Other than one weekend in the middle of August, I have been here at the cottage¬¬, savoring every precious, delicious moment, alone. Brooke and Cooper came on a train in time for dinner at Breakwater, outside overlooking the expansive view of the harbor. Cooper lost her first front tooth the beginning of the month, and when she arrived she gleamed a huge smile, showing me her other baby tooth that was about to come out. She called it, “loosey-goosey.” Being six almost seven is a beautiful age because you believe in magic. She was totally confident that the Tooth Fairy’s magical powers would find her in Stonington Village.
It was probably the most beautiful day of the summer. There was a fresh breeze and the water sparkled with thousands of liquid diamonds. Everyone’s spirits were high as people came to shore from their boats for a delicious dinner. After we put our order in with our favorite waiter, Will, Cooper wanted to go down on the dock, looking for a doggie on a boat who isn’t allowed at the restaurant, or to look closely at the water to see if there were any jelly fish. How could a grandmother be more fortunate than to have the gift of being able to eat on a dock a few hundred yards from her seaside cottage? I don’t take any of these blessings for granted. Spending time with Cooper awakens the spirit of joy in all of us, opening us up to the wondrous world of imagination. Einstein believed imagination is more important than knowledge; information, as we all know, is not inspiration. Cooper opens wide the inner chambers of our soul where make-believe is real when we love and believe.
After dinner Cooper skipped down Water Street with Brooke to go to the ice cream tent at Dog Watch Café, where she was looking forward to having an ice cream sandwich. With the first bite “loosey-goosey” came out! You can only imagine the radiant smile. What a day: Cooper’s last day of summer camp in New York City, the train ride, dinner with Grandmommy, and her second front tooth came out painlessly. There was magic in the air. Her garden was a riot of color, including a blue hydrangea where she had planted a petal. The blueberry and strawberry she and friends placed did not bear fruit, but I explained that in time they assuredly will bear fruit.
When I asked Cooper where the tooth fairy lives, she told me she lives in a huge house above a white puffy loud. Saturday morning she scampered into my bed to show me a purse with five gold coins. Magic. There was a note inside: #4. Earlier she’d lost her two lower baby teeth. Joy is contagious. The bed became a fort. When she lifted up the pastel flowered sheet, the sunlight lit up her fort, turning it into an enchanted garden. Cooper is a garden fairy and wants her doll friends and stuffed animals to come play, all the time talking up a blue storm, having everyone snuggle, hold hands, hug, and celebrate. It would be hard to be in better company. That glorious Saturday morning, I was riding a wave.
Brooke and Cooper went down to the Yellow House to bring me back a hot corn muffin, and returned with the New York Times. What a grace note to have the paper delivered to me to enjoy over breakfast when Cooper heads out to water the garden and make a flower bouquet for me. “Grandmommy, come see my garden.” Music to my ears.
Tony arrived from visiting friends in Newport eager to see his baby girl, who now looked quite grown up with two big girl teeth prominently showing. We all are making memories. The weekend with Cooper reminded me how meaningful these intervals between play dates, playing upstairs in her room, sweeping the deck, watering her garden, doing a puzzle, and reading quietly can be to the quality of a day. I’m able to observe the comings and goings and the excitement of events planned with friends. The invitation to go on a boat with friends caused Cooper to jump for joy, run up to her room, put on a bathing suit, her boat sneakers and her life jacket in hand. How could she contain her exuberance? It’s infectious. Peter always talked philosophically about the interstices, the little gifts of time and events that add up to be the spontaneous moments of pure joy. Being able to experience these small spaces of time between her play dates, makes me endlessly appreciative I’m available, receptive to enjoy whatever comes.
After lunch on the dock at Breakwater, they left for Watch Hill, Rhode Island for their fun outing. When a friend asked me why I didn’t go on the boat ride, I said that I wasn’t invited. They were spending the afternoon and evening with friends. We’ve been together. We’re not meant to have holy fellowship around the clock. Give everyone their space. Never smother or be needy. In my book, Things I Want My Daughters to Know, I introduced “The Five Hour Rule.” Never spend more than five consecutive hours with someone without giving them a break.
Obviously having family come to visit was a highlight of August. Alexandra was on a beach vacation in North Carolina for two weeks with her husband, three children, and golden retriever, making me so happy she was going to be able to rest, read, be quiet, and fill her well before summer ends and her busy life resumes. One of her daughters, Lily, turned twelve the weekend Brooke was here, and I was filled with an expansive sense of love and gratitude. Everyone in my family is thriving, flourishing in their unique ways, independent but interconnected, intertwined and joined together by each other.
Anticipating being alone the entire month before and after Cooper, Brooke and Tony’s visit, I deliberately chose to treat the time and space as a retreat. Rather than leaving to go somewhere else, I decided to come home to my solitude, to embrace the quietude, to get in closer, touch with the transcendent reality of the beauty, peace and depth of happiness available to all of us who are awake and aware of the miracle of being alive. August has been lived mindfully, calmly, quietly, and, to a large extent, mystically, as I concentrated on nurturing my soul. The soul deals in mysterious ways, and I’ve been making a point to focus on living soulfully in the privacy of the cottage, attending to the roses, savoring the fragrant blossoms on one of the eight gardenia plants, enjoying taking outdoor shows, smiling at the bubbles flying in the blue sky when I squeeze the Eucalyptus body wash from the plastic container. I enjoy using colorful beach towels in the summer months, and I wear wide brimmed pastel colored hats.
My former boss, mentor and good friend, Eleanor McMillen Brown, wisely said, “living takes time,” and when someone is willing to withdraw from the “real world” or more accurately, the outside world, it is possible to discover a universe inside that is waiting to be acknowledged and understood. I fully understand what a privilege it is to feel this expansive freedom and grace, and I sympathize with everyone who is struggling and suffering under heavy burdens. But, from my ability to calmly, quietly, gently feel this freedom envelop my soul, I feel these four weeks of endless summer, of the abundant vegetables and fruit in season, and the serious commitment to my work, I’ve made my peace with my decision to nurture my own light in hopes it will shine in all directions.
As Rainer Marie Rilke wrote in his first letter in Letters to A Young Poet, “No one can advise and help you, no one.” I can no longer lean on my literary agent, Carl, any more than I can lean on Peter. They are both manifesting themselves in different forms. What I can do, what brings me such utter joy is to feel their presence in my quietude, in my deep looking, and feeling comfortable in this realm of continuation as everything is continuously changing, transforming and transcending.
By embracing my writing about Peter so completely, I’ve never felt closer to him. Peter left his earthly life last September 25th. I hope you will all help me celebrate his remarkable happy life and happy transition on Friday this year. I hold you all in my heart as I write, and I feel your love and support overflowing in my soul.
Happy September. I’m off to Nantucket to revisit the memories Peter and I made with our family over 40 years ago on Orange Street. Try to remember that day in September and follow, follow, follow.