Last week in my class at the Writer’s Center, I read a selection from the middle of my book. As usual, I received very helpful comments and suggestions ranging from conceptual to craft. Perhaps because the story I told had to do with the twenty-year span involving my first marriage, juggling children, job, household and entertaining, one of my classmates noted a parallel with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea.
I can’t say that I remembered reading this book, but I did remember having a copy on the shelf at Vanaprastha, like a pretty shell on display. Over the weekend during an afternoon lull, too tired to write anymore, I decided to organize the books piled in my den and on shelves here and there around the house from guest room, bedroom to basement. And there in the oyster bed of the basement was my father’s copy of Gift from the Sea.
My father had written a dedication to my daughter Jessica with the idea that she would pass the book along to her cousins Sarah and Ben and her brother David – all four ‘moon shell’ grandchildren. At various parts of the book, my father had written notes, the most telling at the end of Chapter 1, The Beach: “Give yourself some solitude,” told his grandchildren. “Fear it not! Let your ‘inner’ selves tell you who you are, what to do.”
During my first forty years, I feared being alone. I feared death. While some start over, drink or have love affairs, I tried to outrun death and depression by overworking. Now some twenty years later, I treasure the shedding of distraction, hypocrisy and vanity, and the creativity of work and relationships and purposeful giving. Letting go of false ambition, pride of possessions, and the mask of ego – this is liberation, according to Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Had my father taken the same journey and come to the same conclusion?
With patience, faith and openness, the lessons from the sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh discovered some of life’s simplicity and solitude and its intermittent waves and ebb tides. Last week, I heard my classmate’s intermittent comment, looked for the Gift from the Sea in solitude and found the simplicity of my father’s voice. Coincidence?
What coincidence have you stumbled upon lately?
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