I just finished reading Against Wind and Tide, the final collection of letters and journals (1947-1986) of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Many of us know her as the wife of Charles Lindbergh, one of the great pioneers in aviation. But she was also a writer in her own right. Her most famous book, Gift from the Sea, was first published in 1955 and has never been out of print.
Anne, the daughter of Dwight Morrow, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met Charles Lindbergh in Mexico City in 1927. In many ways they were opposites. He, a practical and restless man, was America’s hero and known all over the world.
Anne, on the other hand, was a quiet and shy young woman, an introvert and poet. They were married in 1929. Charles taught Anne to fly and she soon became a very skilled pilot. Anne and Charles flew all over the world together–often in an open cockpit plane–exploring air routes from North America to Europe and China, plus air routes from Africa to South America.
But soon tragedy struck. Their first child, Charles, at age 20 months, was kidnapped from his crib in March 1932. Two months later his body was found in a nearby woods. The kidnapping, the ransom note, and ensuing trial caused a media frenzy. The Lindberghs were so hounded by the press and even received death threats against their second son, they eventually retreated to England. (Her books Bring Me a Unicorn and Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead tell of her courtship, marriage, flying, and the kidnapping.)
Anne and Charles had five other children: Jon, Land, Anne, Scott, and Reeve. Charles died in 1974, Anne in 2001. After Anne’s death, her children learned that their father had had several affairs in the 50’s and 60’s and was the father of several other children in Europe whom he financially supported. In Anne’s diaries and letters from this time period, she often describes her husband’s long absences–weeks or even months at a time. I kept wondering: Did she know? Anne herself formed close friendships with many individuals–including two men of note. In the introduction to Against Wind and Tide, her daughter Reeve says she believes these relationships “were not physical but emotional.” They were “affairs more of words than caresses.” Before she died, Anne confessed to Reeve that at one point she had seriously considered leaving Charles if things didn’t get better. Her daughter asked, “Why didn’t you leave him?” Anne said simply, “Things got better.”
I’m fascinated by Anne Morrow Lindbergh for several reasons. First, her book Gift from the Sea makes her one of the earliest advocates of the environmental movement (some say) and puts her also in the forefront of so-called “feminist literature.” I also enjoy her thoughts on writing. Here’s one I resonate with: “I cannot see what I have gone through until I write it down. I am blind without a pencil” (p. 152). When Charles’ book on his historic flight across the Atlantic won the Pulitzer prize, Anne admits her jealousy. After all, she put her own writing on hold for several years to help him with his book. I appreciate her honesty.
Anne’s letters and journals show a woman struggling to balance being a wife, mother, celebrity, daughter, sister, friend, writer, and grandmother. Aren’t we all trying to balance the various “roles” we play in life? The book also highlights Anne’s vulnerability. When one of her books received a scathing review from the poet John Ciardi, she confesses her “shock” at “his attack so full of venom and hostility.” His words make her feel “trapped by my name, my fame, my money, my position, my marriage.” Then she adds, “the real trap is my sensitivity–my inner vulnerability–my own weakness” (p. 158).
The book also contains an unpublished manuscript chronicling the first year after her husband’s death. It is a poignant description of the grieving process and would be of interest to anyone mourning a significant loss. Anne also lived long enough to bury many of her closest friends, her daughter Anne, and a young grandson Jonathan. In the 1990’s she suffered several strokes and became frail and confused. Eventually she was moved into a small house on Reeve’s Vermont farm, receiving full-time care and daily visits from her daughter. Reeve’s book No More Words describes the last year of her mother’s life. Anne died in 2001.
Anne loved the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit. She found these words of his particularly meaningful: “What would become of our souls, Lord, if they lacked the bread of earthly reality to nourish them, the wine of created beauty to intoxicate them, the discipline of human struggle to make them strong?” Anne Morrow Lindbergh (like all of us, I hope) was nourished by the bread of earthly reality, intoxicated by created beauty, and became strong and beautiful through the human struggles of her particular life.
Is there anything about Anne Morrow Lindbergh that moves you, impresses you, or makes you wonder?