On the flight from Phoenix to Chicago, I began reading one of my favorite books.
This was before that thing called “airplane mode” existed on our electronics, so I traveled with an actual 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.” Over the years, I’ve kept track of the number of times I’ve given this book to women, finally ordering a dozen copies of the edition issued in 1991 to have available. 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 forty-six year old copy was tattered, bore my name inside the front cover and the year I found it: 1995. Throughout the pages are jotted notes and highlights in my favorite neon green. I read this book at least once a year, 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 always touches my heart, not the least when she is humbly seeking and finding enlightenment from whatever world she’s currently inhabiting. In this book it’s a casual piece of coastline with an unassuming beach house near the water. She is mere steps from the froth of the ocean, writing during a week when she manages to leave her wife and maternal responsibilities behind and find time — enjoy time — for herself.
We women do not do that well: explore and indulge in extended hours for ourselves.
When I was single and lived alone, it was certainly easier. I carved out Sunday afternoons as sacred, spilling multiple projects around my living room, a favorite movie in the background on a quiet TV, or soothing music playing at a subdued level.
Who am I kidding? I still travel with a paperback, just in case my Kindle fails.
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. There are 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, bible study, friendships to maintain; family to see, groceries to buy and turn into meals, a lawn to mow, gardens to weed, or a driveway and sidewalk to shovel snow from, 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 and her gentle reminders of taking gifts from the sea, or the places we are right now, and pulling them into ourselves for female-rejuvenation.
During that flight, I could feel my heart relaxing as I finished chapter one, barely getting to know her once again and yet 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 already?
Leaving vacation-me behind until the next non-electronic moment, I worked for a while, spent some time educating myself about my first Apple product, read a novel on my Kindle, learned about SEO…. When you have the electronics available, you multitask like never before — burning through different projects at speeds not possible with paper.
Coming into Chicago, I put everything away, and shut my eyes for the duration of the flight and pondered Anne. Mrs. Charles Lindbergh was so much more than what that name infers. She was a petite, quiet, reserved mother of five, a prolific and profound writer, yet stayed in the shadows of her husband’s adventures. In North to the Orient, 1931 found her sitting on a crate in Charles’ plane and helped him map the air travel route from New York to Tokyo. She was a participant in many of his explorative flights, a prolific writer, and yet I was alive until 1995 before I knew anything about her beyond the horrific kidnapping of their son.
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 recent revelation of Charles’ multiple lives, the one thing I admire him for is ensuring that no matter where they lived, he made a special place for Anne to write. He encouraged her talent and urged her to pursue publication.
It was as we were preparing to board for the connecting flight home to Pittsburgh that I reached into my backpack for Anne and realized 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 and of the inconsequential things I could have left, instead it was a treasured book.
Dashing to the ticket counter, I asked the agent for her help, she tried, but without success. However, the lost book leads to a conversation and a chance for me to share Anne’s book with another rushed and harried woman. She jots down the name, the author and tells me it sounds like a book she needs to read, right now.
Sad as I was to board the plane, I started to think about what we leave behind us, what resounds in the wakes of our passing. When we move on, apparent in our absence are both the intangible and tangible — like a book and like a conversation. Perhaps that gate attendent went to her local bookstore and found Anne, read it, and felt some 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. So the next thing I hoped for was that the woman who sat in that seat after me found the book and first thought to herself, I should turn this in. Then she flipped a page and read, flipped another page, and read, and became so engrossed, enthralled with what had been left behind that she was compelled to keep Anne so she could take 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. It makes me wonder what traces of myself I leave in the world as I walk through it and touch some places, some people, and then others.
What do you leave in the lingering traces of your wake?