Solitude in Finding Balance (in Roles as a Woman) “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Lindbergh (June 2007)

Susan's Thursday morning note June 21, 2007 
Gift From the Sea by Anne Lindbergh
Good morning friends!  I’ve got two cups of coffee in my system, yet my arms still feel like lead & my fingers are stiff.  I read what might be a new favorite book this week and I don’t even know where to start in telling you about it.  I just get so excited when I find a book that validates the way I am, and gives me more to think about and suggestions for change in my life.  The new “Susan” book that you will all have to get is called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  She was the wife of Charles Lindbergh (aviator) who died in 2001 at the age of 94.  The book was written 50 years ago.  Here’s an excerpt from the back cover to get you to understand why I picked it out…
Anne Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea…

Her daughter, Reeve Lindbergh, writes in the forward (paraphrased),  “I believe the real reason the book continues to be so well loved and read is the unusual kind of freedom.  The freedom that comes from choosing to remain open, as my mother did, to life itself, whatever it may bring: joys, sorrows, triumphs, failures, suffering, comfort, and certainly, always, change.”  Anne Lindbergh compares different types of shells to different stages in her life, especially concentrating on middle age and choices we can make in our 40’s-50’s.  I’m going to type for you a few of the meaningful paragraphs and let you take what you can from just this little morsel from the wonderful little book.  Her main emphasis in the book is of our “alone” time – making that the essence of our lives, where we get our strength.
My shell is not like this, I think.  How untidy it 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?
…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.
…I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious.
…I feel closer to my fellow men too, even in my solitude.  For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, but spiritual isolation.  It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love.  It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger.  When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too.  If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.  How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us.  Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us – or having found them dry.  Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover.  And, for me, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.
…Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone.  Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.  The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray.  But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.  She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still.” This beautiful image is to my mind the one that women could hold before their eyes.  This is an end toward which we could strive – to be the still axis within the revolving wheel of relationships, obligations, and activities.  Solicitude alone is not the answer…The problem is not so much in finding time alone, but how to still the soul in the midst of its activities.  The problem is how to feed the soul.”
…Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant – and therefore beautiful.  A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky.  A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side.  A candle flowers in the space of night.  Even small and casual things take on significance if they are washed in space, like a few autumn grasses in one corner of an Oriental painting, the rest of the page bare.
I want you to grasp the beauty of her writing, but don’t know how to choose which little quips to send you, for the book is just full of thoughts and ideas for our pursuit of tranquility of mind in the midst of our lives.  I just absolutely loved this book.  If you would like encouragement to go through the next phase of your life, whatever it may be (she concentrates heavily on comparing mid-life to adolescence – how adolescents face their fears of the unknown, entering their new phase with anticipation, whereas those in a new phase that are older enter their new phase with fear, depression, anxiety that life is over, etc.  instead of realizing the great gift of their next phase of life – solitude – the chance to develop as a person, not having to concentrate on others with their energies.
I just know that life is too short to stop trying.  To not continue reading, thinking, praying, listening.  To not develop our inner minds.  Every day is a going to give us change.  Whatever it may bring: joys, sorrows, triumphs, failures, suffering, comfort, and certainly, always, change.  Let the changes bring us freedom.  Freedom to continue our stories.  Freedom to change with the seasons.  Freedom to not just constrict and look like barnacles – with no beauty from our stories.  I highly encourage you to read this book, and for all of us to simplify our lives.  Simplify our relationships, do with quality what is expected from us in the chapter that we are in of our story called life.
May God meet the needs you ask him to meet today.  May you find stillness in your soul, and peace that no matter what your personal circumstances are, you can become a man or woman with a soul that you take pride in.  Go take on your day – cherish those in your lives.  Thank you for letting me be part of your life, and for your support of our little bookstore.  Susan
Work Cited: 
Lindbergh, Anne M.  Gift from the Sea.  New York: Pantheon, 1991.