A Gift from the Sea

4/23/16 9:13pm Okay, so I promised myself no electronics tonight.  It is my first night in “our” (although it is only me, alone for the first time in maybe my whole life) Malibu beach house.  It’s hard to explain how things work out here, because this is by no means a house. It’s this hidden community that has been here since the 70s (think Rockford files, oh yeah).  It’s very zen and tranquil. Right now I’m sitting here by myself feeling completely inspired but not knowing why. It’s a very Ann Morrow Lindbergh feeling. I read A Gift from the Sea when I was in 6th grade, if I remember correctly.  I have absolutely no idea why, but do remember my mother giving me Jonathan Livingston Seagull at roughly the same time.  Possibly as a right of passage into 7th grade?

What I remember from Lindbergh’s book is…just the cover.  Isn’t that sad? A blue cover with a sea shell. So why does this book come to mind?  I remember it making me feel at peace. Something about the beach is inspiring and puts things into perspective.  I feel this stream of consciousness flowing from me and want to write it down. To share it. For some reason I feel a confidence that I have a perspective that is worth sharing.  I want to create my blog, enjoy my dogs and this serene place, and take a break from the rest of the world. No TV, no clutter (meaning ads, the news, and other junk), just me and my thoughts.  Though I am reading, I want more to create while in this state of mind.

Though I couldn’t find the full text of A Gift from the Sea online to refresh my memory, I did find a few excerpts. I find this one particularly to resonate in my subconscious recollection of the book.

“It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others. How often in a large city, shaking hands with my friends, I have felt the wilderness stretching between us. Both of us were wandering in arid wastes, having lost the springs that nourished us – or having found them dry. Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be found through solitude.”

Ann Marrow Lindberg, A Gift from the Sea

The gift the sea brings in this respect is an opportunity to experience this solitude, that she describes, coupled with what will surely be an understanding of how small “we” as people are.  There is a humbling effect when you stand in front of something that doesn’t end. Have you ever gone surfing? It’s absolutely terrifying. The sea is more enormous than anything and unless you get knocked down by it and get up again and again, you cannot begin to anticipate what you’re in for.  

“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom.”

Ann Marrow Lindberg, A Gift from the Sea

Her quote about the ebb and flow of life takes me to two things I’ve done that were so terrifying they made everything else in life seem like cake.  These were surfing and Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is just fing hard. Like so hard that you can start crying about something that happened to you 18 years ago that you didn’t even remember happened.  It just brings it out. Bikram, however, is just painful and there is not much room for growth. You do the same 26 poses each time and begin to know exactly what to expect. There is no freedom in that.  No possibility for growth past a certain point. Surfing is another demon.

When I was surfing I did it all wrong.  I stood up right away, the second I caught a wave.  What’s the use in standing up if you get knocked down immediately following?  That’s my life. That’s how I’ve lived. I continually fall off of the board time and again.  I can explain this: I was not prepared for life. I am somewhat of a tabla rosa. I come from a sheltered beginning, or maybe I’m just dumb.  I think I’m dumb. Regardless the reason, be it stupidity, laziness, eagerness, or defiance, I learned everything the hard way. Standing up the second I caught a wave, not knowing my bearings, not understanding balance, just going for everything full force causes a person to give up.  

Surfing is something that I am super scared of now.  Getting sucked under the water and not knowing when you will come back up is terrifying.  Yet I sat here the day we looked at this place and watched the surfers and was jealous. I wanted to be out there.  They inevitably had the learning curve. Though I assume the surfers started young and got the hang of it as second nature, perhaps they didn’t.  Perhaps they went about it in a more patient sort of way? Even if I know that my experience could have been done differently, I will never forget that feeling of not being able to breathe.  I know that surfers consistently get sucked under with no air, they kid hit with boards and attacked by sharks.

So do I want to conquer this fear?  I mastered Bikram Yoga, but as I explained before, Bikram ain’t no ocean.  You can sweat in 114 degree heat, you can SoulCycle spin to your heart’s desire, you can starve yourself, you can do a lot of things, but anything in this man-made world is mind over matter.  Aren’t you supposed to do something each day that scares you? Well I’m butt ass terrified of the ocean. Going into a Bikram yoga class I knew I could leave, despite public humiliation in the cult mentality, if I really needed to.  When you get sucked into a rip current, there ain’t no mind doing nothin to the matter. You’d better hope your ass pops up downstream. The only mind over matter there, is thinking, “I’ll come out of this” and trying to relax. Otherwise you pannick and usually drown.  

So here I am saying all of this stuff about surfing and I’ve only done it twice…in Waikiki.  Shameful. I’m watching these guys here and the waves seem to break super shallow. So what do you just crash land each time?  I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. But there’s another scary thing and that is the hierarchy of surfers. I knew a girl who wanted to start surfing and she was going out a lot with her board in Malibu and said that people got really annoyed that she was in their way.  I can imagine if you’re waiting forever to catch a wave and someone comes and spoils it for you it would be annoying.

Also there’s a lot that goes into surfing.  It’s not a lazy man/woman’s sport. You have to get a wet-suit and trek down there, then try not to look like a complete idiot.  Seems like an elementary school/Lord of the Flies thing that also scares me. It all just makes me think of the little surfer girl song by the Beach Boys.  The girl is just sitting there everyday watching everyone surf trying to get an idea for it.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

I wish I had remembered this book better!  I had all of the information right there. My whole life could have been easier, with more successes and less heartache, if I had just heeded the wisdom in this one book.  Still, when you get thrown under rough enough and come out breathing, you want to take some time off. Hopefully you won’t fear the ocean and you may try again someday. Or you may chalk it up to luck, be grateful that you survived, and rest safely on shore admiring those fearless surfers and the PCH drivers below.  Wishing them well but remaining on your bluff.

“The difficulty with big city environment is that if we select—and we must in order to live and breathe and work in such crowded conditions—we tend to select people like ourselves, a very monotonous diet. All hors d’oeuvres and no meat; or all sweets and no vegetables, depending on the kind of people we are. But however much the diet may differ between us, one thing is fairly certain: we usually select the known, seldom the strange. We tend not to choose the unknown which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea