Mary Monday: lessons, shells, and solitude

Cape Cod-tide on its way out, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

My visit to Cape Cod was two months ago, but I feel like I'm just now actually processing the lessons that I learned while I was there. I was so raw, still, from John's excommunication. For a very long time I'd been feeling this urgency to have some time just for me, and I had those few days to sort out some of the concerns that weighed rather heavily. I needed the time to be on my own, to wander, and to face the sea wind.

It's not often that we get a chance to be apart from the world for awhile, in such a beautiful place. Cape Cod will always be dear to me now, as the landscape that held me when I was aching, that taught me to feel strong in the midst of fear and change.

Today's passage isn't from Mary Oliver, but from another woman who knew the gifts from the sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Her insights gained during her time on the "island" are resonating with me today as I think back to my time on Cape Cod.

She writes:

"Moon shell, who named you? Some intuitive woman I like to think. I shall give you another name--Island shell. I cannot live forever on my island. But I can take you back to my desk in Connecticut [or in Irvine]. You will sit there and fasten your single eye upon me. You will make me think, with your smooth circles winding inward to the tiny core, of the island I lived on for a few weeks. You will say to me "solitude." You will remind me that I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days, and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes in order to keep my core, my center, my island-quality. You will remind me that unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends, or the world at large. You will remind me that woman must be still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities, that she must be the pioneer in achieving this stillness, not only for her own salvation, but for the salvation of family life, of society, perhaps even of our civilization."

The need for solitude and stillness is not just essential for women and mothers, but for everyone so they can find center. Where do you go when you need to be alone for awhile?


Anonymous said...

Down to the river.

Alex said...

To the mountaintop, with the hawks and the wind.

Gray said...

I have always enjoyed Thoreau's writing about Cape Cod. If you go to the Cape and read Thoreau, is is possible to banish from your mind the 20th and 21st century houses and the congestion and Route 6. In the fall and spring it is truly a healing place. Once I hitched a ride in a small commercial fishing boat from Newburyport to Provincetown. Arriving and departing by sea in October somehow intensified the sense of place and the continuity of time.

My sisters and I share shells collected on the Connecticut shore by my grandmother and her mother over many years between about 1895 and 1917. They connect me with my family, my roots, my history, and a place. When I look at the artifacts of the beach where my ancestors lived, loved, thrived, and died, the difficulties of day to day life fade and become part of a larger and benign context.

Truly I am at my best in the mountains and forests very far from towns, but I share the healing experience of the solitary beach.

I have not commented in some time, but thanks for your continued blogging! I enjoy your entries very much.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John White said...

Your article is very good. I like it very much.