I have recently read, once again, A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg. This book touched me deeply – as it did years ago when I first read it. With grace and clarity, Anne Morrow Lindberg touches on and explores problems that trouble the human heart – giving the reader form and shape to possible lessons and learning on simplicity, solitude and caring for the soul.
The setting of the book is the seashore where the author spends a brief vacation that transports her from the distractions of everyday life into a state of mindfulness – of exquisite awareness. As each unique shell offers itself for reflection, the heart is invited to discover its own treasures. She shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment during her visit. Symbols for states and stages in life are identified and honored. The possibility of deep understanding of oneself and others is rich and available in this beautifully written story.
Now, decades later, A Gift from the Sea continues to influence women’s changing lives. The author reflects on a world transformed over the decades, yet unchanged, as a woman’s need for self-understanding is eternal. The lesson that a woman must “come of age” and find her true center alone is as relevant today as it was decades ago.
Having just returned from a yearly 12-day silent retreat in the lush farmland of northern Washington, I was drawn to the chapter about a shell called “Moon Shell”: one that reminds the author of the importance of solitude and silence in her life. She recalls how difficult and awkward it can be to leave one’s friends and family to deliberately practice the art of silence for a period of time. For her, it is almost as if a limb has been torn off – painful and difficult at first. But then, as I experienced as well, there is a quality of being alone, in silence, which is precious – rich and vivid, alive and nourishing. She experiences nature and the animals that share her location on the beach as a gift and as her companions. There is a kinship and a joy experienced. I recall the eagles, rabbits and hummingbirds that were with me each day of my own retreat. I felt, and feel, such gratitude for my life and for the beauty of earth and sea, sky and grass, mornings and evenings. Harmony and finding my place on this earth, over and over again.
Mrs. Lindberg goes on to say that it is not physical solitude or silence that separates one from other people but rather it is the “wilderness of the mind…the desert wastes in the heart” that is the true divider. Through the experience of silent retreats, I have discovered that if I am out of touch with myself, then I cannot be in touch with others. The author states: “Only when connected to one’s own core is one connected to others.” I felt as though she and I knew each other and were sharing our experience of being alone and how deeply impactful and nourishing such an experience is in life. If you choose to read this book, it is my hope that you experience closeness as well.
A Gift from the Sea has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 45 languages. You can find the book on Amazon.com.