I happened upon a cool website yesterday: the Marine Biology Lab in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The piece that caught my eye was a story about a professor from UCSF who has started a web series called iBio; a series of free video lectures and vignettes by the world’s best biologists. There was one story that spoke to my Novofemina side. Ed Taylor and Gary Borisy (the MBL’s president and director) spoke about their discovery of a fundamental structural protein in cells, now called tubulin, in the mid-1960s when Borisy was a Ph.D. student in Taylor’s lab.
Taylor’s takeaway lesson? “Choose an important problem when you are just starting out (in science). Don’t work on a trivial problem. Then, if you succeed, you’ve really done something good.” And Borisy’s: “Sometimes you encounter contradictory results, paradoxes. Don’t sweep those under the rug. Resolving those can bring you to your answer.”
Why did this speak to me? You see I am twenty weeks into my quest to bring further understanding to the topic of women’s transition. I am thoroughly energized by the process of writing although today I feel no closer to an answer than I did in April. Next week I plan to step back to assess what I’ve learned so far. What I can say is that….
Almost sixty years ago women and men were grappling with a lot of the same issues. My lens into this is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea, written in 1955. The book is a quick wonderful read that surveys relationships throughout a woman’s life albeit veiled in a 1950’s existence. Relationships are defined in the broadest sense: a continuing arch that begins with self and family but includes community demands; national demands; and international demands – through social and cultural pressures. (Gift pg 26 and 27) Lindbergh utilizes sea shells to anchor the reader in understanding her observations on each life stage. This book is one of my all time favorites – I even used a passage from this book at my wedding.
Lindbergh lived in the national spotlight. She and her husband were aviators who chartered previously unmapped air routes around the globe. She underwent wrenching torment when her first child was kidnapped and subsequently killed. She went on to have 5 children but publicly explored ideas and thoughts very unpopular at the outset of WWII. Over the years I’ve encountered many who discredit her work due to this phase.
For this week’s book, I am focusing on her 1950’s timepiece alone. Here are a few tidbits that make me think that we live in Bill Murray’s Ground Hog Day. A lot of these comments we’ve encountered in other Novofemina summer books:
- “Woman’s creation is often invisible.” (Gift pg 46)
- “Not knowing how to feed the spirit we try to muffle its demands in distractions.” (Gift pg 52)
- Woman must come of age by herself. This is ..”to learn how to stand alone. She must find her true center alone.” (Gift pg 96 & 134)
- Here is one that I haven’t encountered at all this summer. “Can one learn to live through the ebb-tides of one’s existence?” (Gift pg 109) “Each cycle of the tide is valid. The sea recedes and returns eternally.” (Gift pg 110)
- “A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side.” (Gift pg 115)
- “And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.” (Gift pg 119)
I do feel as if I’ve stepped into the unknown with this transition. I realize from speaking to many of you that I’m not alone. Maybe we all need to follow Lindbergh’s example of a solitary sojourn to the sea. This reminds me of the dune shacks in the outermost reaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The 19 shacks exist in Provincetown, available for weekly rental to artists and writers or anyone who seeks a time away. No amenities. There is a lottery to gain access to a week alone. Anyone interested?
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