The sensuous song of September is in the air. I have fallen in love with the refreshing cool breezes and the expansive white cotton candy clouds in the infinite blue sky as we move into a new exciting season of growth and learning.
Happy fall to you and all the precious, exciting new beginnings we will experience. September is the beginning of the emotional year. As children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews go off to school and return to a higher grade, change is everywhere. We return to our teaching, our jobs, our projects, and all our learning experiences. The young grow up and we, when we grow wisdom, grow younger. We are all in transition, in our own way under our personal set of circumstances and longings, as well as our challenges. This month is our opportunity to also go to school, in the privacy of our home, to establish regular uninterrupted time alone to read, reflect, write, and continue to fill our intellectual as well as our emotional well. No one will give us time to study. We carve out time because lifelong learning is our greatest personal happiness.
Peter died five years ago September 25th on a Thursday, at 2:57pm. Unscientifically, the tall hall clock inexplicably stopped. The clock repair man removed all the clock’s guts, tinkered until it kept exact time, and, after keeping a watch over the inner workings in his shop for several weeks, would return it to it’s case here in the front hall of our cottage. I’ve mentioned to you before, what would repeatedly happen: the clock, once at home in the cottage, would stop. The exasperated clock loving man eventually retired to Maine. I’m left with unanswered questions. Why? Is the wooden floor in the cottage uneven? How is it possible a working clock in a hallway would stop at precisely the same time Peter died? My myth is that Peter at 2:57pm stopped breathing. This is Peter ticking, tocking, bonging, and time doesn’t exist anymore to him.
Five years of deepening my love for Peter after he is no longer breathing in his physical body allows me to transcend to a metaphysical realm where spirit energy connects us in mysterious, sensual ways. Ever so casual in Peter’s clock winding, he took pleasure in having all his several clocks ticking away, but purposefully had some gong randomly. His message was playful and profound: “It’s later than you think.” There’s a Zen saying, “What time would it be if all the clocks were stopped?”
Let’s together have this September be a new awakening. I am embracing the change to rethink everything. Everything. I’m reminded what my mentor and former boss, my good friend Eleanor McMillen Brown taught her young designers, “Be careful what you give up.” We never know when we will stumble on something that will be an inspiration for our next idea. We save personal objects that are an autobiography, never sure what will develop into a personal expression of something deeply meaningful. Now is the only real time for clarity, honesty and re-evaluating our lives to focus on our highest purposes.
Each tangible, physical object in my private sanctuary holds a story about the content of when, where, how and why I have a specific pen in my hand, why a hand-marbleized box from Florence, or a coaster from the Ritz Hemmingway bar, or matchboxes from favorite restaurants are clues to how we feel. A flood of my memories with delightful, precious and sacred real-time, real-life, real-place moments come to life when I experience one of these objects as sacred. We alone know what an object we desire to have near us means; some things can’t be explained.
I have an excruciatingly difficult time letting go of meaningful things that have tremendous memories. “Turn every page.” As a writer, it is always an emotional fishing trip exploring my past when I’m discovering and rethinking all the wondrous experiences I’ve been fortunate to have that bring me to this most beautiful September of my early journey. As daunting as this might sound, I am opening every drawer, finding every book, listening to hundreds of CD’s and lectures. I even listen to tapes when I want to hear something from the 60’s and 70’s. I’m taking time to make the book I’m writing completely integrated to the life I’ve lived until now. Peter is, was, and will continue to be, at the center of my heart, always on my mind, and absorbed into Aristotle, Carl, John, Roger and His Holiness.
“Empty and be full.” I completely emptied my writing room. I needed space to breathe. Because I think of September as a time of great growth, I want to clear away any clutter that no longer brings me pleasure or positive feelings. The downstairs of the cottage is for family, friends, acquaintances and community. Upstairs, Peter felt, are “private quarters.” One of the most sacred choices I’ve made in this phase of my life is to have my writing room be my private world of retreat. When I am alone here, I’m never closer to all that I love in the universe. I need to be here with a pen in my hand, in this inner chamber, my high alter to personal beauty and truth. Alone, uninterrupted, I can literally watch one pink lily bud open up on my writing desk in front of me. Being in solitude is a necessary pleasure. Everyone benefits from having a personal space all their own.
In order to escape from the distractions of the world, I always know that the beautiful, soulful space in the cottage awaits my presence. Here I am alone with my own breath, my own energy. I’m able to think, feel, be mindful, dream, dwell, putter, and ponder, on my own terms. No one is near. I have a favorite fountain pen and purple ink pot with a pen rest that purchased in Paris. I’m happiest with a pen in my hand, as a painter is with a brush dipping into fine pigment. “The process is the reality.” When I am in my writing room I am living in this present now moment. Everything is here in my mind, heart and interior space within our cottage. I awaken to the sensual pleasures of smelling the lily, as well as the jasmine. I hear lawn mowers and blowers next door. I can see the recycling truck and hear “rum-rum” of the engine on Main Street in front of a giant oak tree who’s green leaves will turn to flame colors next month.
When I returned from New York after my hip surgery and rehabilitation, I was not allowed to go upstairs. I relived the last months of Peter’s life when we slept in the downstairs bedroom, and I worked at an identical white desk in the kitchen where Peter had painted his beach scenes in refreshing shades of a rainbow of blues, seated at the white kitchen table. I longed to return to my writing room quite understandably, especially to the garden I left in full bloom. Be careful what we wish for because what we long for, we already have. In the hospital rehabilitation room, Brooke re-created a garden for me. Those blooming plants came home with me.
Having been deprived of spending time in my writing room has proven to be a gift. We naturally don’t choose to have loss interrupt the rhythms and rituals we enjoy in own daily lives, but loss is the universal experience of change. When the physical therapist graduated me to be able to climb the thirteen steps upstairs on my own, I returned to my upstairs quarters with fresh eyes and a far deeper appreciation of the importance and value of our private spaces that Peter and I loved so deeply; where we read, write, and loved so intimately.
I have complete freedom to arrange and rearrange Peter’s writing room and mine, creating more “order, beauty and joy to every day” – words that hold profound meaning in the subtitle of “Living a Beautiful Life.” I feel more clarity and purity as I re-live and decide what is still relevant to my present life and work. This project takes time and effort, and I find it exhilaratingly joyful.
My family has gone home. The grandchildren are beginning the new school year. Cooper goes to a new school’s sixth grade. I am in a clean, empty nest, free to create fall projects that require concentration sorting through years and years of accumulation, discovering treasures. As I work on “Man in My Life: A Love Story,” I am reliving my life in full from the time I shook Mr. Brown’s hand and curtsied to him in September sixty four years ago. John Coburn, one of my six men’s wise words, “You never know,” reminds us, we have to be open to whatever we feel brings us closer to our loved ones, no matter where they are on their eternal journey.
“Try to remember that day in September and follow, follow, follow.” Let’s expand our hearts and minds wide open to all the beauty and truth in the preciousness of our being alive, together. As I am invigorated by the cooler temperatures, I am more vigorously and passionately reminded how deeply I love life, and all the timely beautiful souls who bring me so much personal happiness and enlarged purpose. I want you to know how much you mean to me.
Thank you for you. Each of you have reached out to me in your own ways, and are all intricately intertwined in the textures and fibers of my being. Your authentically generous spirits and integrity inspire me. As we celebrate September’s newness, unknown gifts to discover, let us continuously remind ourselves how much we care, how vulnerable we are, and how deeply we want to stay connected to all the positive, loving goodness of great souls – those who cam before us, as well as those who are “becoming.”
Happy September’s births, anniversaries of marriage as well as deaths. Together, in this experience of deepening own commitment to each other, we are living the good life.