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One blustery but sunny afternoon this summer we made plans to go to a small beach that was easily accessible for my in-laws. The boys, my sister-in-law, and I arrived first. Our first warning should have been the ease with which we found a parking space. We hauled all our paraphernalia out onto the beach fighting against the wind that was quite fierce. We figured once we sat next to the beach club fence we’d be OK. No such luck.

The wind was coming from the north and the sand by the water was being blown straight at us. As my son said, it felt like millions of needles being thrown at us. After about 10 seconds of this torture we headed back to the car.

With only a few days left on the island, I was not willing to miss a day at the beach no matter how strong the wind blew. We had to be smart. We decided to go to the south side of the island figuring the dunes would protect us and we’d still be able to sit in the sand and face the water. That’s all I wanted. And to read my book of course.

We went to a public beach – one with a lifeguard and a concession stand. Normally, we avoid the public beaches because of the crowds but on this day there was almost no one at the beach due to the wind.

The four of us had the most amazing day. My sister-in-law took a much needed nap. The boys and I went for a glorious swim watched over by lifeguards.  The kids found a dead shark that had washed ashore.  And the best part was our walk. The boys and I walked on a beach we had never been to before.

Just beyond the public beach but before the beach where those with 4-wheel drive vehicles and oversand permits go was a stretch of beach covered in quahog shells and moon shells. Having never seen so many in one place we gathered as many as we could carry. We thought a jar of moon shells would be pretty. And one can never have too many quahog shells.

Back from our walk I settled into my chair to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s (AML) Gift from the Sea. I was feeling her connection to the sea so strongly that day, which isn’t difficult since the ocean fills my soul like no other part of nature. And then I came upon her second chapter, Moon Shell. How appropriate after our discovery. Moon shells remind AML of solitude. She goes on to address the desperate need for quiet and solitude in a busy world – especially for women who are always giving of themselves to others in the day to day requirements of being a wife and mother. Her words are more than relevant 56 years later when so many women work outside of the home as well.

But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships. She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still (p. 45).”

The quest for quiet and solitude. Oh what joys they are when they are found. How difficult to squeeze them in amongst family life and teaching.

AML goes on to describe how modern conveniences freed up so much of a women’s time, yet eliminated time for contemplation and creativity which feed the soul.

Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. Many of their duties were conducive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative task to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work..(p.46).”

While I would never want to wash my clothes by hand and my lack of green thumbs precludes growing my own vegetables, I have found joy in baking my own bread or creating a quilt or scrapbook. Recently I have found writing this blog to be a contemplative and creative outlet. At least I had until this week.

I have started and stopped a bunch of posts this week without publishing one. I have been busy with school and my mind was not on writing but preparing for Thursday when students arrive. I know I need to keep writing. Writing provides time for quiet and contemplation, for clearing my head. I think writing will help keep me focused and centered when the demands of family life, teaching, and the boys’ after school activities take precedence.

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. 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 (p. 51-52).

So like AML, I too will keep a moon shell on my desk. There it will sit to remind me of beautiful blustery day with my boys. It will remind me to find quiet and solitude even for a brief moment every day. And it will remind me to make time to write every day.

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