On the flight from Phoenix to Chicago, I began rereading one of my favorite books.
This was before that thing called “airplane mode” existed on our electronics. I traveled with a paperback for those limbo electronic times—waiting to take off, waiting to land. Who am I kidding? I still travel with a paperback, just in case my Kindle fails.
The book was a thin 1965 reprint of a 1955 Anne Morrow Lindbergh (AML) classic, A Gift from the Sea. I’ve tracked the times I’ve given this book to women. Eventually, I ordered a dozen copies of the 1991 edition issued to have available to gift. So far sixteen copies are in the hands of friends who otherwise may not have read it. Only one person said they didn’t like it, the others shared similar words of, Ah … thanks, I needed that.
My tattered 46 year old copy bore my name inside the front cover and the year I found it: 1995. Throughout the pages I jotted notes and highlighted using my favorite neon green. I read this book annually, sipping it slowly like the coffee I may drink while turning the pages. It refreshes, reawakens, renews my spirit, my energy, my ability to live outward.
Ms. Lindbergh’s eloquence touches my heart, not the least when she is humbly seeking enlightenment from whatever world she’s inhabiting. In this book it’s a casual piece of coastline with an unassuming beach house near the water. She is steps from the ocean froth, taking a week from her responsibilities to find time for herself. To write. To relax.
Women, Learn to Relax
We women do not do that well: explore and indulge in extended hours for ourselves.
When I was single and lived alone, it was easier. I carved out Sunday afternoons as sacred. Maybe I spread projects around my living room, a favorite movie or subdued music playing in the background.
But life changes and gets more hectic and it’s been years since I was that person in those circumstances. Finding time now is harder. Many things vying for my attention. So many the same or different as the women in my life. A husband and marriage, a house to clean and manage, writing projects to work on, agents to query, and bible study. I have friendships to maintain, family to see, groceries to turn into meals, a lawn to mow, gardens to weed. Maybe shoveling snow from the driveway and sidewalk, social media to keep up with, books, magazines, newsletters to be read.
I have difficulties arranging everything and in a past life, I taught a class on time management. How do women with children manage any hours for themselves? Even for a simple bubble bath?
When I reach the level of being overwhelmed by “things” that “need” done, I reach for Anne. Her gentle reminders of taking gifts from the sea, or where we are, pulling them into ourselves for rejuvenation.
During that flight, I felt my heart relax as I finished chapter one, getting to know her again. Remembering what she would be sharing with me later on.
Then we were given permission to turn on laptops. I tucked Anne away in the seat pocket, withdrew my Mac, and got busy working.
Do You See the Irony
Leaving vacation-me behind until the next non-electronic moment, I worked, educated myself about my first Apple product. I read a novel on my Kindle, learned about SEO…. When you have electronics available, you multitask like never before—burning through different projects at speeds not possible with paper.
Coming into Chicago, I put everything away. Shutting my eyes for the duration of the flight, I pondered Anne. Mrs. Charles Lindbergh was so much more than what that name infers. She was a petite, quiet, reserved mother of five, a profound writer, yet stayed in her husband’s shadows. North to the Orient, (1931) she occupied a crate in Charles’ plane, mapping the New York to Tokyo air route. She was a participant in many of his explorative flights and a prolific writer. Yet I was alive until 1995 before I knew anything about her beyond the horrific kidnapping of their son.
Leaving Traces Behind
What an inspiration AML would be to young women if only we knew about her! She was as aware as Virginia Wolfe about the need for women to have rooms of their own. Given the revelations of Charles’s multiple lives, I only admire him for ensuring that wherever they lived, he made a special place for Anne to write. He encouraged her talent and urged her to pursue publication.
As we prepared to board the connecting flight home I reached into my backpack for Anne, realizing she was gone. I’d left her in the airplane seat pocket. In thirty years of flying, I’ve never left anything on a plane. Of the inconsequential things I could have left, instead it was a treasured book.
The Search is On
Dashing to the ticket counter, I asked the agent for her help, she tried, but without success. The lost book led to a conversation, a chance to share Anne’s book with another rushed and harried woman. She jots down the name and tells me it sounds like a book she needs to read, right now. Leaving traces of myself behind, I leave her.
Boarding the plane, I thought about what we leave behind us, what resounds in the wakes of our passing. When we move on, apparent in our absence are the intangible and tangible—like a book and like a conversation. Perhaps that gate attendent went to her local bookstore to find Anne. She read Gift From the Sea and felt hope for future moments of quiet and peace in her hectic life.
I filed a report and hoped for months that the book would turn up in the lost and found. That didn’t happen. Next, I hoped that the woman who found the book thought to herself, I should turn this in. Then she flipped a page and read. Flipped another page and read. She became so engrossed with what had been left behind that she kept Anne. The reader took joy in the fluid, magical words of Gift From the Sea.
This book is a tangible trace of myself that I left behind. It bears my name and has my notes scattered throughout the pages. I wonder what traces of myself I leave in the world I walk through, touching some places, some people, and then others.
What traces do you leave lingering in your wake?
Read: Being an avid reader