Every once in a while, maybe once a decade or so, I serendipitously come across a book that changes my life. When I was in college, it was “The Tao of Pooh,” which I then passed along to everyone I knew, including my sister, and still flip through a weathered and dog-eared copy from time to time.
It still holds its own, but my life has changed significantly since I first read it at 19. I have children. I’m older. My hair is graying. I seek quiet and solitude. I have new goals and ambitions. Anxieties. Fears. I never expected there would be a book that spoke so directly to me, that it would become my new Tao of Pooh.
My friend Sarah gifted me “The Gift from the Sea” by Anne Lindbergh, of THE Lindbergh family, as in, Charles’ wife. She had a dark and stormy life, yet also fairytale-esque. She traveled the world, had an army of babies, a superstar husband in an era before superstars, and not-so-secret affairs. And in 1955, she wrote the most amazing collection of essays, describing how solitude and the sea can symbolize an artistic woman’s contemporary role in the world.
My copy has multiple inscriptions in it, from readers to readers, the latest with Sarah’s note to me. I plan on taking that copy and passing it along, with my own hand-written blurb on the inside front cover, to a friend who needs to read this next. My hope is that she passes it along once she is done to someone else.
I knew I was taking a trip to the shore when I received my copy, so I held on to it and waited to read the short collection during a recent trip to the beach. What a perfect fit! I sat on a 13th floor balcony, listening to the waves and chatter of birds and kids, smelling salty air and glowing in the sun, reading this book, nodding yes, yes, YES! How did she know me so well? How did it pass the test of time? I started taking notes…
These notes are not enough. I gush to anyone who will listen about how important it is to read this book. I particularly love the notes next to the starfish and the tree. Both make me feel like my desire to be MORE than I am is validated. Like a tree, I can have different branches, support life, and still be one. I can be a mother, an artist, a writer, a wife, etc. Like a starfish, I can give my limbs as sacrifices to others, and regrow them through personal retreat and solitude.
I took these notes so that I could give a Cliff Note version to my husband. In the few weeks since I’ve read this book, I’ve recommended it to fathers, single mothers, and explorers discovering new paths in their life. I immediately bought a used copy on Amazon for $1, and then later that day found a copy for 50 cents at an estate sale. Did I buy it? Of course I did. It won’t stay in my collection for long, though, as I know plenty of people who would benefit from reading this.
I’m fully aware that my setting may have enhanced my reading experience. Sitting in warm sand, gazing at smooth seashells, taking a quick dip in the ocean and drying off in the sun…that is a life-changing event all on its own. But as I was finishing up a project and wanting to pull a quote from the author, I found myself sitting in an arm chair and re-reading the entire thing again. So don’t let geography dissuade you from diving in. However, *if* you can find yourself a beach-front property for the week, please grab a copy, a glass of cold white wine, a fresh journal, and re-connect with yourself.