Wednesday, January 16, 2008

GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The Book: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, GIFT FROM THE SEA, Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Vintage Books paperback, 1978. Inscribed inside front cover: "For Clair on the day of her Confirmation/Love, Mommy & Daddy/4-13-80." Book is badly age-browned; pages are brittle, front cover is loose.
First read: 1980
Owned since: 1980

It's a noisy world we live in, crowded and complicated, which is why I chose to retreat to a small town in central Maine a few years ago -- only to discover that I bring the world with me wherever I go, and the noise is at least as much internal as external.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh understood this, and understood the need to at least try to be quiet and still, to keep something of oneself for oneself. Her situation was unique, as an international celebrity, wife of one of the most famous and controversial men who ever lived, and mother of five children. But her point in this book is that all women face the same challenges, the same difficulties in trying to figure out what to keep and what to let go.

This small collection of essays has educated and comforted me and helped me feel connected when I felt most adrift. The central problem of the modern woman, Lindbergh wrote -- in 1958! -- is that we feel so scattered.

Here is a strange paradox. Woman instinctively wants to give, yet resents giving herself in small pieces. Basically is this a conflict? Or is it an over-simplification of a many-stranded problem? I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly. What we fear is not so much that our energy may be leaking away through small outlets as that it may be going "down the drain."

My mother gave me this book, and although today is the second anniversary of her death, this week I have felt her continuing presence strongly. This book reminds me of how strong her force was when she turned it to anything, and I was glad to be able to pass on a copy of this book to Claire when she graduated from college last year.

What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea... I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.

Five Random Songs

"A Hazy Shade of Winter," Simon & Garfunkel. A live version from the Old Friends: Live on Stage CD. I saw them on this tour as a birthday gift, with my friend Gary and his now-fiancee Lori, and it was one of the best nights of my life. Thanks, Gary.

"Bird on a Wire," Willie Nelson. A beautiful cover of the Leonard Cohen classic. "I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch/He said to me, 'You must not ask for so much.'/And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door/She cried to me, 'Hey, why not ask for more?'"

"Shakespeare's Sister," The Smiths. Can anyone explain this song's title to me? The lyrics are about the adolescent torment of being equally in love with the idea of death and the possibility of romance.

"Jamming," Bob Marley. Dad's somewhere in the Caribbean today -- maybe on Jamaica, maybe on one of the British Virgin Islands -- and I hope and trust he's having a good time. We haven't gotten any calls from international law enforcement, so all must be going well...

"Jigsaw," Love Spit Love. Love Spit Love was the successor band to The Psychedelic Furs, and their show at the 9:30 Club was one of the few rock concerts I've ever attended alone. (Going to concerts alone isn't much fun. I like to go to movies alone; going to plays alone is no big deal; going to concerts alone is kind of pathetic.) This song sounds like something Kurt Weill might have written if he'd been a British rock musician in the 1980s. Excellent kazoo and horn work, and I might even hear a melodion in the background.

1 comment:

Moira said...

Thinking of you : )