It's the day after Thanksgiving, and maybe, like me, you're feeling tired and scattered and a wee bit overwhelmed. Or maybe not.
It's been that year of loss and transition for me and sometimes that all scrunches up in one spot. I've been trying to clean house, get out my warmer clothes, run my errands (yes, a teeny bit of Black Friday shopping at the craft store with my younger kids), do paperwork, take a long nap, ride my hormone swings, and still process my emotions about a bazillion different things while surrounded by the daily chaos of lots of kids who do not value solitude as much as I do. So honestly, I am no where near being "in the holiday spirit" at the moment. I was thinking today that I needed to sit quietly and ponder about what I want out of life for myself and my family, especially in this next month of what could become Christmas Craziness. When I pulled in to the driveway after a last minute trip to the post office, I decided to sit for a few moments in the solitude of my van. I found one of my journals wedged down between the seat and my supply box. It's usually one I use just for sermon notes, but at a doctor's appointment last year I jotted down some quotes from a classic book. It's a bit of a scrawl, but I'm amazed I was able to write as legibly as I did, because I had a broken hand at the time.
The book is Gift from the Sea, written in 1955 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. The gifted author of over 10 books, she had gone through so much transition and loss herself. She was the wife of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, and the mother of five who had suffered the tragic kidnapping and death of her toddler son. In this book, probably her most well-known, she draws lessons from different kinds of sea shells she finds on the beach.
From her chapter on the channeled whelk, she writes of living "in grace" with an inner harmony... "For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living. How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint - the inner inviolable core, the single eye."
In her chapter on the moon shell, she writes of the need for regular solitude: "The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of the whole web of human relationships... And woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions... Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day -like writing a poem, or saying a prayer. What matters is that one be for a time inwardly attentive."
And so I am in my bedroom, behind a locked and re-locked door, trying to find a small wedge of solitude and refill my soul with peace and inspired creative focus. Before I emerge again, I'm going to sit in my soft chair, eat a protein bar, read a chapter of A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Meant to Live by Emily Freeman (which I saw mentioned on so many blogs that I like that I finally drove to the nearest bookstore to get my hands on my own copy), and putter around artfully arranging something or other in a continuation of what I shared last week in One Day: A Little Beauty and Order in My Home. I am feeling a little better now, but I think I'll go to bed early tonight.
There is much more in the book, but that is enough for now. You will find another quote from Gift from the Sea here: On Clouds, Hands, Oysters and Messy Humanity.
If the idea of solitude and quietness and focus intrigues you, you may also like these posts:
- Sanctuary (Big Words)
- Invitation to Stillness
- Busy, Dizzy and In a Tizzy: Christian Contemplation for Moms and Other Frazzled Folks
- Wisdom from Letters of Direction by Abbé de Tourville
- A Woman of Beauty
- Beating the Holiday Blues and Stress
- "Sonnet, Trinity 18" by Madeleine L'Engle, in Honor of My Sister Barb
- Truth and Grace in the Stories of Our Lives
- Read, Reflect & Respond (The Real 3R's of Literature!)
- Gems from the Past for Parents
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