplicity of living, as much as possible, to retain a true awareness of life. Balance of physical, intellectual, and spiritual life.  Work without pressure.  Space for significance and beauty.  Time for solitude and sharing.  Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life:  life of the spirit, creative life, and the life of human relationships.  A few shells.”

“Perhaps we never appreciate the here and now until it is challenged, as it is beginning to be today even in America.”

“The here, the now, and the individual, have always been the special concern of the saint, the artist, the poet, and – from time immemorial – the woman.”


copyright:  1955 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
author bio:  https://www.biography.com/people/anne-morrow-lindbergh-9542041
photo:  Jill Krementz