The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. 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 (1906 – 2001)
In her beloved classic, Gift from the Sea (originally published in 1955), Anne Morrow Lindbergh – mother of five, an acclaimed writer and a pioneering aviator – shares her thoughts on on youth and age, love and marriage; the angst of living to material aspirations, solitude and contentment during a brief vacation by the sea. Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, Lindbergh’s musings on the shape of a woman’s life bring wisdom to both men and women at any stage of life, insights on how to live a more balanced life, neither forsaking modernity nor be seduced by its unceasing siren songs. A ground-breaking bestseller when it first appeared, Gift from the Sea continues to be discovered by new generations of readers. And it continues to enrich their lives in more ways than material possessions can ever satisfy.
Excerpts from Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
How untidy (this shell) has become! Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, its shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?
The tide of life recedes. The house, with its bulging sleeping porches and sheds, begins little by little to empty. The children go away to school and then to marriage and lives of their own… What is one to do — die of atrophy in an outstripped form? Or move on to another form, other experiences?
We are all, in the last analysis, alone ..this basic state of solitude is not something we have any choice about. It is, as the poet Rilke says, “not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so…instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.
How can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one’s existence? How can one learn to take the trough of the wave? It is easier to understand here on the beach, where the breathlessly still ebb tides reveal another life below the level which mortals usually reach. Moon shell, who has named you? Some intuitive woman I like to think. I shall give you another name – island shell. I cannot live forever on my island. But I can take you back to my desk in Connecticut. You will sit there and fasten your single eye upon me. You will make me think with your smooth circles winding inward to the tiny core of the island I lived on for a few weeks. You will say to me: “solitude.” You will remind me that I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days; and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes, in order to keep my core, my center, my island quality. You will remind me that unless I keep the island quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give to my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large.