“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, Gift from the Sea
I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea years ago. I read the book and inhaled the essence of Lindbergh’s writing, yet it all remained quite distant. I admired the book and her ideas about the sea as one might admire a piece of art in a gallery, beautiful, yes, but untouchable and apart. The beauty of the sea remained for me abstract. The sea has never been a part of my life. I am a woman of the desert, the prairie, the West, the borderlands, the world—but never the sea.
Until last week.
Last week our family drove from Santa Fe to the archipelago of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Ocean, off the northern coast of Washington state. This was a trip years in the making. Our family has had the gift of going to the ranch every summer and so we did. There wasn’t time or resources for any other family travel. With Wyatt soon to leave for college, I was determined to take at least one family trip to someplace new. With Wyatt’s love of Washington state, our dear friends in the San Juan Islands, and my cousin and friend from forever in Seattle, we decided months ago to take this trip.
As the time of our trip approached and life loomed large, there were so very many reasons not to take this trip. I ignored them, “We’re going. Whatever it takes, we’re going. We are taking at least one family vacation someplace new before Wyatt leaves.” Denial can be a wonderful thing when channeled properly.
So, we went.
Two days and 2,000+ miles later, we drove onto the ferry heading to the peninsula where our cousin, Janet, and her family live. There is something about cousins that spans time and distance. Our first gift from the sea.
The sea came alive. The abstract and untouchable painting in a gallery gained texture, scent, color, and connection.
The sea came alive for Wyatt, Luke, and Wynn—who were in the water as soon as we arrived.
We went to South Beach—the driftwood and stones created a palette of textures. I found myself again and again running my hands through the stones. Gift from the sea.
Stones skipped across the sea.
This area is known for the orcas who live in these waters. We watched and watched the seas. In a lighthouse on a point overlooking the waters of the whales, people from around the world shared their names.
What made this all possible were our forever friends and their invitation to visit them in their home on San Juan Island. Threads of roots, friendship, and love bound the new with the known. We met in 1973 when Mom got lost in Tucson one Sunday morning and met our forever friends. Our family photo albums of our growing up years are interchangeable. Names evolved and we soon developed our own language of, “the Moms, the Dads, the Big Birds (two oldest), and the Little Birds (three youngest).” The Big Birds share the same name of Dawn Elizabeth. From our last names, we soon became Winkie and Dobie and have remained so ever since.
In an alignment of the stars that we could not have planned had we tried, four of our five Big and Little Birds were on the island together, coming from Argentina, California, and New Mexico. We basked in watching the next generation, the Littlest Birds, play together. They tumbled, played, the swam, hiked, and laughed. The faces in photos on our refrigerators sprang to life and the lace of roots deepened into the future.
Gift from the sea.
From South Beach, we brought home stones and driftwood to create an altar in our home.
On the drive home, memories of our time in the San Juans swirled. Warmth of the stones under my hands on the beach, sounds of water as it lapped against shell of the kayak, Luke stumbling through the living room early one morning to kayak out in hopes of seeing a baby seal and his face light up upon his return (Mom, they are the most adorable things ever.), clusters of bodies of the Littlest Birds as they played, scent of lavender, sparkles of sunlight as they shimmered on the sea, friendship…
“Don’t wish me happiness. I don’t expect to be happy all the time… It’s gotten beyond that somehow, “Anne Morrow Lindbergh goes on to write. “Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor. I will need them all.”
Courage, stones, strength, driftwood, a sense of humor, roots, moon over water.
Gift of the sea.
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