Seeking a gift from the sea...

"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea."~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001).


Lindbergh is an American author who was also the first American woman to obtain her glider pilot's license. The quotation is from a favourite book of mine, Gift from the Sea, written by Lindbergh in 1955. I published this post in 2015 during my first year of blogging.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is my aged copy of Gift from the Sea. It is a quick read and whenever I pick it up and glance through it, (often over the decades), I find something meaningful, some life lesson to take to heart.

The sea has many gifts to give

Over the years, I have had many holidays by the sea. Such a holiday is a much-needed tonic for winter weary Canadians.

The sea revitalizes. Just walking along the beach and feeling the gritty sand between our toes is beneficial in itself if only as a most natural pedicure. But there is so much more to gain from being at the seashore.

Certainly, the brisk, salty ocean air, the sound of the breaking waves on the shore have always drawn people to the sea.

The seashore has beneficial effects on our mood clearing our mind of all the cobwebs of our daily lives and allowing us to simply "be" in the moment.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh understood this phenomenon.

open sea shellLindbergh writes that for a while, when one first arrives at the sea, books should remain unread, and there should be no writing, not even any thinking.

"One is forced against one's mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea-shore. [...] One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today's tides of all yesterday's scribblings."

sea shell

Searching for gifts on the beach

Polished stones and glass, gifts from the sea, find their way into my home. I even photograph various objects I find washed up on shore. Shells fascinate me with their creamy pearlescent interiors and concentric whorls on the outside highlighting sometimes subtle, sometimes vivid colours.

Even though I live nowhere near the sea, it's not surprising that shells have been part of my life.  They have been the subject of my art and crafts time after time.

I first painted a shell in 1987 when I used words to create art long before there was software that could make image poems in seconds.

image poem sea shell

Shells: nature's gift inspire creativity.

My parents were "snowbirds", the name given to retired Canadians who spend the winter months in Florida, in Torremolinos, Spain, or in Cuba or Mexico. They brought back buckets of shells for use in my crafts and they started this shell craze of mine.

At one time, shells and pieces of coral framed a mirror in our powder room, an idea I had seen in a home decorating magazine and I decided that I could easily replicate the frame which became a conversation piece when guests visited the powder room. After I got tired of it, we discarded both frame and shells.

Over the years, I collected shells from all the places I visited.

New collection of shells

This past September, I gathered beautiful black and grey shells, colours that I did not have in my collection, from the Jersey Shore near Strathmere.

When I want to feature shells in my sketchbook or elsewhere, I have an impressive collection as inspiration.

shell on Jersey shore

the Jersey shore at Strathmere

journal sketch, watercolours, of shells of the jersey shore

Last year, I painted shells and coral in my sketchbook when I participated in an online watercolour sketching course with Jane Lafazio.

sea coral in sketchbook

sketchbook sea shells

In the sketch below, I selected a few of Lindbergh's passages that are personally significant and I used them around more painted shells.

The shell is intricately woven as a metaphor throughout the life lessons in this little gem given to me by a dear friend in 1984. I wonder if she knew the impact the memoir would have on me?

seashell sketch with quotations from Gift from the Sea

Lindbergh writes at the end of the book that shells remind her that "the sea recedes and returns eternally."

Through the ebb and flow of life itself, one must learn to accept gifts as they are revealed and remain open to the present, not delving too much in the past, not looking too much to the future.

For the gift is truly found only in fully living in the moment.

Which books have had the greatest impact on you?  

8 Responses

    • How very true! On our recent trip to Punta Cana, there were few shells to be found but the children brought a small turtle to shore, took photos, and then released it. Wishing you many beautiful scenes to be captured in your paintings in 2024 Graham. I always enjoy seeing your part of the world. (PS Although Christmas and New Year were green here, and our car didn’t need to be shovelled out of its parking space at the airport, we did get snow a day after our arrival and more snow is predicted for tomorrow. Back to reality for us!)

    • Thank you Constanza. Every now and then I reread it and I find new “gifts” of wisdom. Enjoy your Coastal Life.

  • This was an especially poignant posting. Enjoy your holiday with Neil and remember the
    Christmases with your mother fondly.

  • Ce que tes commentaires nous touchent et nous inspirent, Louise. Je sens que tu seras la vacancière la plus attentive, la plus réceptive et la plus reconnaissante de son séjour au bord de la mer, pendant cette vacance au Mexique. Bravo ! Je vais aller chercher la copie de ” Gift From The Sea” de ma mère que j’ai dans ma bibliothèque, un livre qu’elle affectionnait autant que toi, et en lire quelques extraits en pensant à toi et à tes précieux enseignements.

    • Oui Marie. Il faut lire et savourer les passages. Lire lentement et avec réflection. Tu m’en parles, ok?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *