Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gift From the Sea

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's remarkably long-lasting popular classic Gift from the Sea is one of those books that more properly belongs in the category of inspiration rather than self-help, mostly because its more conventional, straight-forward narrative format does not fit the template of self-help books.
However, I feel it is important to read and analyse because it is a frequently quoted book, and one of those that people often say changed their lives.
I was surprised at how specifically the book was focused on women's issues and problems. I'd always imagined it to be more general than that, but open reading it I mostly felt excluded from the message. Of course, much of what she says could be applied to the male journey as well, but she seems to be directing her narrative specifically toward women.
I found the structure of the book a little contrived - each chapter is named after a particular seashell, and is made up of the moral lessons she has arrived at through examining the particular qualities of each shell. The writing, too, is quite pedestrian.
She does, however, have some interesting things to say. She speaks eloquently about loneliness and solitude - pre-empting Australia's own Stephanie Dowrick, who would, decades later, write a beautiful book called Intimacy and Solitude - and the necessity of creating islands of peace in our lives in which we are not afraid to be alone with our own thoughts.
On occasion she addresses herself, as a writer, to other writers, and once more she stresses the importance of loneliness in the process of creativity. In this I think she serves as something of a predecessor of Julia Cameron, whose mega-selling The Artist's Way speaks of "artist's dates" in which the artist needs to go somewhere alone in order to cultivate a talent for observation and self-absorption.
In general, Lindbergh's message is quite an old-fashioned one, especially when she discusses matters of the heart. Her own life was, of course, fascinating and filled with tragedy, but she rarely alludes to it here. Instead she talks about the different kinds of pleasures available to the mature person, and to the long-term couple.
I think that might be the secret to the popularity of this gentle, slight and even inconsequential little collection of essays. Its ultimate message seems to be that we should be content with the little we have, and to find pleasure in the simple offerings of an uneventful life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maggie Hamilton and the Fairies - Friday December 11

My wonderful friend and colleague Maggie Hamilton has brought out the most remarkable book on a most interesting topic - Fairies.
Maggie will be speaking at the New Church in Roseville on Friday the 11th of December at 7.30pm about the fascinating story behind the book, and I hope you'll all come! The evening is free, though donations will be accepted for the Loving Arms orphanage in Nepal.
The new book, Meeting Fairies, is a collection of writing about fairies made by R. Ogilvie Crombie (or ROC, as he was affectionately known), a modern-day mystic and one of the founders of the Findhorn community.
He was convinced of the reality of Fairies, and in fact had many encounters with them.
Maggie had access to ROC's archives and private papers, and has assembled a magical book that explores the message of the nature spirits, and their importance in Western mythology.

Meeting Fairies - an Evening with Maggie Hamilton
The New Church
4 Shirley Rd
7.30pm Friday December 11
All welcome!
Entry by donation - all proceeds go to the Loving Arms Children's Home in Nepal