Susan Hartog’s biography of the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh is not only thorough in its research but beautifully melodic in its prose. With the feminine delicacy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s own poetic writing, Hartog weaves together the tapestry of journal writings, poetry, public speculation and personal experiences of Anne’s life into an inspiring narrative of courage.
Several months ago I happened to come across some of Anne Lindbergh’s writings, in particular her book ‘Gifts from the Sea’. Her thoughts, beliefs and expression of emotion were so remarkably alike my own that I sourced this biography hoping to get further insight into her life and the experiences that inspired such reflections. Indeed in reading this book I did find a kindred spirit… one whose path will be ever so different from my own but whose foundation of thought and belief resonates profoundly with the person I am.
Growing up, Anne was repelled by her parents’ affluence, Hartog writes ‘by the “waste” and “artificialities” of their indulgent “walled garden” life, and yet she was comforted, even grateful for its insulation.’ In marriage, her trans-Atlantic voyeurs with Charles granted her a new perspective on the diversity of life and the acclaims of simplistic living. Hartog writes, ‘Amid the ceremonial necessities of a visit with the president, Anne saw only the poignancy of ordinary life. Reality, she wrote home, belonged not to the president or to celebrated fliers, but to the illiterate, impoverished, Bible-loving mountaineers, in tune with one another and with the beauty of the land. Their knowledge was clear, deep, and ineffable, untainted by presence or convention.’
Marriage loomed like a grave inevitability – something large and yet too small to capture the “fire” she felt inside. She who “loved Scarlet” wore “a gown of black,” she wrote in a poem. In Charles however she found true companionship. Hartog reflects, ‘For the first time, she had met a man who understood her, and it was frightening. Charles saw the rebel heart inside the timid girl and his piercing eye both pleased and threatened her. She knew that, with Charles, her ambitions could run free and her deepest instincts would be valued. But she also knew that marriage to the “hero” would change her life forever, and there would be no turning back.’
“The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now, within their limits… islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, continually visited and abandoned by the tides.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
Despite the constant pressures of life and marriage in the scrutinizing and equally doting public eye, Anne Lindbergh sought to retain her sense of solidarity and aloneness of thought. Solitude, she wrote, made her less volatile and less vulnerable. She was most free when she was alone. ’”Home” is no longer a physical refuge; it is the stillness at the centre of one’s mind, giving rise to self-knowledge and reconciliation. Silence is the alchemy that changes the artifacts of language and culture into the “gold” of beauty and art.’
Such art was made manifest in the beauty of Anne’s writing. In a day and age where women’s place was ‘in the home’, Anne Lindbergh challenged social expectations not only by becoming a ‘female’ pioneer in aviation history but also through her writings. Despite addressing a plethora of social and political issues in books and articles, the core of Anne’s writing was deep and poetic and stemmed from a soulful observation of the world that intertwined both the beauty and the sorrow of her life. Hartog writes, ‘Anne’s poignant awareness of joy and sorrow, reflected in nature and integral to the fabric of ordinary life, would later be expressed in her poem “Security.” The poem implies that women sit at the edge of life, gleaning strength from ordinary tasks and the majesty of nature. Unlike men, who turn the working wheels of the world, women live in the great abyss between the earth and sky: “There is refuge in a seashell-/Or a star; / But in between, /Nowhere.”’
“I recognised how wonderful the freedom was of not having to do things every day and being able to go into a room and just write what one felt… One sees through the writing. You sink into a more authentic place inside yourself.” Living without writing is like “trying to paint a picture without any shadows and I think without any perspective…”’ (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was an exceptional woman. She was strong, free spirited, adventurous, soulful and deeply attuned to the beauty and essence of life. What I loved most about her however, was her rebellious objection to passivity, idleness and the superficialities of etiquette and social propriety. In her journal she wrote “I must say over and over to myself, Make your world count.” In light of the many things she accomplished in her lifetime I’d have to conclude that Anne Morrow Lindbergh did indeed make her world count.