There are few books that are timeless, speaking to your heart during all of life’s passages. For me, the short list is my Bible and “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
This book spoke to me as an adolescent; it sat on my carrel on the fourth floor of the Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College where I wrote my thesis; and it is just as meaningful today.
The wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first man to cross the Atlantic in a solo flight in 1927, Anne Morrow Lindbergh raised five children, tragically losing her first son who was kidnapped and murdered in 1932. She was the first woman in America to earn a first-class glider pilot’s license in 1930, and to win the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in 1934. She also received the National Book Award in 1938 for the novel “Listen! The Wind” about her aviation and exploration adventures.
Published in 1955, “Gift from the Sea” is a personal series of essays that she wrote about her stay at a little cottage near the beach on Captiva Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
“The beach is not the place to work, to read, write or think,” she wrote in the first chapter. “Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. … And then some morning …, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense – no – but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. … The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. 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.”
A reporter and editor, I’ve spent much of my life in a newsroom, where I’ve been the first to know about every disaster and misfortune known to man. I remember in surreal detail the Tuesday morning 14 years ago when the terrorists hijacked the plane from Logan and took down the World Trade Center. I wrote a breaking news story that day interviewing a local man who had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years earlier.
Over the years, I developed a coping mechanism that helps me reconcile my life in the fast lane and all its grittiness. No matter the season, I drive to Fogland Beach. During the forty-minute drive, a shift occurs; and by the time I reach Fogland Road, I have left behind the struggles, sorrows and sufferings of my fellow man, finding sanctuary where peace is as palpable as the fog.
Away from work and home, I have no appointments, no laundry list of things to do, no reason to do anything but just be. In a world this beautiful, there is only sea, space and possibilities.
At the beach, I breathe in the salty air. It is here where Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s voice speaks to me, her prose ringing in my ears in rhythmic cadence to the crashing waves:
“When we start at the center of ourselves, we discover something worthwhile extending toward the periphery of the circle. We find again some of the joy in the now, some of the peace in the here, some of the love in me and thee which go to make up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”