I think of a beach book as a mindless, escapism read. One that will pull you out of your own life as a strong tide pulls you further from the shore. A good beach book then plops you back to awareness when reading time is done as the rollers randomly spit shells on to the sand. The next beach day, you can walk right back into a beach read as easily as walking into the surf. A good beach read leaves nothing heavy in your head and can be brushed off like dry sand with only a slight lingering grit to remind you where you've been.
My annual beach read is all the above with some exceptions. It pulls me in like the tide, but I don't float out of its grasp as easily as a shell coughed up by a wave. The coughed up shell is empty, its contents long forgotten in deep waters, but I am full of deep thoughts and reflections.
My annual beach read is never the same. Each year, it brings me something new. Even though I've read the words many times before, their meanings change each year. A new message is floated to me from far off shores every time I read the book. The messages are gifts for me to ponder, cherish and gaze upon all year long.
My annual beach read is Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
Lindbergh's book was originally intended as a private, personal essay written on a solitary vacation at the beach. But after sharing her essay with a few and discussing its contents with others, the universal and timeless concepts it holds became evident. Lindbergh turns a shell-collecting walk on the beach into an analogy for life, equating beach finds to life stages and the treasures those stages hold.
The book speaks to me differently each year as I find myself floating in, out and through life stages. I find certain chapters resonate stronger with me than in previous years. I still relate to the streamlined simplicity offered by the channelled whelk and his compact home with all he needs on his back. But in reality, I am in the oyster bed stage where the outside shell is marred by other small clinging shells and sea debris and the shape is random and bulky. Such is the quality of marriage with children. But the untidy appearance of the oyster shell is complemented by its strength and solidity and the possibility of special treasures within.
As with the different meanings I gain each year from my beach read so are the outward views I have as I read it. This year as I look up from my beach book, I gaze upon the waves and rolls of the Smoky Mountains. The view is inspiring. Maybe when I am wise, I will write the companion book to Lindbergh's. I'll call it Meaning in the Mountains.