"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Category: Family

“gift from the sea” . . .

DSC_2885_2 tbmAnne Morrow Lindbergh (AML) wrote a book called “Gift from the Sea” that was published in 1955. It became a best seller and is considered a seminal book in the feminist movement, largely because it was an early forerunner written in a gentle tone reflecting how hard it can be for women to have a life of their own while tending children, households and husbands. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 80 weeks and has sold millions of copies, translated into 45 languages, I’m told.
That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider that AML was also the wife of Charles Lindbergh, learned how to fly and accompanied him on long trips around the world, being the first woman to fly across the Pacific at the time. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? a woman flying for the first time across the Pacific? And of course, you might have heard about the infamous Lindbergh baby kidnapping and sorry aftermath. AML was pregnant at the time and had five subsequent children, four of them still living (Anne died in the 1990’s from cancer.)

Her book, “Gift from the Sea” was the first time a woman talked in a quiet tone about things that matter to us all, like the impossibility of loving someone just the same all the time. One of my favorite quotations from the book when I read it decades ago was: “The most exhausting thing in the world, I have discovered, is being insincere.” You can get a sense of her writing and rhythm just from that one sentence.

I wonder what it must have been like for Charles Lindbergh, the larger than life celebrity husband to know that her book was so popular and sold so well. I read that he supported her writing even to the extent of barring the children from disturbing her when she worked in her study. He was also a prolific writer and authored an autobiographical book about his solo flight across the Atlantic in his plane, the “Spirit of St. Louis” which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Later, the Lindberghs made some publishing gaffes–either due to foolish naivete or from idealistic ignorance–that got them into trouble with the American public. They were perceived, at least he was, as a pro-Nazi sympathizer and possibly anti-Semitic. Their fall from grace on the American stage lasted until Lindbergh died at the age of 72 in 1974. He was buried in Maui, Hawaii according to his own wishes, made when he knew he was dying from lymphatic cancer: the grave dug just so deep and so wide, facing a certain way; a coffin made from eucalyptus wood, the body wrapped in an old favorite Hudson Bay blanket and so on.

AML published thick volumes of her journals which bore wonderful titles like: “Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead” and “The Flower and the Nettle.” I remember cradling these books, reading them through and through when I had three daughters under the age of five. I also shared an intense love of everything domestic: houses, gardens, furnishings, rhythms of running a household. So her books were my companions, ones that I might not have been able to find in person to share how I wanted my home to be like. Of course, she was very rich and I was not, but she wasn’t pretentious in that way. She was also shy and reclusive and I liked that about her too.

Apparently, when one reads Reeve Lindgergh’s memoirs about the last years of her mother’s life and dying near her home in Vermont, Charles Lindbergh, though beloved by the family, was somewhat of a tyrant, controlling and autocratic. I read where he insisted on taking Anne away on flights just at the time the children were born when all she wanted to do was to stay with them at home. During the 1950’s when “Gift from the Sea” was published, it has been said that she had a three year love affair with her physician.

AML died at the age of 94 in 2001. She was cremated and her ashes scattered. Two years later, three children, now grown, revealed themselves in Germany after their mother died, saying that they were fathered by Charles Lindbergh. DNA tests confirmed their story, the eldest was born around 1957. But wait, there’s more. It turns out that the children’s aunt had two children by Charles Lindbergh and his secretary at the time had two children: a total of seven children in three households was revealed. My first thought on hearing this was to wonder if AML ever knew, either from Charles before he died or from elsewhere before she passed away so many years later.

So ironic, don’t you think, that this gentle soul who wrote so well about the difficulty women have to be themselves, to be allowed to be imperfect and so on, would have this happen as a footnote to her 45-year marriage to Charles Lindbergh, a national hero at the time of his transatlantic flight? It’s beyond appalling, I was thinking to myself. I’d also taken some pride that AML had gone to Smith, my alma mater too. In Reeve Lindbergh’s memoirs, AML tells her that she never wanted to go to Smith but preferred Bryn Mawr instead. One of her elders became President of Smith at one time and there is a residential building called Morrow there too–I guess that family ties to Smith were stronger than her individual choice.

So, it was a coincidence of sorts yesterday that I saw on eBay an auction for a first edition of “Gift from the Sea” with its own slipcase, of course published in 1955. I idly put in a bid on it because no one else had, and later found out it was mine for $10.00 with free shipping. I’m glad to have this early edition of this meaningful book because it has been one of my favorites for so long. I only wish that AML’s life had been easier, but perhaps she wouldn’t have written “Gift From the Sea” had it been otherwise.

That’s life, isn’t it?

Postscript: Reeve Lindbergh, AML’s youngest daughter, writes in her memoir, “Forward from Here,” about the revelation of Charles Lindbergh’s seven children by three women in Germany after her mother’s death in 2001 and whether or not AML ever knew:
“She died two years before the news about the other families was revealed, and I have wondered how much she knew about my father’s secret life. A close friend of hers told me this: ‘She knew, but she didn’t know what she knew. . .’ That sounds very much like my mother.”

nourishment . . .

DSCN4691I was skype-ing with my daughter, M. this morning when she skipped into the kitchen to show me the dish that had just finished cooking in the rice cooker. To my astonishment, she spooned out what can only be called a melange of rices (arborio, minnesota wild rice, sweet brown rice, Japanese medium grain rice). She then proceeded to tell me, between mouthfuls of rice, that she had not eaten meat, dairy or eggs for the last four weeks, nourished mostly by grains, vegetables and a few treats (like sugarless reese’s peanut butter cups) that she had made herself.

Since she also goes to school, she sometimes presses the rice into the palm of her hand, adds fresh edamame (soybeans) and sometimes wraps the rice balls in nori (seaweed sheets) and brings them for lunch or mid-afternoon snack. By this time, I had mentally scuttled my plans for dinner tonight. I had a cornish hen in the fridge that I usually cut in half, make a little herb bread dressing and then roast the halves on the dressing, basting the hens with melted orange marmalade. This is after I’ve browned the cornish hen halves in a little olive oil and a pat of butter.

Changing gears, I rummaged around my pantry this afternoon and came up with Chinese sweet sticky rice, brown rice, white rice and some wild rice packets. M. had also said that sometimes she cooks the rices with a bit of shoyu and fresh cut up button mushrooms. So my first experiment with this was to combine the three rices with the wild rice packet including seasonings. Then, I cleaned six button mushrooms, sliced them in chunks and plopped them into the rice mixture along with spring water, scantly twice the amount of the combined rice in the rice cooker.

I looked at the cornish hen, rinsed it in cold water, dried it and then cut it into small pieces–legs, wings, and split the breast. Then I marinated it in a small amount of Korean Bulgagi barbecue sauce, sliced green onion and fresh ginger root for about an hour. Broiled the pieces with a quick brush of honey to crisp the skin.
The rest of the meal consisted of cucumber salad, the tiny crisp cucumbers quarter sliced, then dressed with a small mix of Ohsawa unpasteurized soy sauce, Marukan flavored Japanese vinegar and a little sesame oil. I boiled up a handful of edamame beans to serve as garnish on top of the rice when it was served. DSCN4685

This meal was far more interesting and contained a lot less fat than the dinner I had planned earlier (stuffed cornish hen with baked potatoes.) My thanks to M. for her ideas–she looks radiant from her new regimen and is moving toward vegan/macrobiotic eating. I took a macrobiotic cooking class at Kushi Institute years ago when I had a form of viral meningitis and was determined to heal myself with food and Chinese herbs. G. enjoyed the new rice melange with mushrooms and we made up a plate for our tenant who lives downstairs.

With a blizzard forecasting anywhere from a foot to two feet of snow this weekend, I’m already thinking about the best time to make a large pot of beef shin and vegetable soup with fresh cabbage. On Friday before the storm hits, I’ll slow roast a large chicken that was on sale at the grocery store today along with a handful of baked potatoes. If the power goes out, we’ll have food to provide for all who live here. And then some.

Postscript: I’ve found that by starting three rices (brown, sticky and white rice) in the rice cooker using chicken broth earlier than usual, then letting the cooked rice steam in the cooker for an hour or so afterwards produces delicious, chewy, rice that goes well (better!) with just about everything than plain white rice. I cook twice as much as I need because the leftover rice is also tasty the next day with our evening meal.

“knitty kitty” . . .

Knitty Kitty post photoOkay, so maybe I overdid it. I started knitting a sweater for M. on Tuesday, this week. I started the back on size 4 needles for the ribbing and size 6 for the body of the sweater. I noticed that the knitting was rather stiff, the gauge being a little tight. So I started over after trying out size 8 needles for the main part of the sweater. Once I had the new gauge, I recalculated the stitches needed for the pattern of seed stitch, purl and staghorn cable. The larger needles gave the knitting more drape and felt softer. Perfect!

I knitted up the back to the armholes, skype-ing with M. to make sure we had accurate body measurements: edge to bottom of the armhole, armhole to shoulder, shoulder to wrist. She wants the sweater ribbing to hug at the waist rather than having an overly large fit. Last night, while watching a couple of TV shows, I cast off at the shoulder line, which finishes the back. I cast on fifty stitches to start the left front of the sweater.

This morning, I woke up with a sore right shoulder. I had also noticed a slight “click” in my shoulder when I rotated my arm, which became apparent when two-thirds of the back was finished. So this afternoon, I’m headed out to my chiropractor for some treatment to the shoulder and general straightening of my spine. I haven’t been there in awhile since I was doing shiatsu, but this is a good time to get back to realigning everything again.

M. wrote to me that “Knitty Kitty” ~ the name of a children’s book that she reads to Josie ~ needs to take a break. I guess you could say she’s right about that.

making things right . . .

DSC_0021_2Have you ever had an uneasy feeling about some loose ends that you’re not comfortable with? I have, although only a few, thank goodness. This holiday season, I’ve taken care of one of the most important ones: that is, to send a much loved Chinese carpet hanging of the Eight Immortals which hung in my late mother’s apartment to the family that took care of her for over twenty years during the last phase of her life. It was a thank you and appreciation for all of the times that they included her as family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, Easter and at other family gatherings of their very large clan. She had knitted sweaters for just about everybody there while she was alive.

Reconnecting with a niece (one of my brother’s daughters) was also important while she went through some medical procedures right before the holidays. We’ve had such a nice correspondence ever since and I intend to keep in touch with her as she prepares for college. My grown-up (almost) granddaughter, A. came and visited with her friend, M. the day after Christmas. The cinnamon rolls weren’t as tender the day after they were baked, but we had a lunch with leftover filet of beef, sliced up on toast with gravy on top. Two batches of crispy, skillet potatoes later, we played the piano for each other and finished off our visit by cracking a Droste orange chocolate apple for dessert.

I don’t know about you but I find there are other loose ends lurking around in the background of one’s consciousness: an ex-husband, an ex-old boyfriend, perhaps someone you’re not friends with anymore but wish you hadn’t parted ways. Some of these, I find, might still be accessible but mostly not. With the holiday goings on, especially the birthday DVD, I can see things more clearly. And most of all, that I want to be intentional everyday to provide loving gestures to those who are important to me. And not to let my usual crankiness get in the way. That’s a pretty big idea: to catch the cranky in time and to crank up the love and affection to communicate how I really feel to those around me.

Perhaps that’s the best way to make things right, all around. Any other ideas?

“waves crashing on the shore” . . .

These are photos of G. and Josie pretend playing there are waves crashing on the shore:

on the beach . . .

Just received a batch of photos from C. (@1000!) of our holidays. Here’s some of me and G. walking along the beach in Truro.


happy days are here again . . .

G. and me when we first met

G. and me when we first met

You know sometimes when life seems to stop along the pathway and you can see how beautiful it is where you have been travelling? That is the effect that watching my birthday DVD has had on me. My dear niece, Lizzy, wrote to me and said that she found herself smiling so much at the images that her cheeks hurt, but that “it was a good kind of pain.”

Of course a birthday celebration movie doesn’t contain all the sad and bad parts of one’s life in it. Who wants to watch images of all the things that hurt or were disappointing despite your best efforts? Who wants to rake through all the times you fell on your sword in the name of doing the right thing, or maybe doing the wrong thing because you didn’t know any better?

Someone I didn’t know very well said today that the movie seemed “idyllic” as though nobody’s life could or should look that good. It was a slightly cynical, somewhat sardonic way to describe it and it took me aback a little. I thought about it afterwards and decided that the many images of nature, food, flowers, the ocean, Christmas are at the center of my consciousness and what my life is really about, not merely decorations or extras: they are intrinsic and intentional to these moments that have made up my days for me and my family.

Someone else long ago had commented, also a little sardonically, that my home was like a “still life” and that there were many of them all around. While I might contend instead is that it’s a kind of messy still life as I pick up and move things around, trying to find a place for everything. What this illustrates to me also, is that I want to live the idyl every day that I have left. I’d also like to look a little trimmer as I have in earlier photos, keep growing my hair long and stay healthy.

That doesn’t mean that the areas of my life that have been disappointing are swept under the rug. They aren’t and God knows I have belabored most of them to death, second guessing myself, wondering if I could or should have done something different that would have resulted in a more positive outcome. I have sometimes reached out against my better judgment and thought of ways to gain closure for unresolved loose ends. I am satisfied that I have indeed beaten it to death, one way or another. And that those hurts are behind me, even better, they’re just not in the frame of my life anymore.

I hope that’s okay with the people who want me to know that my life is not an idyl but I’m afraid they might be disappointed that my life does happen to look a lot like the DVD. . . pretty much, I’d like to say.

Postscript: I was reading about a woman in South Hadley who was dying of pancreatic cancer and after a number of unsuccessful marriages, found “the one.” Her advice: “Don’t yell at each other unless the house is burning down!” She lived for six years after her first diagnosis and offered herself up to nursing students to visit and ask any questions they might have liked. Here’s a link to that article:

lives of our own . . .

life of my own photo
For awhile now, I’ve had a sister blog started called “A Life of My Own.” It’s obviously a take-off on Virginia Woolf’s book called “A Room of My Own.” Earlier, Emily Dickinson, in the 19th century wrote the poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you? Are you nobody too?” Now, we women living in the 21st century have had opportunities to make rooms for ourselves and to live a life of our own. Some of us might still be in the process of looking for one.

As I have said in the expanded version of “About” on that website, a very wise woman told us decades ago at one of our Smith College Wednesday assemblies that “life is long.” What she meant was that because women of our generation (graduating in the 1960’s) would still be spending lots of time raising families, taking care of others, working and helping elderly parents, we might be putting our own ambitions or interests aside for awhile. The idea of sequential fulfillment was introduced during that little talk, and each year that I have before me brings home how profoundly true that observation has been for me.

Youth is wasted on the young, they say. But not necessarily, I say in return. We all go through times when we think we know everything, even now! But what occurs in our lives is unpredictable, the good and the bad. Whether we end up with the love of our life is also unclear for a long time for some of us. In any case, I’m lucky to be able to say I am married to mine.

So, if you would like to take a look and join in the conversation, please visit this website and send me your story ~ about your arrival at a life of your own, or your continuing journey along the way. Here’s the link:

And thanks.

a birthday place (cont.) . . .

This photo gallery of our Truro stay is kindly provided by C. our wonderful chronicler of family gatherings. . . thanks, Cait!

the beach
crane in the marshland
birthday tulips!
coconut cupcakes with frosting
candles on birthday cupcakes
snowflake garlands in the window
red cardinals in the window
Josie licking icing in her new apron!
Josie and Grammy

a birthday place . . .

snowflake garland 1
snowflake garland 2
cardinal white lights 2
cardinal:white lights 1

My birthday comes a few days after Christmas every year. Because 2012 happened to be a milestone year for me, we found a place on the ocean in Truro on the Cape and our family gathered for a few days to visit, cook meals for each other and walk on the beach right outside our door.

M. put together snowflake garlands and C. helped her place paper red cardinals hopping around tiny white lights set in mason jars along the window sills making the place festive and elegant. Each took turns cooking for the rest of us; then another pair cleaned up afterwards. It worked out great with meals of shabu shabu, chap jae, ham and pea soup, ham sandwiches, delectable cheeses, huge salads with pears, pomegranate seeds and maple syrup laced dressing.
I took breakfast duty each day, making stacks of french toast, light oatmeal bread dipped in beaten eggs laced with vanilla, fragrant in a large electric skillet, mounds of tender, scrambled eggs with chopped scallions, crisp bacon on the side. And lots of hot coffee.DSC_0175_2

G. and M. went to pick up the lobsters and cape scallops for my birthday dinner. Afterwards, we had M.’s homemade coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting lit with candles. On the last day, after packing and loading the cars, we sat down to one last round of eggs benedict, made with warmed ham on toasted whole grain and cheese bread topped with tender poached eggs and generous dollops of hollandaise sauce made with Meyer lemon.

Sand, wind, water, salt. Lots of it everywhere. Thoughtful gifts abounded, the most touching of all was a DVD with voiceovers and music made by my daughters and granddaughters, including the littlest one at the end (Josie at 27 months old) saying “hap-py birth-day, gram-my”. The DVD movie did not come across like a “this is your life” kind of tribute which always seems to me like a valedictory farewell (okay, now you can go and sit somewhere.) Instead, it was a light-hearted celebration with lots of humor, flowers and food, good times shared together. I noticed a favorite suede jacket that I wore in college and wondered where it went to. There were comments from my blog too and a parade of the countries readers originate from, set to the “Star Wars” opening trumpet theme.

All in all, for an introverted, reclusive worrywart person and mother, the thoughtfulness and affection shared by everyone during this birthday holiday made us feel happy and content, especially me. And Josie’s innocent joyfulness at being near the ocean said it all: “O-cean! O-cean! SO Happy!” We are lucky to have such a wonderful family. And my thanks go to each and everyone who made this birthday holiday so meaningful and full of love.