Book Review: Gift From the Sea

“Woman must come of age by herself…
She must find her true center alone.”

― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

When I picked up this little book at an small, unknown bookstore on the Oregon coast, I had NO idea what it was. I just liked the title, the package of it, and the colors. I am a seacomber constantly wanting to pick up shells and discover their mysteries, so it spoke to me instantly.

When I started it, I was quickly surprised at how deep I dived into my own perception of myself. I didn’t know that this book, even though originally published in 1955, was an anthem to feminism and a celebration of women in all forms. I also was overwhelmed to find how accurate and relatable it still is, though slightly dated. Even in this the 50th Anniversary collectible that I picked up (copyright 2005), had a reflection Anne wrote at a 20 year anniversary of the book. She remarked at the marvels of the female world (of 1975) and how much it had changed in just those 20 years.

So here we are, as I count on my fingers, 66 years since publication. And here I am, identifying with it.

If I learned anything from this beautiful collection of essays, it is the perspective of self. And I don’t know how to explain it, but I really needed this right now.

In a brief synopsis, here is a woman (of both publicity and notoriety) reflecting on her life in a quiet beach house on the Florida coast. These different shells she picks up represent something about her life and gives her insight, wisdom, and perspective.

This spoke so deeply to me, in ways I am still recovering from. What Anne Morrow Lindbergh focused on were different shells representing parts of her life; reflection of who she was as a woman and what she needed to direct her nature.

A Channelled Whelk – the responsibility placed on women (granted 1955, but even compounded now) and the liberation for equality

Moon Shell – the healthy benefit of time alone, time to collect and regain the threads of who she is

Double Sunrise – life together, partnership, young love, and the evolution of love and life

I found a double sunrise and I didn’t even know it.

Argonauta – self love, self care, individuality, and a personal relationship with one’s self

Oyster Bed – motherhood, the clustering of life, and preservation within the childrearing years

These five shells gave her a piece of self, each one. As I began reading I fell gobsmacked by the wisdom spilling out of such a small, lovely collection.

Though the essays are poetically wordy, and as I said before, a bit dated, the truth of how little we women, especially within the young stages of life, devote so much of our energy on others that we forget about ourselves.

A few of the quotes that stuck with me:

  • “Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”
  • “Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.”
  • “I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.”
  • “This is what one thirsts for, I realize, after the smallness of the day, of work, of details, of intimacy – even of communication, one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.”
  • “Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”
  • “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.”

I could seriously keep going. It was so marvelous that every page had something new for me.

But none more than the one I started with. I should not rely on others to find happiness, it needs to start inside me and grow outwardly. Others do not complete me, they enhance me, as I hope to do to other people’s lives.

This book was a startling find. It is a gem for a reason. I’ll keep it with my other shells, my other treasures, and reflect on it often. I highly recommend this beautiful treasure trove of wisdom for those seeking a core relationship with one’s self and those women searching for peace in the storms of life.

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