Sea Shells by the Seashore

When summer comes, I find myself getting beach fever and can hardly muster the energy and will to go to work. For 28 years, even though I was working about 15 miles from the strand itself, I could “sense” the nearness of the ocean’s roar and the sandy beach with the sea birds standing as sentinels as they looked “as one” at some sight unseen by my human eyes. Now, 130 miles away, it’s not so easy. Sure, the warm wave pools are still there, as are the squealing children, the shell seekers, and the incoming waves. It’s just not the same, though. I need a vacation, a weekend trip to the seashore.


What is the hold that a beach has on me? Whatever it is, I think it casts the same spell on millions of others as well. Last week, I came across a little book entitled Gift from the Sea that I read many years ago when I was a younger mother. There were many passages that spoke to my life and situation at the time, and when I skimmed the book yesterday, I was amazed to see all of the things I had underlined. The passages took me down memory lane as I recalled the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities and “occupations” that I had, most of them centered around the home and family. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author of this timeless volume, remarks that that saints were rarely married women because of the distractions inherent in raising children and running a house. “Human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.”


Although it was written many decades ago, the challenges and issues faced by Lindbergh are the same ones faced by women in today’s crazy, bustling world. In fact, although women in Siberia, Cameroon, or Ceylon might not have her specific set of circumstances, they can still identify with Lindbergh’s ponderings about a woman’s life, her obligations, her relationships, and her needs. She lived in an upscale suburb of Connecticut and was the mother of five children, and yet there’s something in her writing that can touch the souls of women everywhere whether in a grass hut, McMansion, or mountain shack.


The chapters in Gift from the Sea center on Lindbergh’s musings during a two-week vacation at the shore. Leaving husband, children, and house behind, she lives in a bare beach cabin without heat, telephone, plumbing, hot water, rugs, or curtains. Loving her simple beach life, Lindbergh takes a shell at a time and describes it in relation to other things in a woman’s life. For instance, the moon shell reminds her that quiet time, solitude, contemplation, and “something of one’s own” is needed. The double-sunrise represents the pure relationship found in early stages of friendship and marriage, and she reminds the reader that there is no permanent return to an old form of relationship since all are in the process of change. The oyster bed symbolizes the middle years of marriage and family, especially as the home itself grows and expands to accommodate the growing family.


Now in midlife, I can better understand her affinity for all the shells as reminders that each cycle of the wave, the tide, and the relationship is valid. When Lindbergh leaves her seaside home away from home, she sweeps several shells into her pocket to remind her that the sea recedes and returns eternally. The shells serve as her “island eyes” and remind her of lessons learned about solitude, closeness to nature, life of the spirit, and the cycles of human relationships. I probably have a hundred or more shells at home, most of which are on my back porch. Thanks to re-reading this book, now I can better understand their significance and symbolism.


As a P.S., my DH and I are going to Myrtle Beach for a few days during the week of the Fourth. I think he’s planning to play golf, read, and eat shrimp and oystsers. I’m planning to read, walk, relax, and people watch ON THE BEACH. And yes, I have plenty of sunscreen, Doc.


Author: jayne bowers

*married with children, stepchildren, grandchildren, in-laws, ex-laws, and a host of other family members and fabulous friends *semi-retired psychology instructor at two community colleges *writer

5 thoughts on “Sea Shells by the Seashore”

  1. “I need a vacation, a weekend trip to the seashore.”

    I AGREE.

    By the way, I absolutely love “Gift from the Sea”. It surprised me because I figured it would be a little sexist, being written in the 50’s. (Like when I go back and read my old Nancy Drews.)

    It’s amazing how much the truth of that book stands up over time.

  2. Great Book!!! I am missing the sea but am a little reluctant to go to the shore as the last trip was with Dorothy. As you say, everything is in the process of change. I love my sea shells, beach glass and “heart shaped” rocks all tossed to and fro by the ocean!

  3. i have been to both coasts, pacific(my son’s mission was in evertte washington, and he had to go back to mt. baker and also see the san juan’s islands) and of corse my daughter in asbourgh north carolina and myrtle beach, and hilton head and have shells and especially an oar that we found floating on the pacific side

  4. looks like I’ll be adding a new book to my list. 🙂

    I agree that the thoughtful, solitary brand of creativity is nearly impossible when one is in the active stages of motherhood. (myself just entering the thick of it.) But another branch of creativity develops… the creativity involved in creating a haven, creating ways to teach and play at every stage of life, creating people.

    And also, I’ve found that I write better when I’m frequently randomly interrupted… it forces me to let my ideas stew before I execute them on paper. So motherhood has actually done good things for my creativity! lol.

    Gosh, though. The idea of three or more hours every day of uninterrupted time, just for creativity and silent contempation… I think that is what I miss most about being single.

  5. Hayden,
    I was reading an editorial by Kathleen Parker today about gender issues, and she says that men and women are wired differently and that even though society has changed, we haven’t. It still matters more to a woman how a home looks, whether everyone is “happy,” and so forth.

    I have serious beach fever and am counting the days until my trip next week.

    The Atlantic coast is your favorite, right?

    You’d enjoy this book; it would “speak to you” as a young mother fully involved in the life of her family.

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