“Herein lies one key to the problem. If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt. One has only to look at those women who actually have the economic means or the time and energy for solitude yet do not use it, to realize that the problem is not solely economic. It is more a question of inner convictions than of outer pressures, though, of course, the th outer pressures are there and make it more difficult. As far as the search for solitude is concerned, we live in a negative atmosphere as invisible, as all-pervasive, and as enervating as high humidity on an August afternoon. The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.”
Gift from the Sea is a lovely, lyrical group of essays written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She wrote them during a mostly solo vacation at the beach, a time when she was contemplating the different stages of our lives and loves, specifically womens’ lives. She writes about the problems inherent in our modern world, that pull us away from our families, and more specifically, from our selves. She extols the benefits of contemplation and self discovery, of the need for creativity and solitude in all of our lives.
When I think of creativity, I think of my gifted friends, who write books and paint paintings, who make beautiful pottery and take amazing photos. She admires all of these, but also the art and creativity in making a loaf of bread, the joy in cleaning your house. That sounds horrible, but it isn’t. She means that there is much to be proud of in the every day chores of women, and that the artistry of these chores is lost in our modern world, with modern conveniences. She doesn’t think we need to go back to washing our clothes on a rock in the river. Rather, she wants us to take pride in all of the things that we do, and not be always in a hurry to get on to the next thing. To live in the present, rather than the future or the past.
The essays are wrapped around different shells that she finds on the beach. Shells that represent the different phases in a woman’s life. Shells that represent new and romantic love. Shells that represent the exhausting time of raising small children. Of that time when our children are grown, and we have more time for self-discovery and contemplation. Of the joys and sorrows of being alone. Of being surrounded by family and friends.
My mom gave me this book when I was 19 or 20, I think. It’s a beautiful book, out of date in some ways, but more current and modern that ever in others. When she writes of the many directions women are pulled, of the distractions and diversions, she had little idea of what our world would look like, these 54 years later.