Saturday 31 March 2012

The Aviatrix Anne Lindbergh and the Double Sunrise

From my Boody Jar
'I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular pattern of living, my own individual palace of life, work and human relationships. And since I think best with a pencil in my hand I started naturally to write.’  (Anne Morrow Lindbergh: A Gift from The Sea. More info about her life on  my Reading Blog..)
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book  -  A Gift from the Sea is her meditation on aspects of life based on her observation of  sea shells.
 I have shells in the pot that I call my Boody Jar, written about here before, so having read this book I got them out and put them on my desk. Then I thought hard about where they had come from, from raw beach at Seaton Carew to a steamy  beach on the North Island of New Zealand.
Of course, being me, I read Ann Morrow's book as a writer.  As a writer I identify with her - particularly in terms of observation. So many writers look, but only see the surface of things and their seeing in not really embedded in their writing; it is not part of their thought  process. 
In her introduction Morrow  says.... 'And since I think best with a pencil in my hand, I started naturally to write.' This reminds me so much of my own mantra 'How do I know what I think till I see what I say?'

Shell Kiss
Each chapter focuses on one shell that Morrow finds, or is given, on her island retreat. First there is her observation and then comes her meditation. My favourite observation is the shell she calls 'The Double Sunrise':' Both sides of this delicate bivalve are exactly matched. Each side, like the wing of a butterfly is marked with the same pattern; translucent white except for three rays that fan out from the golden hinge binding the two together. Smooth, whole, unblemished shell. I wonder how is fragile perfection survives the breakers on the beach.'
 She goes on to compare this with a human relationship: 'Two people listening to each other, two shells meeting each other, making one world between them, There are no others in the perfect unity of that instant, no other people or things or  interests. It is free of ties or claims, unburdened by responsibilities, by worry about the future or debts to the past. ...And then how swiftly, how inevitably the perfect unity is invaded; the relationship changes; it becomes complicated, encumbered by its contact with the world...
This can be interpreted in all kinds of ways but to me speaks of the fragility of true romance and its claims on real life.And here the end of pure romance is the entry of the snake in Eden. It is a very feminine observation and thought process:  it can be taken as proto-feminist or retro feminine. 
Each chapter, each shell opens up another aspect of a woman's life perhaps in the 1950s. And the sensitive perceptions of this woman, who - although economically privileged - has flown the heights and plumbed the depths of family life, make thoughtful readon. Certainly millions of people have thought so since 1955.
My favourite aspect, though, of this book is the beginning of each chapter where she observes   the physicality, the nature of the shell. That level of observation should be in every writer's skill box, in every writer's habit-satchel. 

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