July 2008

Gift from the Sea-The Moonshell continued…

July 21st, 2008
Moon Shell
Gift from the Sea -All excerpts and quotes © Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Goodness, goodness, goodness….it is getting harder and harder not to be able to be gathering together and exchanging thoughts in person! This chapter, like the first chapter, had me writing down many questions in my notebook, in addition to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s beautiful thoughts. I think what I would like to try for this chapter is to share some quotes from the book and some thoughts of mine and then I will offer up the questions that came to me whilst reading and look forward to your answers in the comment section.

This is a rich, rich chapter and as I am looking forward to our conversation about it, I think we may spend the rest of the week on it and post about the next chapter (Double-Sunrise) on the 30th.


Several times during the reading of the Moon Shell chapter, I couldn’t resonate with what AML was saying… “How one hates to think of oneself as alone.” “We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen.” “It is a difficult lesson to learn today-to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude…” I have always spent contented hours alone-in my room and outside as a girl, in my own little apartments and houses as a young woman, in the hours and days plotted and planned for as a wife and mother. An example stands out in my mind. Sometime after my second son was born and when he was large enough that I could bear to be away from him for a few hours, my husband and I instituted “mama mornings”. Each Monday morning, after my little sons had come into our bed for a good cuddle, my husband would whisk them downstairs. As he closed the door behind him, I felt the glorious anticipation of four or five hours all to Myself. Sometimes I indulged in the reading of magazines and novels, but more often, I used those hours to study….to dream….to plan….to ponder. Quiet hours, interrupted only with breakfast on a tray and, eventually, the distraction of knowing that my solitude was almost over. But I always had the next week to look forward to.

Now that my sons are nearly grown, it is easier to find quiet hours and even days to myself when the opportunity arises. It is so important to my equilibrium….and my husband could tell you how grumpy I can get when too many days have gone by without any good alone-time. What really interested me was what AML considers “solitude”. Before I read this chapter, I would have considered any time by myself to be able to be called so….but she seems to consider it time spent without company of any sort-movies, music, radio. I wonder if she would include books on that list?

Some favorite quotes:

“And it seemed to me, separated from my own species, that I was nearer to others: the shy willet nesting in the ragged tide-wash behind me…”

“Beauty of earth & sea & air meant more to me. I was in harmony with it, melted into the
universe, lost in it, as one is lost in a canticle of praise.”

“…one is whole again-complete and round…”

This is my ideal solitude….in Nature (with a book!).

I found AML’s idea that artists, writers, musicians and saints have an acknowledged and accepted need for solitude and that women need to achieve the same acceptance, very powerful. For we are “…the center of a whole web of human relationships…” “…the still axis within the revolving wheel…”…working at an arrangement in form, of the myriad disparate details of housework, family routine, and social life. It is a kind of intricate game of cat’s -cradle we manipulate on our fingers with invisible threads”…and have need of inspiration and restoration as much as any painter or nun.

The rest of the chapter is abounding in ideas and wonderful things to discuss…but as my house is full of young people and I am two weeks and counting without any alone-time, I am going to try to rein in my mind around the most interesting bit to me at the moment.

“Mechanically we have gained in the last generation, but spiritually we have, I think, unwittingly lost. In other times, women had in their lives more forces which centered them whether or not they realized it; sources which nourished them whether or not they consciously went to these springs. Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. many of their duties were conducive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative tasks to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even humble kinds like cooking and sewing. Baking bread, weaving cloth, putting up preserves, teaching and singing to children, must have been far more nourishing than being the family chauffeur or shopping at super-markets.” AML

This paragraph is utterly satisfying to me, if a bit idealistic for some of us, as I am imagining doing all these things with little ones orbiting and clinging….or big ones’ music playing and friends visiting….but I agree so deeply with it.

And I feel grateful to have discovered this long ago and not have been pulled quite so much by all the distractions the world offers. These last pages also touch on the the church and the centering influence it has given to women throughout the ages. All this brings to mind all the homes and families we have come to know in the blog world, who are journeying on this path of domesticity and creativity and spirit and sharing it with us. AML goes on to say that the answer to the dilemma of balance and purpose is “not in going back, in putting woman in the home and giving her the needle again.” …and I am quite ready to object. Tho’ I know it is not right for everyone, the needle in the hand and the hand on the broom (and on the paintbrush in the studio when responsibilities are at bay!) can be a big part of the answer.

I realize that AML was writing this in the 1950s, when “modern” homemaking was new. After a half-century of it, with many new and perplexing complexities added to the mix, there does seem to be a growing respect for the worth and purpose that can be found in a home-centered life. And there are so many other sorts of lives that are the answer….the important thing is that we are looking inward and then proceeding with our varied and beautiful outward lives.

One last quote….”she must constantly encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today (which lead in the end to fragmentation). Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project of a great work. But it should be something of one’s own.” AML

Here are the questions I wrote in my notebook whilst reading this chapter:

-What are the qualities of a nourishing solitude? Can it include listening to the radio and reading books (or blogs)? Perhaps there are different levels for different times?

-Why do I mostly experience the harmony and connection when alone? Is it possible in company?

-I am renewed by solitude, but what else? What can it be for others?

-Do I agree that the lack of solitude for women is not a result of outer pressures (finances, schedules) so much as a lack of inner convictions on the subject?

-AML writes “The world today does not understand the need to be alone.” Is this still true?

Gift from the Sea-The Moon Shell

I am at the seashore this week….and wouldn’t it have been perfect timing if this picture was illustrative of my days by the ocean? For I gather from the few paragraphs I have been able to read of this week’s chapter that it is all about Solitude-something I have always thought I was very good at-but I am interested to see if I feel the same after reading AML’s thoughts about it!

But the reality of my time by the sea has been better illustrated by this photo of my nephews….for all of my brothers and their families and my mother are gathered here and we are busy with ocean and pool-time and leisurely meals and card games, and also talks about aging mothers and scheduling college orientations and other prosaic tasks.

All this to say….tho’ I came to the beach with my bag (despite AML’s first-chapter wisdom) full of books and notebooks and plans for reading, I have not been able to find the quiet time to read more than a chapter of my Lord Peter Wimsey mystery before I fall asleep each night. I will post my book-thoughts just as soon as I have the time to read and think. But I encourage you to please go ahead and post your reflections on this Moon Shell chapter whenever you are ready and know that our thoughts will eventually cross paths in the days to come.