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Anne Morrow Lindbergh

  • If one talks to more than four people, it is an audience; and one cannot really think or exchange thoughts with an audience.

  • Travelers are always discoverers, especially those who travel by air. There are no signposts in the sky to show a man has passed that way before. There are no channels marked. The flier breaks each second into new uncharted seas.

  • Rivers perhaps are the only physical features of the world that are at their best from the air.

  • ... not only is life put in new patterns from the air, but it is somehow arrested, frozen into form. (The leaping hare is caught in a marble panel.) A glaze is put over life. There is no flaw, no crack in the surface; a still reservoir, no ripple on its face. Looking down from the air that morning, I felt that stillness rested like a light over the earth. The waterfalls seemed frozen solid; the tops of the trees were still; the river hardly stirred, a serpent gently moving under its shimmering skin.

  • ... to mention a loved object, a person, or a place to someone else is to invest that object with reality.

  • ... there is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change.

  • The wave of the future is coming and there is no fighting it.

  • ... only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.

  • The intellectual is constantly betrayed by his own vanity. Godlike, he blandly assumes that he can express everything in words ...

  • The world has been forced to its knees. Unhappily, we seldom find our way there without being beaten to it by suffering.

  • Lost time was like a run in a stocking. It always got worse.

  • What was time? Where had it gone? There was left only an outer shell she had up to now looked upon as time — a husk only. The husk of time split open and let fall one seed — one seed of eternity.

  • Duration is not a test of true or false.

  • By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.

  • Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego.

  • For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life.

  • Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray.

  • ... good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.

  • What release to write so that one forgets oneself, forgets one's companion, forgets where one is or what one is going to do next — to be drenched in work as one is drenched in sleep or in the sea. Pencils and pads and curling blue sheets alive with letters heap up on the desk.

  • I believe that what woman resents is not so much giving herself in pieces as giving herself purposelessly.

  • Woman must come of age by herself. ... She must find her true center alone.

  • When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.

  • The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere.

  • The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone. ... Anything else will be accepted as a better excuse. If one sets aside time for a business appointment, a trip to the hairdresser, a social engagement, or a shopping expedition, that time is accepted as inviolable. But if one says: I cannot come because that is my hour to be alone, one is considered rude, egotistical or strange. What a commentary on our civilization, when being alone is considered suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it — like a secret vice!

  • America, which has the most glorious present still existing in the world today, hardly stops to enjoy it, in her insatiable appetite for the future.

  • Intermittency — an impossible lesson for human beings to learn. How can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one's existence? How can one learn to take the trough of the wave? ... Perhaps this is the most important thing. ... Simply the memory that each cycle of the tide is valid; each cycle of the wave is valid; each cycle of relationship is valid.

  • Only when one is connected to one's own core is one connected to others ... And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.

  • We walk up the beach under the stars. And when we are tired of walking, we lie flat on the sand under a bowl of stars. We feel stretched, expanded to take in their compass. They pour into us until we are filled with stars, up to the brim.

  • One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.

  • The collector walks with blinders on; he sees nothing but the prize. In fact, the acquisitive instinct is incompatible with true appreciation of beauty.

  • One must lose one's life to find it.

  • The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay. In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead. ... But in the middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life-signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death.

  • We Americans, with our terrific emphasis on youth, action, and material success, certainly tend to belittle the afternoon of life and even to pretend it never comes. We push the clock back and try to prolong the morning, over-reaching and over-straining ourselves in the unnatural effort. ... In our breathless attempts we often miss the flowering that waits for afternoon.

  • A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one's husband, but how seldom married people in the midst of life achieve it.

  • Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day — like writing a poem, or saying a prayer.

  • ... woman's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.

  • Him that I love, I wish to be / Free — / Even from me.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
    • "Even," The Unicorn ()
  • I find the weight of air / Almost too great to bear.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
    • "Mountain," The Unicorn ()
  • The best marriages, like the best lives, were both happy and unhappy. There was even a kind of necessary tension, a certain tautness between the partners that gave the marriage strength, like the tautness of a full sail. You went forward on it.

  • Grief can't be shared. Everyone carries it alone, his own burden, his own way.

  • ... no new sect ever had humor; no disciples either ... it took age to ripen humor ...

  • Geniuses were like storms or cyclones, pulling everything into their path, sticks and stones and dust.

  • Communication with another person — wasn't it the realest thing in life?

  • My diaries were written primarily, I think, not to preserve the experience but to savor it, to make it even more real, more visible and palpable, than in actual life. For in our family an experience was not finished, not truly experienced, unless written down or shared with another.

  • One can get just as much exultation in losing oneself in a little thing as in a big thing. It is nice to think how one can be recklessly lost in a daisy!

  • Too many people, too many demands, too much to do; competent, busy, hurrying people — It just isn't living at all.

  • Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.

  • If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

  • It is not restful, it is not possible to talk wholeheartedly to more than one person at a time. You can't really talk with a person unless you surrender to them, for the moment (all other talk is futile). You can't surrender to more than one person a moment.

  • ... once you get beyond the crust of the first pang it is all the same and you can easily bear it. It is just the transition from painlessness to pain that is so terrible.

  • Why is it that you can sometimes feel the reality of people more keenly through a letter than face to face?

  • Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal, underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.

  • Don't wish me happiness — I don't expect to be happy ... it's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor — I will need them all.

  • Yesterday I sat in a field of violets for a long time perfectly still, until I really sank into it — into the rhythm of the place, I mean — then when I got up to go home I couldn't walk quickly or evenly because I was still in time with the field.

  • People don't want to be understood — I mean not completely. It's too destructive. Then they haven't anything left. They don't want complete sympathy or complete understanding. They want to be treated carelessly and taken for granted lots of times.

  • I do not like talking casually to people — it does not interest me — and most of them are unwilling to talk at all seriously.

  • Fame is a kind of death because it arrests life around the person in the public eye.

  • Is there anything as horrible as starting on a trip? Once you're off, that's all right, but the last moments are earthquake and convulsion, and the feeling that you are a snail being pulled off your rock.

  • We are always bargaining with our feelings so that we can live from day to day.

  • I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness, and the willingness to remain vulnerable.

  • ... there is no aristocracy of grief. Grief is a great leveler.

  • Why is it harder to think of his going to nothing than to think of his coming from nothing? One direction is just as dark as the other.

  • Why is life speeded up so? Why are things so terribly, unbearably precious that you can't enjoy them but can only wait breathless in dread of their going?

  • Why do progress and beauty have to be so opposed?

  • ... one must go through periods of numbness that are harder to bear than grief.

  • It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.

  • ... total freedom is never what one imagines and, in fact, hardly exists. It comes as a shock in life to learn that we usually only exchange one set of restrictions for another. The second set, however, is self-chosen, and therefore easier to accept.

  • ... people talk about 'sex' as though it hopped about by itself, like a frog!

  • I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.

  • ... writing letters is thinking, just as talking to you is thinking.

  • People talk about love as though it were something you could give, like an armful of flowers. And a lot of people give love like that — just dump it down on top of you, a useless strong-scented burden.

  • For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.

  • I am beginning to respect the apathetic days. Perhaps they're a necessary pause: better to give in to them than to fight them at your desk hopelessly; then you lose both the day and your self-respect. Treat them as physical phenomena — casually — and obey them.

  • I cannot get alone enough to write. It is not just the people here. It is the sense I have of being crowded by these hundreds of letters from people — and people I like, people I want to reach out to and thank and keep hold of. But there are too many and my feelings are too varied and distracted. Also, I am somewhat oppressed by the sense of C.'s disapproval of letters — dissipating your energy in useless letters. He is quite right, I know he is. But I cannot free myself from a feeling of conscience that I should answer them, a feeling of pressure that they give me. I must wash them off the slate first — but how? They must be replied to sincerely, and it takes time. I want to be alone a long time, and no pressure, get the letters off, get free.

  • The nicest gifts are those left, nameless and quiet, unburdened with love, or vanity, or the desire for attention.

  • ... the nice thing about really intelligent people is that when you talk with them they make you feel intelligent too ...

  • The ball of rumor and criticism, once it starts rolling, is difficult to stop.

  • ... the most ordinary everyday living is as delicate, as breath-taking, as difficult, takes as terrific physical and mental control and effort, as walking a tightrope.

  • Packing is chiefly planning — if it is in your head the rest is easy.

  • Fame separates you from life.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
    • in Julie Nixon, Special People ()
  • ... the final lesson of learning to be independent — widowhood ... is the hardest lesson of all.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
    • in Julie Nixon, Special People ()
  • ... life itself is always pulling you away from the understanding of life.

  • ... war is a thug's game. The thug strikes first and harder. He doesn't go by rules and he isn't afraid of hurting people.

  • ... I can conceive of 'falling in love' over and over again. But 'marriage,' this richness of life itself, I cannot conceive of having again — or with anyone else. In this sense 'marriage' seems to me indissoluble.

  • Snow — real snow — soft and surprising, suddenly over the world. I never get over the surprise of snow. So gently changing the world. I must go out in it and see it. It is such a miracle — like conversion. Every neglected seed pod, every stray grapevine tendril, carries its burden of snow. Not one is forgotten. The change is complete. It makes me full of joy.

  • Failures aren't failures if you learn something from them ...

  • Go for a short walk in a soft rain — lovely — so many wild flowers startling me through the woods and a lawn sprinkled with dandelions, like a night with stars. And through it all the sound of soft rain like the sound of innumerable earthworms stirring in the ground.

  • Cut asparagus at night — in desperation. When one is very tired one always does one more thing.

  • It is the striving after perfection that makes one an artist. It is the sense that one is imperfect, unfulfilled, unfinished. One attempts by a superhuman effort to fill the gap, to leap over it, to finish it in another medium. And one creates a third and separate thing: 'Adventure rarely reaches its predetermined end. Columbus never reached China. But he discovered America.'

  • No American can understand the need for time — that is, simply space to breathe. If you have ten minutes to spare you should jam that full instead of leaving it — as space around your next ten minutes. How can anything ripen without those 'empty' ten minutes?

  • Mother is rather upset by the number of letters she has had criticizing her speech. I tell her about some of the ones I have gotten and how you can't help getting, no matter what you say, a certain amount of the 'Dear Sir, you cur' letters.

  • ... the issue of war or peace is an issue that concerns not only experts on Foreign Affairs but every citizen of the United States.

  • I think one must do the thing — whatever it is (and it changes from time to time) — that unites you to the flowing stream of the world. At any price, one must do it first. Otherwise one can do nothing, nothing at all. One is out of touch, out of grace.

  • Can you write a book and have children at the same time? Yes, if you're content to do it very very slowly.

  • I should like to be a full-time Mother and a full-time Artist and a full-time Wife-Companion and also a 'Charming Woman' on the side! And to be aware and record it all. I cannot do it all. Something must go — several things probably. The 'charming woman' first!

  • Frenchwomen just never look ungroomed, do they?

  • One seems to have two kinds of memory. The first is just thought. I remember thus and so. It does not touch you. It is mental only, though quite accurate and cold. But the second is something else. There is an inner door to memory and when you open it, it is all right there. You are there. ... I find it is quite painful to push open that inner door. It is not that the experiences then were painful nor yet that they were so happy that I look back with too much longing on them. It's just that I feel it — life — so vividly, almost more vividly than I did then, and its very vividness is a kind of anguish.

  • In general, I feel, or I have come to feel, that the richest writing comes not from the people who dedicate themselves to writing alone. I know this is contradicted again and again but I continue to feel it. They don't, of course, write as much, or as fast, but I think it is riper and more satisfying when it does come. One of the difficulties of writing or doing any kind of creative work in America seems to me to be that we put such stress on production and material results. We put a time pressure and a mass pressure on creative work which are meaningless and infantile in that field.

  • ... one writes not to be read but to breathe — I did even then. One writes to think, to pray, to analyze. One writes to clear one's mind, to dissipate one's fears, to face one's doubts, to look at one's mistakes — in order to retrieve them. One writes to capture and crystallize one's joy, but also to analyze and disperse one's gloom.

  • At night I write letters in front of the fire while C. works at the card table on his Spirit of St. Louis. He says writing 'takes the place of sociability.' It is your form of giving to friendsone eliminates the other. I am always trying to do both.

  • He is angry at my being so temperamental — can't write on the flying trips, can't write at home when you're having a baby, can't write when people criticize you a little, can't write when we're moving, can't write during a war. It's always something. All this is true, desperately true. Conditions are never right for writing and you've just got to write anyway. ... I have no arguments to give. How can I say: But you do not know how difficult living is for me. Every step is a step on a tightrope. I must use everything — parasol, arms, head — just to keep on that tightrope.

  • Writing comes out of life; life must come first. And yet my life does not go well without writing. It is my flywheel, my cloister, my communication with myself and God. It is my eyes to the world, my window for awareness, without which I cannot see anything or walk straight. Writing in a diary is my tool for the development of awareness. It is the crucible through which the rough material of life must pass before I can use it in art. I am always complaining that there is no 'craft' to writing, no brush technique, no finger exercises, no going back to the model in clay. But perhaps — for me — writing in a diary is my 'craft,' a warming-up process for writing. I must do it.

  • What a crippling art writing is, no body to it, no craft, really. It's all in the mind and you never see it or feel it — only sometimes hear it. It uses only such a small part of man. I wish I were a sculptor.

  • I feel I should not be ... so at the mercy of people's regard. And yet — it is the artist's desire for communication too; without the answering voice you get so numb; you lose faith in your powers to communicate.

  • I had not thought at the time of publishing it. But now that it is written I would rather like to have it published. Until a book is published one learns nothing from it, one does not grow beyond it, one cannot get on the next step.

  • ... we are all islands — in a common sea.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh,
    • 1948, Against Wind and Tide ()
  • Only when a tree has fallen can you take the measure of it. It is the same with a man.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • One can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay 'in kind' somewhere else in life.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • We have never talked together the way we have sometimes in letters. Why do I meet people better in letters?

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • It takes as much courage to have tried and failed as it does to have tried and succeeded.

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish ...

    • Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • And one perfect day can give clues for a more perfect life.

  • I believe that true identity is found ... in creative activity springing from within. It is found when one loses oneself.

  • A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, U.S. writer, poet, aviator

(1906 - 2001)

Full name: Anne Spencer Morrow Lindbergh.