This is complicated when I'm reading a book, especially a diary or autobiography as I am now in Anne Lindbergh's The Flower and the Nettle. When reading a book like this, someone else's inner voice contributes continually to the conversation.
I'm nearing the end now and often ponder what to share here with you about the book. What quotes to share, what concepts to address from the turbulent days she was living, what personal struggles of hers to talk of. She was a private woman and loathed any public attention, which attention persecuted them for years -- think of the paparazzi's pursuit of the royal family, except with ordinary people untrained to handle it.
If I had to summarize what seems her primary struggle, it's finding any kind of workable balance between the home life she loves and the public life she feels obligated to. In 1938 her husband Charles traveled to various countries at their request to examine their aviation programs. It was impossible to separate this task from war preparations. Anne cannot seem to keep herself from traveling with him, leaving their baby boys at home with a nurse.
On August 5 she writes:
"I decide to go with Charles. I hate to leave the children, especially Jon, right now. And I don't want much to go to Russia, but feel I must. It is part of the European picture. Charles must know it and I must go so we can talk it over together."
|Anne later, with her three youngest children|
"Why do I go? Why do I keep my eye on that white speck [Charles, walking away from the house] as far as I can see it? ... I must go, I must be part of Charles's life. I must go even though I am afraid to go."
They travel by plane, which Charles pilots as she sits behind. They don't come back home until Sept. 10. On Sept. 20 they leave again, for London. Political events keep them there longer than expected. She writes:
"... today I am desperately tired and like a fighting animal inside wanting to get back to the children. Each delay seems unbearable. it takes so much energy to be patient that I can do nothing else all day. I am worn out by the struggle" (419).
And again, "A nice talk with Silvia Monnet about women's struggle to choose between husband and children. We are both, however, very tired from train trips" (427) The photo below shows how far she went to enter her husband's world.
Her inner voice, struggling with itself inside the privacy of her diary, rattles around in my head during the day. It's hard to hear her political questions, knowing how history will disappoint her. It's hard to hear her adoring devotion to Charles, knowing how their marriage will turn out. It's hard to hear her desperate love of Illiec, the private, rocky island on France's coast with a single house that they bought in 1938, knowing they will leave in December and never return. I want to reach into the pages of her diary, gently shake her by the shoulders, and say, "No, no, Anne. Don't go there. Don't think that." Now I want to read all her diaries, but they're so very long, and I have other reading on my list.
Adam and I met a 22 year old girl recently who had given up her cell phone and computer. We are convinced that, in spite of the criticism of today's youth regarding social media addiction, the older generations are just as bad - so many are also glued to their smart phones. I admire anyone willing to put aside technology and turn their eyes to green trees and blue sky and real faces. I wonder if more young people will do this -- seems unlikely. I'm tempted! I'm not on my phone much; the screen is too small. And I'm neither blogging nor facebooking as much as before. Technology and social media connections don't seem to contribute to the peaceful, slow life that I want. I've let many things distract me from the life I actually want, from the relationships that endure. Like Anne, we're all torn by obligations, and during early motherhood we're particularly bad at choosing.
When I finish Anne's book, perhaps I'll share more. I do recommend it if you find it, as I did, in the free bin at the thrift store. Her voice is worth knowing.