i just read a nyt book review of anne morrow lindbergh’s final book, “against wind and tide”: a posthumous printing of diaries from the last 40 years of her life.
years ago, when i was in design school, i’d fritter away my paltry tax refund on a people’s express airline ticket to washington, d.c. staying with a great pal in her apartment which featured a view of the washington memorial, i fancied myself a bit of a lone artistic wanderer. while she spent her day working at george washington university, i set about on foot to discover the city i would come to love. sketch book, 1978 pentax camera, a good pen and my diary in hand, i wandered about, soaking in the history, architecture, and poignancy of our capitol city.
at the same time, i was tentatively stepping into some form of adulthood, whereby everything felt illuminated, each sensation, thought, discovery, awareness, like lightning rods inspiring my creative self at each turn. sitting beside the newly unveiled vietnam memorial, i sat quietly on a bench, shaded by those iconic blooming cherry blossoms, watching somber vets lean against the reflective black wall. flashing back to memories of watching the television news, anchored by walter chronkite, who read from a piece of paper while the images flashed by of newsmen interviewing young men dressed in camouflage. i didn’t get it then, and i don’t get it now: you mean, they stop shooting long enough for the interview sequence? i pondered: if they can control it for that, why can’t the just stop shooting altogether?
but i digress. my trip went along these lines: sit alone, observing, and then consuming the emotions and reactions as though i, myself, was the camera, tape recorder, dictaphone, and witness to both the centuries of history that that town magnifies, as well as the present day world as it witnesses that history for themselves. deep stuff!
one day, i wandered into a great dusty old bookstore. rows and rows of books stood patiently as i sauntered down the rows, taking my time in the air conditioning for a bit of a respite from that powerful sun. always a sucker for an intriguing jacket design (i buy my wine for the same reasons), i reached for a book a bit on the top shelf.
anne morrow lindbergh.
my zeal for history assumed that she was somehow related to lucky lindy, the hero who flew across the atlantic during the great depression. the flower and the nettle.
catchy title, further intrigue. my curiosity firmly at attention, i opened the book and read the liner comments. it sounded really good. hobnobbing with the expats, a literal history of the u.s. during a pivotal time of national, international, technological and social change, i was hooked.
luck followed this first find and i noticed a few more of her published novels: tomes that held her very own personal history awash in a time that has always fascinated me. what better way to get my history groove on than by learning and getting to know this woman at the same time?
my days continued much the same: solo wandering, sitting on a park bench, sketching and writing. but more and more of these hours were spent falling eagerly into her world. somehow, that sweet shy young woman sent me on a vast journey as i read each entry, each year, each triumph, each horrifying loss, each moment of her savoring, reflecting, recounting, reliving a gloriously complicated life. i found her simple in her needs, delightful in her love, grateful for her family, protective of her solitude, eager in her curiosity, and solemn in her awareness and clarity. i finished all four novels on that trip.
i probably wasn’t the best company after hours, rushing off to my bed to gobble up more of her words. when i finished, i felt like i’d had more epiphanies than i could count: certain that i was much better armed in a sensory way, for the life i was just setting out on. i’d found a companion for life, a safe, sturdy, wise mentor to keep on each and every bookshelf for the 30 years since.
and glory be, what news to discover this week: a posthumous collection of her diaries from the last 40 years of her life has just been published. there’s more, more, more. and ironically, my age when i first met her was nearly the same as she was when she wrote her first volume. and now, at 52, if i get the math right, we’re a comparable age now: her final 40 has come into my life as i set out on those of my own.
my friend. found again.