Monday, April 14, 2008

Gift From The Sea

I had never heard of this book a month ago. Andrea bought it for last month's book club book exchange and after all of the books were opened, switching so she could have it back. Curious about her motives, we decided to read it this month. I didn't know the author. Lindbergh. Not an obscure name for sure but I didn't connect the dots at all (she was the wife of Charles Lindbergh - the pilot of the Spirit of St. Louis). Four nights ago I climbed into a hot bath and started reading. I immediately recognized that this book was special. Why does this woman know my thoughts?

Lindbergh uses the seashells she finds on her vacation as representations of the various stages and complications in a woman's life. The beginning of her book talks about the importance of finding space and solitude every once in a while for balance and recharging. What woman doesn't need that? What human doesn't need that? The next phase is the early love, the passionate period, when the relationship is pure and intense. I don't think this is exclusively romantic love either. I couldn't help but think of friendships with other women when you are first getting to know each other and we show our best selves. Then after a few years of friendship, the flakiness shows up or the selfishness. Children, work, callings, husbands -- crowd that former ease and to remain friends takes much more effort. The effort moves into the next phase which was my favorite because it is life - the oyster phase. The shell is not necessarily beautiful but strong and purposeful. The bond between the two halves has many connections - habit, love, devotion, history. The last part of the book delves into the later years, which I'm sure I will find deeply profound when I am experiencing it.

At the end of this copy of the book, the author revisits her words twenty years later. In that bathtub, I thought, "I had no idea this book was written in the seventies/eighties." Only to discover that it was written in the fifties. I would have never thought that my GenXness would relate to a famous, upper class woman on the east coast fifty years ago. To achieve such timelessness is a worthwhile feat. It wasn't her intent but the result speaks for itself. It is our lives as women and while we are essentially alone to experience it, we have this commonality that once acknowledged, should give us tremendous support to one another.

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