July 9th, 2008The Channelled Whelk

Gift from the Sea -All excerpts and quotes © Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Patience is AML’s message at the end of Chapter One. As I am not under the spell of the sea or on vacation in any way (tho’ does watching the last seven hours of my beloved Wimbledon on Sunday count?)….my mind has not felt empty and receptive in the warm, sandy way AML expresses it. I find myself itching to make lists and start to figure things out, even tho’ I know I am being hasty. I really want to take this examining process slowly-let it go a bit more deeply than it might otherwise. So instead of making lists, I am trying to simply notice where my mind goes in its free moments…what bits it is always rolling around-like the sea does a bit of glass. Perhaps if I am patient enough, those parts of my life that are now like a piece of a broken bottle, will be transformed into treasures of soft-edged, soft-colored sea glass…or atleast something lovely to have around.

And I am going to ask you to be patient about reading my thoughts on the second chapter. I stayed up late last night to read it, all by myself at the kitchen table with the house quiet around me and the cool wind blowing outside. It is so full of good things! I have four pages of notes written. And it is also very challenging because it gives me little to really pin my thoughts upon….mostly more questions. But that is not a bad thing. This is a summer-long process, is it not? I am doing some uncluttering in my mudroom/pantry today, and slowly loading this to listen to while I clear off a shelf or two. I will be back this evening to add to this post, and so look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Channelled Whelk.

My favorite passages:

“….his shell-it is simple, it is bare, it is beautiful…My shell is not like this, I think. How untidy it has become! Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?”-AML

This shell imagery is so powerful to me, for I am a Child From the Sea, and a shell’s sort of spare and lustrous beauty is what I am most drawn to. This quote made me first think of my home and garden, then my physical body and finally the ingredients that make up my life…and wonder if the “spirit” of each of these things has a shape…would it be pleasing to me? I think that is what made me start to scrub out and rearrange our mudroom today and why I am at this moment pondering what shape our friendships and other relationships create for us?

“For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification, but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace.”-AMLHere we are fifty years on, having widened those circles more than AML could have imagined. We have all the old ways of connecting and so many more heaped upon those. Without these new ways, we could not be talking about this book together. But I will admit to it being one of my biggest challenges…how to gracefully handle the telephone calls and emails and paperwork and blogs and tending of relationships near and far….gracefully in the sense of not sacrificing other parts of my days and my life to take good care of this part.

“How to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life?”-AML

Anne M. Lindbergh says this the core question for a woman. Do I agree? The distractions she writes of (children, homemaking, relationships) are Life, and I go straight back to young mother days when these weren’t distractions, but the very core of my life. In those days, it was all of a piece (in the best moments) and didn’t distract from my creativity or spirituality or centeredness…rather, was fed by them.

In seeking an answer AML touches several times in this chapter upon Simplicity (or the simplification of life). I have been aiming for this quality of life for so long that many of the techniques and questions she offers to hone in on it are second-nature to me (“how little can I get along with? Is it necessary?”). There is always tending to do in this area-in my physical spaces and my mental and relational ones….but what is most interesting to me are her questions about how to simplify one’s life. She mentions cutting out some of the distractions, which is a constant process, as I mentioned just before….but when you are down to what you must and want to have in your life, and it is still quite alot to handle, what then?

“The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.”-AML

For many years, I have sought a way of daily living that would make a beautiful rhythm out of all I have chosen to include in my life. It rarely comes out just the way I had hoped or planned…and AML’s image of the swinging pendulum could describe my reality. Days and weeks of good-but-too-full-and-distracted hours and then the need for escape and retreat. Back and forth…back and forth. And what I am longing for is a more circular, consistent way of balance. I am thinking of sunrises and mid-days and sunsets….the seasons…..

I don’t have the answers for myself just yet…I found myself wishing sometimes during this chapter that I could gather more answers from AML’s words and experiences. But she seems to be really searching for herself (as well as helping us to do the same for ourselves) in this book. The book’s lack of specific answers is probably what makes it such a good book to so many. And all this chapter brings up to me may be so very different from what it brings to you. But one of the wonderful possibilities of this Book Club and the conversations we can have here is that we can share our specific and individual experiences and successes (our Gifts) , in response to the questions brought up by the reading, and bring it to a whole new level. That is my hope!