North to the Orient
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Release Date: September, 1966
Anne Morrow Lindbergh's own description of her life, and that of her husband Charles Augustus, is as great a love story as has ever been told... ...and "North to the Orient" but a mere chapter!
They seemed destined to be at each other's side, living tales such as this.
Anne describes best her attempt to chronicle this aerial and literary journey for her reader:
"I have not written a technical account of a survey flight on the great circle route from New York to Tokyo. I do not know enough to write one, and if I did, the time for doing so would be past. Aviation moves a long way in four years. No geographical knowledge can be gained from reading my story. We constructed no maps or charts, and I have not even kept a scientific record of all the territory passed. It is not in any sense a guidebook. Our stops were so short and hurried that only a superficial picture remains. Nor is each point on our route portrayed, but only those which seem to warrant description for the vividness of impression."
She adds pointedly that, "It was not that we arrived in Baker Lake on August third by plane, but that three hours of flying had brought us from the modern port of Churchill to a place where no white woman had ever been before...", concluding that:
"One has only to see the chasm between accessibility and isolation--narrow, so one could reach across, but deep as time--to appreciate what can bridge it."
In "North to the Orient", we gain the opportunity to see air travel pioneered "first person"--through the eyes of a woman--yes:
...but not as baggage or ballast, but rather, as a working participant in an important expedition.
...one who crews not only a primitive, tandem-cockpit aircraft of wood and fabric, but also operates its radio of tubes and coils where transmissions are made via a Morse Code key.
...and one who also flies this wooden wonder into the unknown, as her companion silently rests--trusting, and not fearing--while she takes him to places he too, has never known.
I think that is where the beauty lies--not in the journey or the adventure itself--but how she somehow manages to remain side-by-side with her companion in life; how he responds and thrives just by being in her eyes; and how she is needed.
How no one dares question this soulfully-dependant relationship between the two!
Rather, all the world endeavors in its attempt to understand these two lovers and adventurers...
...and in understanding her, in particular.
One marvels at her words from the confines of the cockpit, as they embark from North Haven on the first leg of their dangerous journey, leaving friends, family, and even their baby behind, on this remarkable, selfless quest:
"The day was hard and clear and bright, like the light slanting off a white farmhouse. The island falling away under us as we rose in the air lay still and perfect, cut out in starched clarity against a dark sea. I had the keenest satisfaction in embracing it all with my eye. It was mine as though I held it, an apple in my hand. All the various parts of it were mine at the same moment; the crowd on the pier, the little rocking boat in the harbor where my family waved, the white farmhouse on the point where my baby was. What a joy to hold them all in my eyes at once, as one tries, saying good-by to a person, to possess all of them in one look."
She, this tiny Columbus, venturing out toward the excitement of the unknown, and yet--stopping for just a moment to glance back, longing for one more memory of the present day, before advancing toward the night.
On this day--and on this journey--no longer were mankind's accomplishments to be measured by the acts of hundred-man crews in vessels of wood and sail, to be led by a single commander.
Nor would an "Eagle" venture forward in a small, frail craft, alone.
For now a woman was unconfined...untethered...rendered equal.
On this day, a husband-and-wife team would dare brave the worst of nature's elements--fragile in the moment--as they were but two souls alone in uncharted skies, living both a love and an adventure...ethereal.
Thus, here is where Anne's story truly begins:
"Our route was new; the air untraveled; the conditions unknown; the stories mythical; the maps, pale, pink, and indefinite, except for a few names, far to the east of our course, to show that someone before us pointed his ship, also, 'North to the Orient'."
And as Anne re-lives this modern-day "Odyssey", descriptive images follow, taking us on a journey not so much involving destinations, but rather, a journey of adventure; a journey of rare natural and human gifts that she came to experience, and of an even rarer selection of people they met along the way.
Thus, "North to the Orient" becomes a reiteration of "life lived at its fullest"...
...an awakening for those who read this story, and no doubt...
...a hope within Anne that--by having written this masterpiece chapter in the love story of her life--she will inspire others to go forth!
"North to the Orient", along with all the writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, come with the highest recommendations of this reviewer.
I consider all her works to be a "must-reading" for men in particular, if one should ever hope to comprehend the true beauty that exists within women...
...those who, like Anne, possess their own sense of liberty, and who follow their own paths of maturity to womanhood, while rejoicing in the adventure that is the human experience.
Three years after her marriage to Charles Lindbergh, Anne Morrow Lindbergh left her infant son with her mother and a nanny in North Haven, Maine, strapped herself into the open cockpit of a Sirius floatplane, and flew with her husband to the Orient, following the Northwest Passage through arctic Canada and Alaska that her husband was surveying for the airlines. Her literate, supremely controlled prose is remarkable quite beyond the adventure itself. A year after her return, Anne Morrow faced the horror of her child's kidnapping and its aftermath and quite understandably fell into a prolonged depression. She wrote "North to the Orient" partly to rescue herself from the isolation and despair of those circumstances. The memoir went on to win the National Book Award and launch a celebrated career. You will not believe how gracefully she writes, what suspense she contains in her tight chapters. Finishing it, Anne Morrow Lindbergh not only contributed a literary adventure tale on a par with Wilfred Thesiger's "Arabian Sands." The writing of the book itself was a courageous act. This is one of the great neglected works of American nonfiction.