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Seashells as Metaphors

seashell on the shore of the beach

Photo from the Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce


An article from in Freeport, IL:

From the Old Pine Rocker: Led by a book to enchanted islands


During the holidays, a dear friend I used to work with came to visit, and she brought me a painting by a Freeport artist featuring lovely seashells. As always, our conversation turned to the seashore, a place we both love, and especially to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, magical settings that feel like paradise on earth.

Many years ago I discovered a wonderful book, “Gift from the Sea,” by the late Anne Morrow Lindbergh which I usually reread each year. Utilizing seashells as metaphors for seasons of life, her writing elegantly addresses the difficulty of finding balance and harmony as well as relationship issues, personal space and creativity and finding inner peace amidst the whirlwind of life. I’ve found that her snippets of wisdom have spoken to me in many ways as I’ve journeyed through various intervals of my own life.

Married to aviator Charles Lindbergh, who made the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927, Anne continually tried to guard the private life of her children and herself from the celebrity status she was thrown into. Sadly she and Charles endured the tragic kidnapping and death of their 20-month old son from their home in 1932. She had much to sort through in words that were originally intended only for her eyes; what came to be a much loved classic, “Gift from the Sea,” was written during a respite in a simple cottage where nature soothed Anne’s soul on Captiva Island, Florida.

Where was this Captiva Island? I began to research and discovered that Blind Pass Bridge connects Captiva to Sanibel Island, islands in the Gulf of Mexico known for some of the best shelling in the world. I so wanted to go there. It took more than 10 years to realize the dream, but in 2009, a high school friend and I spent a week in an old Florida style cottage near the sea.

There are no high rises, no chain stores, neither neon signs nor even street lights because they disturb the instincts of hatchling sea turtles making their way to the ocean. Arriving at a perfect time when the tourists were gone, we walked the gorgeous natural beaches in the morning among the herons, egrets and seabirds that live freely there. The beauty of Roseate spoonbills in the wild brought me tears.

The place where Anne’s cottage stood on Captiva is now a resort; how I wished I could have seen the primitive little house, but just being there, knowing it was the place where she wrote, was so special. If it weren’t for her book, I wouldn’t have discovered these magical islands. A few days ago I opened the latest issue of my Victoria Magazine, and I was delighted to see that Reeve Lindbergh, Anne and Charles’ daughter, is the magazine’s 2020 writer in residence.

I was not aware of Reeve, but now I look forward to reading her most recent book, “Two Lives,” which reflects on her quiet country life, versus the fame of her childhood family. In her Victoria article, she speaks about her mother writing on Captiva Island; sitting by her fireplace in Vermont, Reeve reflects, “On the very best days, I travel in my mother’s company, uplifted by her insights and carried on her words.”

As I sit by my fireplace in Illinois, I am thankful for the prism of Anne’s inspiring words that led me to more deeply understand her insights while experiencing such joy on Sanibel and Captiva. Rereading her book this year, her graceful writing beckons me to return to these enchanting islands.

Sherry Maves is a freelance writer and co-author of the book “Endless Love and Second Chances.” She may be contacted at [email protected].


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