Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Project: Gift from the Sea

I recently finished Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I have not read such a transformational book in a long time! Today I'm just going to give you a few of my favorite exerpts that will hopefully spark your curiosity.

Gift from the Sea, only about 130 pages long, is a collection of thoughts and epiphanies that Lindbergh wrote during a two-week vacation to an island in 1955. Most of the subject matter is about the nature of woman, the problems that our modern, busy lives present, and the natural cycles a marriage goes through. I apologize in advance because I am going to quote a lot from the book, just because I found so much of it so inspiring. I hope you stick with it to the end! And believe me when I say that the following is just a small sampling of the treasures I found in her book!

"What is the shape of my life? The shape of my life today starts with a family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my  mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my heart and its desires. I want to givve and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

"But I want first of all--in fact, as an end to these other desires--to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can...an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God...

"...certain rules of conduct are more conducive to inner and outer harmony than others. There are, in fact, certain roads that one may follow. Simplification of life is one of them.

"I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily--like a hermit crab. But I do not. I find that my frame of life does not foster simplicity..." Lindbergh then gives a terrific list of all the things demanding a woman's attention--laundry, dinners, parties, charitable organizations, carpools, vacations, shopping, media--I'm sure you can continue the list in your mind well enough. And then she says something that I really hit home with me: "This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul."

I loved this. I think she's exactly right. Women are pulled in so many directions by a million distractions each day that it becomes exceedingly difficult to stay centered. She says that it applies to men as well, but the problem is "particularly and essentially woman's...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...

"The problem is not merely one of 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...

"I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rythm between these two extremes; a swinging pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life."

"To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with? To say--is it necessary?--when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity."

Ah! I love love LOVE these thoughts and ideas! This was such a great reminder to me that I need time to reconnect with my core every day. It taught me that there is nothing wrong with leading a complicated life as long as I remember to keep reconnecting to my inner core, the hub of my wheel. I think in that way I can avoid the "multiplicity" and "fragmentation" that might otherwise happen to me if I let myself be pulled off balance. I think this will allow me to live a busy, complicated life in a simple, peaceful way.

I'm not joking when I say that I could quote way more passages from this book--in fact, this only covered one chapter of this wonderful little book. But I'll leave them for you to discover on your own, if you choose.

If you made it through this whole thing, thanks for sticking around! I'd love to hear your thoughts on the quotes I wrote down! Cheers!

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