Monday, February 25, 2008

Gifts from the Sea

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book always gives me comfort, inspiration, or something to mull over. I found her book years ago when I had small children and needed to find balance and yes, some commiseration. I felt Anne's need to get away in the first words of her book and felt less guilty about my own escapist thoughts.

When she looks at a channeled whelk shell, she sees a home -- abandoned, rented by a hermit crab, and then abandoned again. It makes her ask "Did he hope to find a better home, a better mode of living?" and she compares this to her own situation. "I too have run away, I realize, I have shed the shell of my life, for these few weeks of vacation."

Everyone needs to get away. It doesn't always require elaborate plans. We have two bathrooms in our home. My husband and I share one, the other is for guests now that our children have grown and moved away. Recently we replaced faucets and I bought new towels and shower curtain, decorated with a container of sea shells and a couple knick knacks to remind us that we're in Florida. For most of the year it stands empty.

This weekend a restlessness overcame me. I didn't realize at the time, but I had a need to escape, to move out of my usual behavior patterns. I paced the house, searching for something, a place to go, a change. And the bathroom became just the location. Just enough difference. A fragrant soak in a bubble bath. Relaxing, enjoying the alone time, feeling pampered in a slight change of scenery. It filled a need that I didn't realize I had.

Anne moves on with her perusal of the shell and comments on its small perfection right down to the finest detail. And then she comments "My shell is not like this.... How untidy.... Blurred with moss, knobby with barnacles, its shape is hardly recognizable any more. Surely, it had a shape once. It has a shape still in my mind. What is the shape of my life?"

Good question.

I too often feel like I'm living the wrong life. Moses wandered in the desert for 40 years. I have a feeling that I've been following his lead. My favorite author, Diana Gabaldon, tells why she wrote that first novel: Outlander. She wanted to see if she could write a novel. And, if she was going to try to write a novel, she would give it her best effort, write it to the best of her abilities.

It seems to me, while I am wandering, trying to figure out what life I should be living, I can focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it to the best of my abilities. It isn't a bad way to spend a life, even the wrong one.

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