Seals and Solitude: Joan Anderson’s A Year by the Sea

Dear Reader:

Don’t you just love meditative books about soul searching?  I do.  I can never get enough of them. Especially these days when I’m fantasizing about camping, wondering if April is too early to go, and salivating over that instant tent with the screen room attached.

There’s nothing better than quiet time, reflecting and relaxing with a good book.  Like many of you, I struggle to find really good quality time free from the distractions of guilt (I should be doing something more productive), video games (darn you, Fruit Ninja!), and obligations.

497) A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson, 1999 (hard copy)  

Joan is married with two grown, married sons.  She and her husband have descended into the awfulness of an unhappy marriage.

When her husband takes a new job and they sell their house, it becomes an apt time to separate, she heading for their Cape Cod summer cottage and he to a new home and city.  With limited income from her books and other writings, Joan takes work at a local fish market – hauling fish and ice, ringing up sales, and enveloping herself in a new world.  This enables her to pay her bills and jars her out of her old life.

Throughout her year, she struggles to find direction.  The book describes her work to increase her ease with herself and her path forward – taking risks (swimming with seals, driving in snowstorms), making affirming new friends, and learning self-confidence that improves her relationships.

I enjoyed this book a lot – it definitely remind me of Taking Stock and Drinking the Rain discussed last fall.  Both are stories of women dissatisfied with their lives and taking to the sea to sort things out and increase their self-sufficiency.  A Year by the Sea is perhaps more poetic, less focused on hunting and gathering, more inward-focused than Taking Stock.  But both are very good and I envy the authors their time “away from it all.”

Ruby follow-up

Thank you all for your concern and well-wishes for Ruby, my 14 year old retriever mix who had a stroke last month.  She is doing well, showing no permanent damage, and experiencing a reduction in arthritis pain due to having her fourth in a weekly series of eight Adequan shots (her second round, we did this when she was 12 right after she came to live with me). She’s back to doing long hikes with us although she’s slower, but few 98 year old humans hike for an hour, so her abilities remain remarkable.

Ruby, Winter 2011-12

Morning has broken…

Happy Reading, Ruby!



  1. Wow, a year by the sea sounds nice doesn’t it! I guess we need to settle for spending time by a really, really big lake….
    Yeah for Ruby’s recovery!

    • Hi: Yes, definitely a soft landing for them. We should head out to the big lake this week – McLains – great time to run the dogs out there with no one around, Ruby


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