Island Reflections on Important Clutter

A few years ago NPR did a wonderful piece on Anne Lindbergh, daughter of a U.S. diplomat and wife of legendary aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Hers was a busy, complicated life. She also knew tragedy. In 1932 her first-born son was kidnapped and murdered. She endured the high-profile trial in 1935, which led to the conviction and execution of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. During WII when Charles spoke admiringly of German aviation technology, he was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and once again Anne was drawn into the public eye.

At heart she was a writer, and while enjoying a break from the chaos of her very public life, she wrote the beloved classic, Gifts From the Sea on Florida’s Captiva Island.

Most of us have enjoyed a vacation where we have relaxed in a quieter, slower-paced place that affords the opportunity to dream about a simpler, less complicated life. We’ve thought of we could just move there, we would slow down and enjoy the contemplative life for which we yearn.

I know this story well. For over twenty years we vacationed in the laid back San Juan Islands (on Lopez) of Washington State, and I regularly talked with my family about moving there. My family warned about the slow pace not suiting me, that I would go stir crazy in a month or two, that you can take the boy out of the city, but not take the city out of the boy. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Now that I’ve lived on Orcas Island for four years, I’ve learned a thing or two about Island life and myself. One of them is captured in a simple Anne Lindbergh phrase, “It is not merely the trivial that clutters our lives, but the important as well.”

Life on the island has reduced the clutter of the trivial, but being on Orcas has also added new important activities to some important off-island ones already in place in my life.

Some it has to do with my stage in life. Early in your career you work hard to progress from good to better, then from better to best, and it is relatively easy to let go of the lesser to advance to the more significant. But what to do when your life is full of best-best-best?

This is what I am working on these days and it is not easy.

I realize I need clarification on what is truly important. Some of what I think is critically important, my friends and family find easily dismissed. Who is right? Usually they are.

I also realize I need to significantly reduce my own sense of my importance. Other people can do a lot of what I do and I need to release it. This Easter when I spoke about Jesus handing his mission off to the woefully inadequate disciples, the thought entered my wee little brain, if Jesus could hand of his mission to these goofs, why do you think you are irreplaceable? Good question. Let go of some stuff stupid-head.

I know the closer I am to God the more likely it is that I can hear God and find guidance from the divine. It is the sheep that stay close to the shepherd that can hear and recognize the shepherd’s voice. This means more solitude and stretches set aside for prayer and thoughtful reflection. Counter-intuitively, the busier you are, the more you need this.

I now know of the many wonderful provisions Orcas Island, the most beautiful place on earth, has offered me, making decisions for me is not one of them.


Posted in Staublog in May 26, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to Island Reflections on Important Clutter

  1. Dick Staub on May 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

    […] It is not merely the trivial that clutters our lives, but the important as well. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts form the Sea. Read More. […]

  2. joshua on May 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    i think this reality is just dawning on me…more time 2 be still before God. Thanks 4 this blog.

  3. Scott Nolte on May 27, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Thanks for your post today Dick. I find myself caught between my competing worlds: a slower “sitting-in-an-Italian-piazza-with-an -espresso” dream and the fun-crazy churn of being in rehearsals and meetings 50 hpw reality. Work-Life-Rest balance? Worth more thought and reflection.

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