There are so many books that I have been meaning to pick up for years, and yet have not quite managed to do it. Gift from the Sea is one of those books. Then, this month, I did a reading challenge where one of the prompts was to read books that had “gift” or “present” in the title. It was the right time to read this book.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, was an aviator in her own right. In her later years, she was a writer who brought reputation back to a family that had seen its reputation fall over racist and isolationist views during the World War II era.
Gift from the Sea is perhaps the most famous book of Lindbergh’s writings. This slim set of essays was a National Book Award finalist in non-fiction in 1956. It was considered an early environmental work, and yet, as I read it today, I see that it has much in common with modern women’s nonfiction, written for women in a certain stage of life. Amazingly, this book feels as fresh and relevant today as it would hav 60 years ago, helping prove that, even as times change, the concerns of people tend to be universal.
In this book, Lindbergh thinks of the beach. She thinks of slowing down, being at the beach, and collecting seashells. The features of each shell remind her of aspects of her life and stages of both her life and marriage. For example, one of the shells that she writes about is “the oyster bed.” She uses this shell to symbolize the busy years of marriage, when the house is full and busy. She makes connections over all of stages of life from those years as a young mom until a woman reaches the empty nest stage of her life. Over and over again the point that is made is the need for solitude and for peace.
I noticed . . .
This seems to be written by a woman in my stage of life. She’s busier than she would like to be. She feels great ambivalence about it. She wants to be able to quiet her life, but often lacks the fortitude to do it.
I can totally relate to that. In fact, for much of the past few years, I could have written this book. If it were not for COVID lockdowns slowing down my life, I would still be stuck in that busy cycle. It’s a silver lining to a truly horrible year.
I wondered . . .
I wondered more about Lindbergh’s life after reading this. I had only known about Lindbergh in relation to the kidnapping and murder of her child in the early 1930s. I also know that she and her husband had went on to have several more children. I wonder more about her life, especially in light of having read more about Charles’ affairs in my curiosity about the family after reading this book. I plan to add Hertog’s biography of Anne in 2021. I also actually own the novel The Aviator’s Wife, so it’s an option for me for 2021 as well.
It reminded me of . . .
This book reminded me of many women’s nonfiction books that I have read over the years. However, Lindbergh’s book is more artfully done than most. The relationships between the shells and the aspects of a woman’s life is one that elevates this book above the average book on this topic.
I also found the comparison between this book and Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, You Learn By Living, to be interesting. Both women have distinctive fews about motherhood and the work of a woman, and yet both were mothering and rating their children at the same time. I find that quite a fun comparison. I think I should revisit You Learn By Living soon.
One Excellent Quote . . .
I took several pages of notes as I read this little book, so there are many aspects that I could comment on. Perhaps my favorite quote though was when Lindbergh was detailing why it is more difficult for women to follow intellectual and meditative pursuits. As she says,
The bearing, rearing, feeding, and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–women’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.
I think most busy women can relate!