In 1955, the year Godzilla came to be and the year of my birth, Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea was released to almost instant acclaim. It continues to be read and enjoyed today. Why does this slim volume–it’s only 138 pages–persist in engaging readers over fifty-six years after its first publication? And why am I writing a blog post about it?
I’d been married for three years when my mom gave me a copy of Gift From the Sea. She’d read it, liked it and thought I’d like it, too. I think I told her at the time that she was right, though telling your mom she is right is not typical of the 20 something even today. (So if I didn’t, Mom, you were right!)
In fact, I not only read it then, but I have continued to dip into its pages at regular intervals since that first reading, and I have often recommended it to friends and family.
It’s rather remarkable, because the only thing I appear to have in common with Morrow Lindberg is we are both female, authors (much less famous here), and married. And yet this particular book has provided me with comfort and wisdom for thirty-five years.
On the surface, it would seem incredible that a woman born in 1906 could have written something relevant to women in this brave, new century, something relevant to me and so many others.
Wikipedia describes the book publication as “[earning] her place as “one of the leading advocates of the nascent environmental movement.” This made me blink, because Gift from the Sea, for me, is a book about marriage and relationships. And about being a woman.
For this blog, I opened it, browsing for the passages I had highlighted over the years and found:
“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.”
That still hits home, because I’m still trying to learn to be patient. Those moments when I achieved it have delivered many gifts to me through the years–gifts I might not have noticed had I not been striving for that patient place, looking for life’s gifts to come.
She asks the question, “What is the shape of my life?” and follows up with a desire for inward and outward harmony. Yeah, that was my struggle, too.
Here’s something I also highlighted: “What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives…this is not a life of simplicity but of multiplicity.”
From reading and re-reading, I learned to look at the choices I was making as I moved through my life–and my marriage–and as I tried to make sure I was actually choosing and not just reacting to outward forces.
Having come to maturity in the turbulent 60’s and 70’s, I thought we cornered the market on emerging freedom for women, I saw the 50’s as severely restricted for women, and yet she writes of her time that “the American woman more than any other has the privilege of choosing…” She felt her life was full of opportunities and choices. In fact, she was first American woman to earn her gliders license. Her life was deeply marred by the tragedy of losing her first child but she went on to write a book that has moved millions.
Each time I opened Gifts from the Sea I was reminded that women have always faced challenges and found ways to make their lives rich and satisfying. Within the context of her life, it is, I believe, a particularly remarkable book about seeking inner peace and joy and then bringing that joy to your relationships with others.
I have not always been wise, but this is one of those books that have helped me not be quite so clueless. And it is, in my opinion, one of the books that gave me the courage to reach for my dream of becoming an author.
Are there books like that in your life? The ones you can’t forget? The ones you go back to again and again? The book or books that made you reach past your comfort zone for your dream?
Pauline Baird Jones may not be as famous as Anne Morrow Lindberg, but she is the author of 12 novels of science fiction romance, steampunk romance and romantic suspense. You can find out more about her at www.paulinebjones.com
A “Gift” for 35 Years