Contemplation, Creativity, and Companions by the Sea


The first time I opened Gift from the Sea, I was pedaling barefoot on the exercise bike in the basement. It’s the story of this stage of my life, I’m circling my legs around in full stride only to realize I’m a hamster in a wheel. I stopped pedaling as Anne Morrow Lindbergh described my frenzied days in pointed poetic lines written half a century earlier. Continue reading

Time Capsule {Gift from the Sea Re-opened…and Giveaway Winner!}

From The Dress of Many Colors, by Darcy Wiley:

“Help,” Libby mouthed toward Clarence, too late to catch his eye. She pressed her lips between her teeth. Should she try and break free? This was so much so soon, Paul wrapping his arms around her like they were going steady.

But then a familiar shape came into focus. There at the chipping layers of McBride’s Bluff, Libby’s eyes lingered on a segment of rock, a memory of the sea that had once covered the place. Where had it all gone, those immeasurable liters that once buried the ground she would walk on, the cliffs she would climb?

Water was still drawn to the place. Every spring the river recalled the legend of that ancient ocean, rising high along rock faces, seeping into brick buildings, saturating soil. Just a few months earlier, the river had again broken its boundaries and crept up to that very spot. She remembered paddling the canoe past it.

“What’s on your mind?” Paul whispered hot in her ear.

She moved through his arms like she was swinging a gate open and sped to the rock face, a landing place where she could stand firmly in the tide of Paul’s sudden affection. He jogged forward, reached out and captured her hand in his and rested the tips of his fingers in between her knuckles, like little ships in port. Just as quickly, she worked her hand out of his and pointed at the work of art in front of them.

“See this?” she formed a frame with her thumbs and index fingers. Paul lifted his discarded hand and pressed his finger into the grooves of a tiny fossil, the armor of a little sea creature etched into the stone tablet of history, an imprint preserved from the long-ago dream of a time before the water was shallow enough for the place to be called Shoals.

“The Great Flood,” he said.

She forced out a breath and locked in on the tube in Paul’s hand. “Are you planning on fixing something?” she asked.

“Oh, this? You ever seen a time capsule?” The tube did look a little like the thing the President had buried in the ground at the World’s Fair a few years back. It was a man’s form of a Mason jar, a way to capture the moment, freeze it in time, preserve it for a future generation to relish. She pictured the glass and shimmery Cupaloy. That and its tapered ends left the 7-foot capsule looking less like something in the kitchen pantry and more like something in the nation’s armory. Libby nodded at Paul.

“Seems a lot of people around here are searching for treasure,” Paul motioned to Clarence’s contraption, a hefty box connected to a long pole connected to a disc that looked like a film reel, “What do you say we bury a bit of our own?” Something solid bounced off the ends of the tube as he shook it back and forth. And when he placed the pipe into the rocky soil near the metal detector, the machine cheeped and squealed.

What you read above is an excerpt from a novel that I’ve been working on for years. The chapters in themselves are like little time capsules that keep a bit of my style, philosophy and skill level just as they were at the time I wrote the words. Every time I go back to the drafts, I find something that needs editing. The written word, whether kept in a computer file, or printed on real paper and bound with a spine, or shared out in the blogosphere, has a way of capturing a slice of the author’s life at that very moment. And when we re-open our own works, we find how much we ourselves have changed.

Through this, I can relate even in a small way with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s feelings on re-opening her time capsule, her bestselling memoir of her time in Captiva. In her afterword, written twenty years after initial publication, she shares her astonishment that her book of essays has indeed resonated with so many women and also that she could be so naive about the state of women’s rights and quality of life in 1955.

After reading the list of Mrs. Lindbergh’s domestic duties in chapter 2, my friend Julie commented, “AML claimed that her husband was more of a feminist than she was (Winters, 2006, p. 74). However, I don’t see “equality” written on these pages!” When re-opening her book twenty years later, it seems the author agreed that the work for women’s equality was nowhere near complete in 1955: “I realize in hindsight and humility how great and how many were–and are–the victories still to be won.”

She went on to write of how she admired her daughters and other young women who were “better mothers than I was…and the admitted equals of their husbands in intelligence and initiative.” Yet, through this reading, I remember reflecting on the role of fathers in that very generation, my parents’ generation, and chuckling at how disconnected many of them were from domestic work and the often tedious care of children. I even commented that “part of the reason it took me so long to say ‘yes’ to marriage was my fear of having to be the sole person in charge of” those things.

I agree with Tristi’s comment: “As I look at my own life, I see the benefits of my husband as an involved father, doing things men were unheard of doing in those days (changing diapers). It’s nice to have the freedom to have a girls’ night out or even be able to embrace some time alone and know he’ll be willing to stay home with the kids.”

A big part of the emphasis on teamwork, I believe, has come from women being willing to communicate needs and desires to their husbands. Like AML wrote, “They are airing their problems, discovering themselves and comparing their experiences. More important, they are beginning to talk to men, openly and honestly, often arguing and challenging, but at last trying to explain what they felt could never be explained…. And men, to their great credit, for the most part are listening and, I believe, understanding more than we ever expected.”

I admire my mother for her tireless efforts in taking care of four children as a stay-at-home mom whose work never seemed to be done, and in view of all that, I admire her for carving out time for her own creative passions like writing stories, playing piano, or painting landscapes. I know her long commitment to exploring and practicing her talents helped her through the empty nester phase “when a mother alone is left, the lone hub of a wheel, with no other lives revolving about her” and helped her “come to terms with [herself] not only in a new stage of life but in a new role.” And her commitment to those pursuits as a young mother is an inspiration to me as I experiment with how to enjoy and work hard at my own calling to motherhood and to creative writing.

Our art, our music, our words, they all capture this moment in time and keep it for future generations, or our future selves. I am thankful Anne Morrow Lindbergh captured her thoughts for us, even if there were things she would have changed when looking back.

{I’ve had such a fun summer with these weekly getaways in the pages of Gift from the Sea. Sifting through these words with you all has brought in new friends and allowed me to grow closer with some wonderful women I already knew. Thank you to Kerry, Tristi, Julie, Amber and others who commented so thoughtfully over the course of our summer book club…and thank you to those of you who chimed in toward the end. Out of 162 eligible comments in our Souvenirs from the Sea Giveaway, the winner chosen at random was #135…Kerry!!! She has been such a faithful part of the discussion from week to week and I’m so glad she’ll get to enjoy these souvenirs from our time together. Be sure to swing over to her blog and get to know her a bit. She’s a breath of fresh air.}

Souvenirs from the Sea {A Giveaway!}

Gift from the Sea Giveaway {$200 Value}:
1. Pottery Barn Golden Shells and Shell Chart Greeting Card
2. $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card
3. Neutral Striped Tote from Restoration Hardware
4. SoulCare Journal Set: Fair-Trade Mulberry Paper Journal/Sketchbook, Write for Your Soul Booklet, Twig Pencil
5. French Orange Marmalade, Gingham Spoon and Natural Fiber Placemats from Anthropologie
6. Cooperative Mesh Scarf from Urban Outfitters
7. “Samba with Me to the Sea” Embroidered Dishtowel from Anthropologie
8. Dipped Coral Necklace from Anthropologie


It has been a joy to be on island time with you this summer as we’ve bent back the pages of Gift from the Sea and discovered so many treasures hiding within. As we reminisce about our time at the edge of the water with Anne Morrow Lindbergh and with each other, I’ve gathered a few souvenirs as reminders of simplicity, solitude, stages of womanhood and relationship, and our responsibilities to our community and the world. As we leave this carefree time of contemplation and head into the more industrious days of fall, I wish these things for you….

1. May you remember that under the surface, “even those whose lives had appeared to be ticking imperturbably under their smiling clock-faces were often trying…to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and more alive relationships to themselves as well as others.” When you look at these Golden Shells that may find a place in your home decor, remember that underneath the shine, they are real and natural and fragile, and so are the women around you, “searching for a new pattern of living…a contemplative corner of their own.”

2. May you be open to new things, “chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind….” And maybe use the $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card to surprise yourself with a new book?

3. As you open up the Striped Tote or another at home and decide what to carry with you, may you learn “the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much” and remember that “one cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few…. For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms.”

4. May you find time for a mini getaway each day, each week and maybe even each year as “certain springs are only tapped when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.” I hope the SoulCare Journal Set with fair-trade mulberry paper sketchbook/journal, Write for Your Soul booklet, and twig pencil will help you tap those creative springs and be refilled.

5. In the simple joy of opening up French Orange Marmalade over Natural Fiber Placemats, may you “find the miracle of the sunrise repeated” in your marriage, “the sudden pleasure of having breakfast alone with the man one fell in love with…two people facing each other…. Nothing but a coffee pot, corn muffins and marmalade” between you.

6. May the Mesh Scarf remind you that “marriage which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm.” And may you remember to swim strong together to strengthen those bonds in the midst of the demands of family life.

7. May you revel in the differentiation of interests and strengths and areas of gifting in your relationship and “move confidently in the same pattern.” May you work together in the same direction, dancing, “completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes.” I hope the fun “Samba with Me to the Sea” towel will remind you to enjoy the dance in your everyday, even when you’re teaming up to do the dishes.

8. Finally, when you are feeling that “modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry,” may the Coral Necklace remind you of our fragile habitats and societies and how when we all do our part, catastrophe shrinks.

We will close out next Monday with a look back at Gift from the Sea with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s afterword, written in 1975, twenty years after initial publication. I’ll announce our giveaway winner in that post. All are invited to enter, even those who haven’t yet read Gift from the Sea. The $25 B&N Gift Card would be a great way to get yourself a copy and start reading. Be sure to get your comments in before midnight on Saturday, August 11 when the contest closes. Until then, have fun entering the giveaway…and be sure to let your friends in on it!

How to enter the Gift from the Sea Giveaway:
1. Follow this blog via Email Subscription or RSS Feed (see sidebar), then comment on this post or any other post in the series.
2. Extra Entry: Tweet this, then re-comment on this post sharing your Twitter handle.
3. Extra Entry: Pin on Pinterest, then re-comment on this post.
4. Extra Entry: Share with friends on Facebook, then re-comment on this post.

Tracking the Current {Gift from the Sea 8: The Beach at My Back}

When we packed for the beach, we didn’t know whether to take our swimsuits or our hazmat suits. We tracked ocean currents on the web, watched the news and called Gulf Coast locals to see if we should even come. I remembered years ago how I found globs of oil stuck to my feet after walking sands along the Mediterranean at Alexandria and then later walking along the Atlantic at West Palm Beach. But this was more than an oil barge leaking a bit, this was the black tide of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. The currents were moving the mass of oil toward Mississippi, Alabama, and our Florida beaches. Even the Everglades were at stake.

The explosion had already claimed the life of my friend’s cousin and his fellow workers on the rig, and the crude oil let loose in the waters was oiling bird feathers, covering pelicans in tar, poisoning sea mammals, and killing coral. My conservationist heart fired like the oil burning out at sea. I felt how “the world is rumbling and erupting in ever-widening circles around us. The tensions, conflicts and sufferings even in the outermost circle touch us all, reverberate in all of us. We cannot avoid these vibrations.” The earth was bleeding with no styptic to be found. Eighty-seven days the oil would gush. Five million barrels. I watched more coverage and flooded over, angry, helpless.

We went for it, traveled toward disaster. We took the scenic route through southern byways. There were wells in front yards, half-naked toddlers walking barefoot over dirt-lawns, yellow ribbons on weathered posts, cotton fields picked empty, and then in all the squalor, a teenager with a laptop sitting on the porch of a shack. Was he entertaining himself to forget his poverty or was he searching out the bigger catastrophes of the world to dwarf his own, living out Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s view that “because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world”?

I thought about the various types of need I see through the window of my laptop, the child with cancer that I cry over, the pastor who is jailed in Iran, women being trafficked in my own country. I want to give my heart to these issues and more, but at times it all floods over me like the oil I watched on the screen. I have felt it that “modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.” And driving through this byway at 60 miles per hour, I felt it again, that I could not carry these burdens or lift these people up from poverty.

But somehow, with them being just yards away from me, their actual selves, not a snapshot or an avatar, their sticky air coming through my rolled down windows, I got a sense of each as an individual. In all the distressed Americana, I noted “the particular uniqueness of each member of the [human] family, the spontaneity of now; the vividness of here…..the drops that make up the stream.”

Out at sea, beyond my sight, crews skimmed oil, burned oil, placed booms around islands and coasts. It wouldn’t be enough, but it was what they knew to do. They put in elbow grease working in their own area of expertise…and alongside came a surprise something like the glitter in the Andaman Sea, hidden helpers that would eliminate some twenty to forty percent of the oil. When each member of creation does its part, acts in its own circle of influence, opens itself to the need of the moment…catastrophe shrinks.

We wound along the road and passed a country church anchored in an unkempt grove. I prayed they were doing what I couldn’t, leading these people to “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.”

When we finally rolled into our destination, we got right to the beach. We looked for signs of the oil slick, but all we saw was powdery sand and emerald water. I didn’t know what the future held for the place, but we let its present beauty “expand into a golden eternity of here and now.” We ran in it, rolled in it, built with it…and threw it in the air like confetti. The “sand [slipped] softly under my feet” and I took in the beauty, yet unspoiled.

{This week’s post is based on the final chapter in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea…Chapter 8, “The Beach at My Back”. View all entries in the series here.}


So, what’s your take? Pick one or more of the reflection questions in the comments section and enter a reply to share your thoughts. All subscribers’ comments on the weekly Gift from the Sea posts will be entered for our Gift from the Sea Giveaway that opens up next Monday!

The Inventor’s Banyan {Gift from the Sea 6: Argonauta}

We were gathered in by branches, a generous canopy shielding sun from shoulders that looked mostly like stewed tomatoes. I had told my husband to wear sunscreen the day before, but he hadn’t listened. So this day, we fled the Gulf beach to find shade along the Caloosahatchee River.

I took my sunglasses off and eyed the tree, following the line from one root up the trunk. I paused where the trunk reached a slanted bough and then traced the rest of the way up the incline. There, the limb melded with another trunk that rooted itself in the ground. I could have counted a few hundred of those wooden twists and turns, winding myself around in “wandering mazes lost.” I looked down at a placard and read that the beautiful tangle of branches and trunks all made up one tree.

When it first anchored in that patch of Florida soil, the tree was the size of a rosebush, a souvenir brought back from Harvey Firestone’s trip to India and gifted to his inventor friend, Thomas Edison. The two mad scientists leaked sap from the tree and took it to the laboratory, experiment after experiment, searching out the best rubber for the road.

In other parts of the property, Mina Edison put her creative hands to work, cultivating a moonlight garden full of white flowers that would show bright at night. And she happily crowned herself with the title “home executive.” Her husband’s weakness happened to be her strength. As she tended the Seminole Lodge winter after winter, the wild tree kept growing too, tending itself, jutting out branches and sending down roots that would grow to look like tree trunks.

This is a bit like what Anne Morrow Lindbergh described as the healthy marriage relationship: “With growth, it is true, comes differentiation and separation, in the sense that the unity of the tree-trunk differentiates as it grows and spreads in to limbs, branches and leaves. But the tree is still one, and its different and separate parts contribute to one another.”

There is much to share in my relationship with my husband. He and I love talking about the Scripture and how it sheds light on the situations around us. We enjoy working with words or making music together. We flock to the same vintage meets contemporary style in interior design. We both love our pedestrian-friendly town life. We share the work of caring for our little ones (much different from previous generations as I’ve heard many Baby Boomer women say). And in all those areas, we grow tall together.

But, as Anne Morrow Lindbergh quotes the German poet, Rilke, “A complete sharing between two people is an impossibility…and whenever it seems, nevertheless, to exist, it is a narrowing, a mutual agreement which robs either one member or both of his fullest freedom and development.”

I have been guilty of expecting my husband to love everything that I love, to share everything in common with me. I want him to try a bite from my exotic plate at dinner. He wants to simply enjoy the predictable thing he ordered. I am drawn to internationals and know how to make small talk in a few languages. He knows how to say “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” I crave homegrown food. He likes meals that come in a box.

And even in the things we have in common, we have our own unique styles. He is all-out rock band. I am singer/songwriter. He thrills to state the case for his philosophies. I shy away from controversy. He’s got skills on the basketball court. I trip over my own feet.

But all these passions of his, though I don’t claim them as my own, they show me a bigger world than the one I knew before. As Rilke said, “But, once the realization is accepted that, even between the closest human beings, infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky!”

Like Edison and friends, Anne Morrow Lindbergh dealt with the fact that “theory precedes exploration.” Along with other advancements, the Edison experiments contributed to the better gripping tires we have on the road today. And Mina Edison felt happy contributing to that far reaching effort through her gift of administration.

As for Anne Morrow Lindbergh, she considered the theory of a relationship of equals who allow “space and freedom for growth” and saw herself and her peers as “pioneers trying to find a new path.” She reminded readers that “in the past, [woman] has swung between these two opposite poles of dependence and competition, of Victorianism and Feminism. Both extremes throw her off balance; neither is the center, the true center of being a whole woman…. She must become whole.”

We must reach without fear into the open space, follow our God-given passions and become more of the woman each of us was made to be. This happens “when the heart is flooded with love [and, as a result,] there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation.” And, as the author asserts, man, too, must “expand the neglected sides of his personality.” Together, we grow tall; individually, we reach wide…and we become “the meeting of two whole fully developed people as persons.”

Now, almost 90 years after Harvey Firestone’s gift was first planted, Thomas Edison’s banyan tree spans a whole acre of land just inside the Gulf Coast…one strong tree sending down roots from wide-reaching branches.

{This week’s post is based on Chapter 6, “Argonauta” in Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. View all entries in the series here.}


So, what’s your take? Pick one or more of the reflection questions in the comments section and enter a reply to share your thoughts. All subscribers’ comments on the weekly Gift from the Sea posts (shared on Mondays in June and July) will be entered for a drawing at the end of our Summer Book Club 2012.