Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sea teaches patience and faith

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.”

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Walking barefoot along a sandy beach is a sublime summertime pleasure, but I always wear shoes.
In nearby Cape Cod, the sand is as deep as three hundred feet in some places, but not on this rocky coastline that is my home.

Pebbled with sharp stones, shells and coarse sand, this beach path is navigated much more easily and comfortably with sneakers or beach shoes, colorfully-woven elastic footwear with rubber soles.

There’s an old Arabian proverb that states: “It’s not the road ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”

Rocks that are exposed to water and weather break down and create a blanket of sediment that covers the coastline, and the sediment becomes the impediment. Whether lodged in the shoe or clinging to the soles of the feet, those grains of sand will make the traveler footsore by journey’s end.

Curiously, shoes seem to turn up on beaches, half buried in the sand. On my walks I find one-of-a-kind sneakers from pretty pink toddler footwear to expensive Nike athletic shoes. These shoes wear out uniformly, not just on the soles. The tides drag them back and forth; they are pelted by rocks and sand, sun and rain.

Fishermen’s boots also occasionally wash up on this shore. Sea-green and seemingly impervious to the elements, these vinyl boots are weighted down with sand. Calf and over-the-knee boots are essential fishing gear, and I wonder how the fisherman let this one get away.

Was the boot washed overboard in a storm at sea? Did the fisherman tear the fabric on a sharp rock and toss the boot like trash fish? Has he yet to realize that one has gone missing?

I am reminded of a particular clam expedition to the estuary when I was a teenager. The clam digger rests on my boyfriend’s shoulder, and a tin pail swings over my arm. He slips on my father’s new brown beach shoes that my mother let him borrow and nervously paces while I locate the rest of the gear in the shed.

We stroll hand in hand to the creek. The tide is at its lowest. He takes off the shoes and begins raking the tool in the wet sand. Slowly, I begin filling the pail with supper. We lose track of time as we work but are forced to quit by the rising tide.

Staring in disbelief, we watch my father’s new beach shoes float gracefully out to sea.

There is a well-known spiritual poem about a dream, in which we are walking along a beach accompanied by the Lord. Sometimes we see only one set of footprints visible in the sand, leading us to believe that the Lord abandons us during times of trial. But the Lord assures us that it is during these times that He carries us.

Since childhood, I have walked countless miles along this beach in sun and fog, snow and rain, wearing sandals, flip-flops, beach shoes, sneakers, snow boots and occasionally, no shoes at all. But I have never walked alone.