Happy March. Each month has its season and significance. My first-born child, Alexandra, was born in March, as was my beloved Peter. I intend to celebrate every day as beautifully as possible while basking in the glow of all the fascinating people I’ve met on the last two retreats.
January was a month where I studied, wrote, and enjoyed my deep reflection period before the retreat. As I wrote last month, whenever we research wellness, we focus on affirming our own lives as we gain insight into ways our experiences can be useful to others.
As I enjoy the gentle rhythm of my working rituals, I’m so aware of how much flowers mean to me in these winter months when our garden is not in bloom. I’d found some hyacinths in glass containers at Trader Joe’s – white, purple and pink, showing the white angel hair spaghetti-like roots under the bulbs. Glancing at these plants while working at the desk in the kitchen makes me aware of our need to feed our soul. For me, “Buy half a loaf of bread to feed our body and with the change, buy a hyacinth to feed the soul,” is a prescription for greater well-being. Wellness is a healthy state of being. Making wise choices about how we treat our body, mind and spirit puts us on the right path, headed in the right direction, but as we all well know, we can become ill no matter how careful we are about our preventative measures.
I’ve been awakening pre-dawn since Alexandra was born, allowing myself quiet time to work before the rest of the world becomes active. This reflective, peaceful quiet time has become so sacred to me I feel I have sweeter dreams knowing I can depend on several uninterrupted hours to calmly greet the sunrise. While I go to sleep in the dark and open my eyes in the dark, having flowers around me brings me great comfort and joy. Hyacinths smell so lovely when I am breathing in their sweet scent while in bed. When I go downstairs to the living room I smell the lilies, and around the corner to the kitchen, I smell the blooming jasmine plant. Living plants and flowers bring our interior spaces to life. Having their color, form, beauty and fragrance around me keeps me company without asking anything from me except water and sunlight. When I nurture nature, I am loving being present to admire the awesome beauty in front of my eyes. I look forward to tending to my plants and flowers, rearranging the different vases, cutting down the stems as they need to be edited. A good friend, Charles Masson, who wrote the beautiful book The Flowers of La Grenoville believes we don’t arrange flowers, they arrange themselves. So true. The more we love flowers, the more naturally we know what they want to thrive.
In addition to enjoying my pretty flowers in all their glory, I love lighting lots of candles around me in the cottage. I’m particularly fond of lemongrass, jasmine, and gardenia scents, and believe in the healing power of fragrance. I use eucalyptus in my infuser and spray lemongrass and eucalyptus in the shower. Often, when I peel oranges, I boil them with clove essence oil as I breath more deeply into the moment.
Starting last summer I took all my scrapbooks and loose photographs to a photo lab to have 4”x6” prints made. This project began because I wanted to give my daughter Brooke a present she would treasure for her 50th birthday. By going back in my personal history, I was able to re-live my life backwards. On her birthday in September at an enchanted luncheon in an enclosed garden in a restaurant of Charles Masson’s, I gave her several white photo boxes, visually unfolding her past. Alexandra was equally thrilled to see and recall parties, travel scenes, and quiet moments captured on camera. I gave Alexandra’s twins, Anna and Nicholas, their history for their birthday in early October. March is upon us and I recently picked up two heavy boxes from the photo lab to sort through. Each picture captures a moment we’re now able to relive, laugh about, and remember with the added perspectives of all the years that brought us to our age and place in the world.
Dorie, from Lexington, Kentucky wrote me that she wanted all my books in hard cover. She also mentioned she’d love to attend a Happiness Retreat but couldn’t take three days off from her job as a high school librarian. I wrote her and suggested she fly in the morning of my seminar in order to only miss two days of work. Not only did Dorie come, she bonded with another librarian from Illinois, and is planning to meet with another new friend, Susan, an artist from Ohio soon. I asked Dorie what she wants me to write about in my new book. She responded in a letter, “How can I tell you what to write? You write about living beautifully – exactly what we all need. Keep writing about how to live beautifully – maybe how to continue how to live beautifully as things and people change over time? My mother just celebrated her 75th birthday and her very young grandson asked her how she got to be that old. He is five. My mother responsed, ‘one day at a time.’”
Our life is made up of moments, many quiet rituals we perform for ourselves and our family to honor the present and be grateful for the grace that we experiences right here, right now, in front of our nose. Between my research on happiness, my writing on inner peace, and my nostalgic experience sorting through thousands of photographs, I’m aware how precious time truly is, our Time Alive.
Great news. My book Grace Notes: A Book of Daily Meditations is now available in the pocket size 4”x6” original format from 1995 through Bank Square Books. Anastasia is the book store’s new author event manager. Copies are limited, so call Anastasia at 860-415-4406 to order a copy.
The January retreat was magical. Other than good friends, Ann and Roger who also came to the November event, everyone was new to come to the inn. Susan, from Ohio, gave Peter and me two teas at her home 25 years ago when we were on a book tour. Dianne – the librarian from Illinois – and I met at the restaurant Breakwater four and a half years ago. Breakwater is located behind the Inn at the harbor’s edge and where we have our candlelight banquet during our Happiness Retreats.
One thing leads to another. Dianne was in her assigned room at the Inn when she noticed a book entitled Alain on Happiness written by a great French humanist, Emile Chartier, a philosophy teacher who died in 1951 at 83. As a curious librarian, Dianne was drawn into his useful observations about an elusive goal, happiness, the subject of the retreat. Once home, she tried to obtain a copy for their local library where she works and was told this is a rare book. Translated from the original French, Propos sur le bondeur in 1982, this is the only book by Alaine, the writer that was published in English. The owner of the inn, Bill Griffin, generously gave me the book, knowing how much I would value learning about a French philosopher who wrote about my favorite subject.
Jill Wilson had a yoga meditation retreat at the inn where I spoke about happiness, and the next day, “More Happiness.” This event was also touched with magic. There was a couple staying at the inn from Massachusetts for a two-day get-away and asked if they could join our retreat. Nancy and Chris came to the cottage the following day, as well as going to the the Mystic Seaport Museum to view the Turner exhibition that was our loan from the Tate Gallery in London. Jill’s husband Jeff is a contractor who supervised the boat-like structure where the paintings hung. Many of the watercolors were on display from the first time.
Saturday morning after Nancy and Chris checked out of the inn, I invited them to come to the cottage for a one-on-one visit. They are both writers and Chris was a publisher, making our conversation lively indeed. I’m writing about synchronicity in my new book. I know we were all meant to be together for reasons that will continue to be revealed to us as we stay connected. One thing leads to another. Our happiness increases when we recognize all of these grace notes in our lives.
I’m wildly excited about the Happiness Retreat on Wednesday the 11th and Thursday the 12th at the inn, and a visit and book sale at the cottage Friday the 13th. Please throw all caution to the wind and come. Call the inn at 860-535-2000 and inquire about details.
I’m so excited to see you all at the retreat. I understand what a huge effort you are making to come. I appreciate you. If you want to come to a happiness retreat but are unable to attend this month, please let me know or contact the inn for future events.
Spring is near!
I’m off to see my granddaughter Cooper perform in her school musical, Oliver Twist, in New York City. She sings and dances as a begger boy in the chorus!
“Love & Live Happy”