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Exploring Womanhood
Interview Overview
One of the most beloved books of its time celebrates 50 years in publication

By Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Rejacketed and with an introduction by Reeve Lindbergh

"Above all, I think, Gift from the Sea offers its readers an unusual kind of freedom. In honest reflection upon own experiences, in trying to live from a core of inner stillness while actively responding, as we all must do, to the 'here and now,' my mother quietly set herself free, in her own life and into all life. By writing Gift from the Sea, she found a new way to live in the world, for herself and for others. It is a joy to know that with this fiftieth anniversary edition a whole new generation of readers will be able to follow her." - Reeve Lindbergh, from the Introduction

First published in 1955, GIFT FROM THE SEA was an immediate success. It was the bestselling nonfiction book of the year, spending 80 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and it has continued to be discovered and rediscovered by scores of readers every year. In lyrical, lovely language, Anne Morrow Lindbergh speaks openly and simply about the challenges women?and men?face in their relationships with family, society, solitude, and themselves. She states: "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."

Written at a time when the women's movement was a decade's cry away, Lindbergh's intimate book was, like its author, and exemplar of strength and self-possession. Lindbergh was the first woman in America to earn a first-class glider pilot's license; the first woman to win the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal for her explorations; a novelist who received the National Book Award for Listen! The Wind; and a bestselling author of many other works, along with being the wife of Charles Lindbergh

Without cliché or sentimentality, GIFT FROM THE SEA encourages readers to find space for contemplation and creativity, so that they, too, can be at peace with themselves and make their places in the world.

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Exploring Womanhood > Interviews

Interview with Reeve Lindbergh
Daughter of Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Nancy: Reeve, thank you so much for taking time to talk with us at Exploring Womanhood in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Gift from the Sea. We feel very honored to have you here, discussing such an inspirational book, one that has the power to shape all women's lives.

Reeve: It is a pleasure to share my thoughts with you, and to share my mother's wonderful book, too, which has helped me tremendously, at so many times in my own life, each time at a different age and in a different way. This book is just so quiet, peaceful, and wise.

Nancy: Your mother's words and advice are timeless. In 1955 she spoke about distractions in the same way that a woman would now, in 2005! She wrote of "remaining whole" in the midst of these distractions, the ones in every woman's daily life. The words are the same; it is 50 years later. Gift from the Sea was written when I was four years old, at a time when many women must have found balance in your mother's words because society did not offer that balance anywhere else.

Reeve: I think the questions my mother raised are timeless, and the answers, if they were "answers," are timeless, too: solitude, simplicity, patience, faith, openness, intermittency. It's really about stopping to breathe, and about quieting down, wherever we are in our lives. Women need to do that now every bit as much as we did fifty years ago, or perhaps even more.

I think the book touched many women of my mother's era, post World War 2, because at that time so much had been gained in terms of material comforts, and yet there seemed to be so much missing in women's lives----My mother's book addressed this lack, but in a different way than the more activist Feminist books that were published a few years later. Through activism we made enormous gains, politically and economically, but even so, some things really didn't change very much over the years. Women have more opportunities in the 21st century than they did in the middle of the 20th, so now most of us have "home lives" and "work lives," with high expectations in each sphere. The whirl of life is not so very different from the one she describes; there are just different elements in it.

My mother's book still speaks to those issues: distraction, "torn-in-pieces-hood" and "multiplicity," as she puts it, which are common to both eras.

Nancy: You confess in the forward that you did not read her book until you were in your twenties. Tell us about this! Your mother wrote so much about the beauty of simplicity. She shed her outer layers and kept her possessions at a minimum at the beach, creating space for peace and creativity. Did she bring home that simplicity with her? Did you realize it at the time, or was this something you recognized later, after absorbing her words from Gift from the Sea?

Reeve: I think a lot of writers' children don't read their parents' books if they can possibly avoid it! There's a sense that it's something embarrassing, or too personal, or taboo in some way---I'm not even sure why. But it began to be fascinating for me as I grew up, to read and learn about what my parents were thinking (sometimes while I was right there with them!) and so I did. It becomes another way to know your family, over time.

And on simplicity---I think my mother always looked for a kind of simplicity in her life, and always recognized that it was a struggle to maintain a simple life in a complicated world, whether the personal world or the "greater" world. She knew it wasn't easy! But she always seemed to me to have a kind of serenity at the core of herself, something we could always count on as children, and my sense of her as she grew older was that she was able to count on that serenity herself. My father remained restless all his life, I think, but she had a kind of inward quiet that was very nourishing for other people.

Nancy: Quiet, solitude, time alone... She spoke of the necessity to rejuvenate and refill. Ahhh, again, ahead of her time! Had my own mother found time to be alone and refill her inner self, I too may have discovered the importance of such a ritual. But like your mother said, we feel the need to apologize for it, hide it, and keep it a secret. She explains that regardless of time alone being considered suspect, these are actually the most reviving moments in one's life - time alone. I love her words "Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships." And now, fifty years later, men and women are hearing her words and discovering that "living in the now" and meditating, finding a sacred space, and discovering the beauty of silence - all of these will open up our souls and allow us to create. You knew all this from your mother! Did she teach you how to "still your soul" in the midst of activity? And how do you feed it?

Reeve: She certainly set a good example! I do think she taught me to value being alone, and living quietly, whether for only a tiny piece of a day or for several days at a time, or longer. I'm not always quiet, of course. I can be very active and run around in circles with the best of them--and enjoy it!--and I think she, too, loved to be active at times, and loved and needed to have people around her. But she also taught me, again by example, the value of just being with oneself, just quietly in the world, with appreciation and awareness, and how wonderful that really is. It's the opposite of loneliness, because the whole of creation keeps you company if you can just slow down enough to know it's there.

Nancy: This book is about so many things, including youth, age, inspiration, contentment, love, relationships, growth, acceptance, respect. and the progression of life stages. Which stage in the book was your favorite and why? Tell us how this book helped you through the years. Was there a special time that you turned to this book for spiritual help? Talk to us about your mother. Would you also tell us a little about yourself and your books?

Reeve: I don't think I have a favorite stage, and oddly enough I can open any page of the book and find something that pertains to my life right at the moment, whether at 29 or 59 (the age I am now). That has always been true for me, just as it is true for other women who read Gift From The Sea. The only difference for me is that when I read the book again and again she is so present in it in a very personal way. If I miss her, as I often do, I can go back and find her there: her voice, her thoughts, her gentle spirit---and her strength---everything I remember. I'm very lucky this way! I don't think there's anything I can tell you about my mother that will give you a better sense of her than you'll find in her writing. She was one of those writers who work very close to home, close to the mind and the heart and the present moment. As you read, you are in her company.

Much of my work is certainly directly influenced by hers, since I write non-fiction, memoir and personal essays. I'm working on a book for Simon and Schuster now, and it's tentatively called Forward From Here. It's about being at my stage of life and ---I guess---going onward, following whatever comes next, after the raising of children and the death of parents, and so on. It's an interesting time! I also write books for very young children---rhyming picture books (I don't do the pictures, but have worked with some wonderful artists.)

Nancy: Gift from the Sea is truly one of my favorite books! It appears that your mother wrote this book when she was slightly younger than me, and when her children were still at home. Mine are all leaving the nest now, some for the second time. And, I happen to live on the beach. I will cherish and read it many times again and again -- perhaps while sitting on the beach. Collecting shells will have a new meaning for me now. Thank you, Anne, for your treasured gifts. Thank you, Reeve, for sharing your mother with all women of the world.

Reeve: My children are leaving the nest, too, in fact the last one just graduated from high school, and I have no children at home, for the first time in 34 years. I suddenly get the feeling we have more in common than a love for Gift From The Sea! So blessings to you at this time of life we share, even though you are younger---we had a late baby, who is now our graduate---and thanks for this nice conversation.

All best,

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