The Power of Timeless Words

I just read an amazing book.

It contains words, as books usually do, and offers clarity that can speak to people from any generation, especially women but I think the lessons apply to both sexes. It contains poetry, imagery, honesty, insight, and peace.

While I bought the Kindle version, I wish I owned a hard copy. I want to write notes in pencil in the margin, dog ear pages, and read it over and over again. I know, some of you are wincing at the thought of the desecration of the pristine pages, but I don’t see it as that. I would see it as revisiting an old friend for advice, learning from its wisdom, and giving it the sheen of a well-loved treasure.

What is this book? Perhaps some of you are thinking I stumbled my way into reading the Bible. No, despite my many attempts at reading that story, I have never really found comfort in its pages or lost myself to the beauty of its verse (except a few sections here and there). I have never found wisdom from its messages. I could never really find myself in those pages

You would think that this book, written at a time when the traditional place for women was in the home (1955) would have very little to say to me as I struggle to find my place in the world. But the opposite is true, as this book exemplifies how little some things have changed, and how much we still have to learn. I find myself in almost every chapter, as she explores the challenges of relationships and the lessons of life learned as a woman, a mother, a wife, and a member of a community.

What is this amazing book, you ask? How did I find it? Well, at the wonderful meeting I attended the other day, I learned that this book, written by a Smithie, had been given to high school juniors as a book award. Dean Walters read a passage from it, as she began to talk:

“Every person, especially every woman, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day. How revolutionary that sounds and impossible of attainment. [. . . ]

[. . .] The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone.

[. . .] What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it–like a secret vice!” ( 42-43)

This passage, which I’ve shortened here, trilled to the person who wrote just a few days ago “The Art of Being Alone, Still Learning”.  I knew I had to read this marvelous book.

Why does this book speak to me so clearly? Because her writing and the metaphor she uses seems timeless. Because even though she was writing from a time and a place very different from ours, everything she says seems applicable today. Here are a few more passages of Lindbergh’s that I highlighted as I read:

“What is the shape of my life?

The shape of my life today starts with a  family. I have a husband, five children and a home just beyond the suburbs of New York. I have also a craft, writing, and therefore work I want to pursue. The shape of my life is, of course, determined by many other things; my background and childhood, my mind and its education, my conscience and its pressures, my hear and its desires. I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all–in fact, as an end to these other desires–to be at peace with myself.”  (16-17)

“We must re-learn to be alone.
It is a difficult lesson to learn today–to leave one’s friends and family and deliberately practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” (36)


“When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to.” (100) 

“A new consciousness of the dignity and rights of an individual, regardless of race, creed, class or sex. A new consciousness and questioning of  the materialistic values of the Western world. A new consciousness of our place in the universe, and a new awareness of the inter-relatedness of all life on our planet.” (128)

“For the enormous problems that face the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women–or by men–alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.” (130)


I’ve said it before, words have power. The power of Lindbergh’s words lie in the fact that her word reach across time and difference to speak to the questions, concerns and challenges that we all face at different times in our lives. I would love to know that my words have that power, but for now all I can do is keep writing from the heart.

I finished a book today, and I am glad I did.

22 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MoniqueE.
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 17:53:05

    One of my favorite books. I re-read it several times over the years, starting in my teens. It’s been awhile since I spent time with AML, thanks for the reminder.
    I also like the way Julia Cameron crafts her writing and is wise in her writing.


  2. newsofthetimes
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 23:16:06

    I had no idea that book was from the 50’s. I have heard quotes from that book that I have really loved over the years. Maybe I need to pick it up. Thanks for highlighting!


  3. thepetalpusher
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 11:46:40

    Just from your description and the passages you chose, I must get this book. Thank you, Lisa.


  4. joannevalentinesimson
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 12:47:56

    Nice encapsulation of Lindberg’s short but sweet book. I read it years ago. I mean YEARS ago. It was comfort and solace to me then. She had suffered the kidnapping and death of a child and was comforting herself in her writing, which she passed on to others. I have no idea now where my copy is, I have moved so many times since then. Maybe it was given to someone to read and never returned, or to a library sale during one of the movings and parings.


  5. Tina
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 12:56:21

    Definitely in my top 20 of all time. Reading Charles Lindbergh’s biography shed some light on their relationship too.


  6. Kathryn McCullough
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 16:16:31

    Gosh, it’s been years since I’ve read Gift from the Sea, but I used to teach it in my writing classes. Thanks for the reminder about it! Hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend, my friend.


  7. Geoffrey
    Jun 03, 2012 @ 20:52:26

    Not only was that book full of words … but words in the ~right~ order 🙂


  8. mj monaghan
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 15:20:18

    Boy, I haven’t heard of the book that I can recall. I may have to pick this one up. Sounds like my kind of writing. Thanks for sharing Lisa.


  9. Trackback: The Value of a Quality Editor « Woman Wielding Words
  10. jesterqueen (@jesterqueen)
    Jun 08, 2012 @ 12:13:14

    I LOVE gift from the sea, and I love the way you present it here, bringing it to readers through your own experience of it. Lindburgh is one of my favorite authors.


  11. CMSmith
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 09:54:30

    Thanks for reminding me of this book. I need to take mine off the shelf and read it again. It’s been many years.


  12. Trackback: A Story from the Heart, or The Writer I Want to Be « Woman Wielding Words

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