Welcome to the first chapter of our Summer Book Study! Since this book is still in copyright, I thought I would indicate the passage I am writing about by sharing the beginning and ending words of the passage and you may look it up in your own copy of the book (sorry if you don’t have a copy!). I would be happy to change that approach and include full quotes if someone can let me know where I can reassure myself that it is appropriate?
And I will begin right away with the very first sentence of the introduction-“I began these pages for myself…..my own individual balance of life, work and human relationships.” Right off, A.L. has thrilled my heart with her desire, so familiar to me, to examine those few, main compass points of her life. And I suppose we want to examine these because they aren’t pointing quite as truly as we might like?
And that leads so nicely into the whole second paragraph, which begins with “Besides, I thought, not all women are searching for a new pattern of living…..” and ends with “….these discussions would have value and interest only for myself.” This whole paragraph, with all its assumptions that other women’s lives are in so much better control than our own, that other women are more content with the current state of their lives than we are, that other women have not had our problems and if they have, they figured them out already and have moved on quite beyond us. I used to slip into this way of thinking in the past and don’t really know if it is age and wisdom (smiling here!) or just having rubbed up against other women’s lives often enough by now (in real life and in book and blog) to know better…but as A.L. came to realize as she talked to men and women about what she was discovering in her writing for Gift from the Sea, many of us are longing “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.” Do those last words sum up for you, as they do for me, most of my current ambitions? Although, she has left out my deep desire for a thorough scrubbing/uncluttering/adorning of my house….which I wouldn’t be thinking about, I suppose, if I could be in a simple cottage on the beach at the moment. Hmmmm……
Just these few pages of introduction were full of familiar paths of thought, that I have traveled down many times before with hope and desire. Quite a bit like the “faded straw bag, lumpy with books” that A.L. describes in the first paragraph of the first chapter called “The Beach”. I wrote down the words “deluded hopefulness” in response to that paragraph and inwardly shook my head at those times in the past when I gathered all the supplies and thoughts and time I figured I needed to sort out my life….only to find myself very soon feeling the need to figure it all out again.
I could fall into that trap again, with my hopes for the reading of this book….thinking I shall have many answers when we finish. Perhaps I will, perhaps you will, but I am challenged by the next paragraph and the idea of succumbing to the ancient rhythms of the sea…of relaxing, opening, emptying….Must we get there before we can receive “what perfectly rounded stone…what rare shell from the ocean floor. Perhaps a channelled whelk, a moon shell, or even an argonaut.” Those beautiful names and what they symbolize make me deeply long for them. And just as soon as I have felt that, A.L. tells me that they won’t come to me if I am grasping and impatient. And this makes sense to me.
So if we are not (as A.L.) in our second week-alone-in a simple cottage by the sea-how do we become
choiceless as a beach-
waiting for a gift from the sea.”?