Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea

A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend away in Maryland, and I walked with Tyler's Aunt. We talked about the miles Little O's stroller must log. We talked about my elusive writing 'career'. She asked if I had read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From the Sea. I hadn't. And so, she loaned me a small book, so love-worn, it had been broken in two. The pages smelled of must and old furniture and, like many old books, its pages hadn't faded, but instead deepened, to a rich, sandy brown.

Not my usual fare, this inspirational essay. I don't always love books of grand proclamations or extended metaphors. And yet...

It's a book from 1955 about being a mother. Or a woman. Or a person. Or one.  It's a book of quiet but astute observations and questions. Of being whole and of being half. A book written far before the simple movement of today and, perhaps, representing it better. It's about the sea's gift. A shell.  Its polished, or unpolished, or barnacled, outer un-gleam. Its true center, our true center, found alone.

I'm not doing a good job of explaining it. But it exists and hundreds of thousands, according to the course, creased, jacket copy, have found solace in it. 

I did too.

I'll share my favorite piece of it. It starts with a quote I've heard many times. But where it goes is far more interesting than the oft-repeated line. I have always dreamed awake, in the very late night, have always felt compelled to stir in the dark. Maybe now, I better understand why.

... good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. Before we sleep we go out again into the night. We walk up the beach under the stars. And when we are tired of walking, we lie flat on the sand under a bowl of stars. We feel stretched, expanded to take in their compass. They pour into us until we are filled with stars, up to the brim.

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.

And then at last, from the immensity of interstellar space, we swing down to a particular beach. We walk back to the lights of the cottage glowing from the dark mist of trees. Small, safe, warm and welcoming, we recognize our pin-point human match-light against the mammoth chaos of the dark. Back again to our good child's sleep. 


  1. Gift from the Sea is a wonderful book, filled with love for the sea, for life.

  2. I'm a bit of an ocean-phobe (thank you Jaws, Poseidon Adventure, Titanic), but this book sounds like it might help cure me a little. Just lovely.

  3. My copy looks just like that. Well worn. I loved this book back in the 80s when I first discovered it. Maybe it's time for a re-read. Thanks, Melissa.

  4. i liked that book. and then i read "the aviator's wife" which is a historical fiction book written about her. REALLY interesting and now i want to go back and read my copy of "gift from the sea" again.