What I’ve Read: Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I wrote about this book a few days ago but wanted to also write a longer review. This short book—a series of essays written by Lindbergh while she was on vacation at the beach—talks about marriage, children, the specific role of mothers in the household, friendship, etc. There are occasional moments that betray the book’s age (it was published in the 1950’s), but by and large, this is timeless material. It could have been written yesterday.
I was trying to think of the perfect way to describe my experience reading this book and the best I can come up with is that it was just a distinct pleasure. It was relaxing and renewing—the way I might feel leaving the spa or after getting a pedicure or after spending the morning laying on the beach. I have a habit of often reading books with or for some sort of purpose. Reading them because they are new or popular, reading them because they are good novels, reading nonfiction because it will teach me something. This book is a departure from that kind of purposeful reading that can, admittedly, feel sometimes like work.
If you thought Lindbergh’s name sounded familiar, it should! Anne married Charles Lindbergh in 1929 and became heavily involved in her husband’s flying career. They moved to Europe after the kidnapping and murder of their first child. They moved back to Connecticut during World War II and had five more children.
Here are some passages that I marked to come back to later:
“For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes.”
“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.”
“There is a quality to fullness that the Psalmist expressed: ‘My cup runneth over.’ Let no one come—I pray in sudden panic—I might spill myself away! Is this then what happens to woman? She wants perpetually to spill herself away. All her instinct as a woman—the eternal nourisher of children, of men, of soicety—demands that she give. Her time, her energy, her creativeness drain out into these channels if there is any chance, any leak. Traditionally we are taught, and instinctively we long, to give where it is needed—and immediately. 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.”
“There was the sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with. Here at the small table, are only two people facing each other. How the table at home has grown! And how distracting it is, with four or five children, a telephone ringing in the hall, two or three school buses to catch, not to speak of the commuter’s train. How all this separates one from one’s husband and clogs up the pure relationship. But sitting at a table alone opposite each other, what is there to separate one? Nothing but a coffee pot, corn muffins and marmalade. A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband, but how seldom married people in the midst of life achieve it.”
“‘A complete sharing between two people is an impossibility ’ writes Rilke, ‘and whenever it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a mutual agreement which robs one member or both of his fullest freedom and development. But, once the realization is accepted that, even between the closest human beings, infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each other to see the other whole and against a wide sky!’”
“Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread and anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”
Don’t you want to read it now?
Have you read this book? What did you think?