Happy birthday Sweet Peter

Dear Friends,

Happy month of March. February, the month of love, was celebrated tenderly. Winter is such a wonderful time to appreciate the comforts and cozy atmosphere we create for ourselves and loved ones. I spent quiet, gentle days at the cottage, loving the opportunity to write, reflect, read, and love life. Just a year ago I gave a talk, “Living in Love,” at our cultural center, the LaGrua Center. To celebrate the occasion, Living in Love was reprinted, along with Tea Celebrations. Friends came from near and far; we had a candlelit dinner at a restaurant on the water, Breakwater, a three minute walk from the LaGrua Center.

I continue to thrive in love. What astonishes me is the flowing abundance of opportunities we all have to love our lives more richly, every step of our way. We learn more about love with every activity and each encounter we have. As I write about “the Good Life,” I am writing about thriving, loving our life. The outside world is the real world, and we are an important part of the energy of peace, love and all things good. Inside the privacy of our sanctuary, we have control over the aura we create. The atmosphere of our private world of retreat is our muse, our companion, the presence of love in all ways tangible and intangible. Whenever we value stillness, life becomes more reverent. When I can only hear the squeak of my fountain pen gliding across the smooth writing paper, I realize I’m in the swing of joy, the harmony of flow, the pleasure of awareness. We all need these moments of awakening to the unremarkable moments of nirvana. The most content moments in our lives can be as simple as the pink stripes in a blue sky at dawn, reflecting in the harbor, or the chime of an old clock that faithfully reports the process of time moving now into a new now.

I can become mesmerized watching the naked tree branches swaying in the sunrises and sunsets. When the wind howls, I enjoy the power of Nature creating waves and white caps in the ocean. Quiet time, when we read and wonder, when we question and reflect, are some of our finest moments that I value as an obligation to my commitment to live in love. Writing is a solitary activity. The time and space around the process is one of mindfulness. These times are our times to think for ourselves, to express our own thoughts, and to resolve to act upon our vision of a better way to live in love.

February was a beautiful opportunity for us to appreciate that we are alive, we have people in our lives with whom we love and we want to help them to flourish. All the love we have for life, for nature, for people, for our work, and for our wise use of our leisure time, is a direct reflection of our love of ourselves. Self-love is intelligent. We are the agents of love. It is through us that we’re able to reach out to others in kindness, thoughtfulness, and grace. Having just seen a performance of the tragic play Macbeth, I’m reminded of another quote of Shakespeare’s: “They do not love that do not show their love.”

“Living takes time.” The wise words of a grand dame, Mrs. Archibald Manning Brown, born in 1890, a mentor, boss and friend, lived by her words. Because you are friends, I’m going to repeat something profound Mrs. Brown told her designers at her legendary monthly meetings at her interior design firm, founded by her in 1924: “If you create beauty for yourself, if you create beauty for others, you will live a long, healthy life.”

I’ve assimilated her profound words of wisdom into my daily rituals. Natural beauty is above us with an ever-evolving change of light, patterns, and colors. Beauty is surrounding us with our every move “peace is every step.” Beauty is inside us. You are familiar with my favorite image of our interior design at its core: “Paint the walls of your mind with many beautiful pictures” – wondrous words from an English professor at Yale, remembered in an autobiography by William Lyon Phelps. Just as living takes time, living well, living the beautiful, good happy life takes more time. Living the good life allows us to “be here now,” seizing every moment to add a spontaneous touch to our actions. When we express a gesture that brings us immediate pleasure, the good of the thought or act builds into an energy, a spirit that comes naturally from an open heart.

Recently the cover of a New Yorker was of a frail grandmother watering her exuberant, over-the-top indoor garden. I sent the cover to my ten year old granddaughter, Cooper, with a postcard of “Girl with a watering can” by Renoir that I have always believed is me – I awoke and became aware in my mother’s flower garden when I was three. Cooper is a self-designated SIT: Secretary in Training. One of her tasks is to help water my garden. We both love to spritz the plants.

One thing leads to another. Good attracts good. By rearranging my writing room to create more space to breathe with my new book as the total focus, I emptied out every shelf and removed everything from the surfaces. A cupboard under a window was in the wrong place now that I have a stand-up desk. Once the cabinet was empty, I realized it wasn’t attached to the wall, and I could slide it into its new location with ease. The kicker was to discover an outlet that had been covered over; now the desk is against the largest of the three windows, I have light, and a better view of the Narragansett Bay.

My sunroom is inspiring. Geraniums are blossoming, Amaryllis is bursting, and tulips are dancing, all with the backdrop of the new white trellis garden fence with twinkling mirror.

Mike the head electrician came to put a spotlight over the round table in the archway joining the two living rooms. The “task” light over my standing desk was a practical indulgence. Seeing the pitcher of dazzling pink and white tulips radiate in light, creating the echo of shadows on the table surface, was such a wise expense. The pleasure this brings to being surprised by this extravagant beauty is both mysterious and magical.

While I tend gardenia plants, patiently waiting for their season to blossom, I added a large gardenia plant to my garden writing room to keep me company in my innermost private Zen room where I spend most of my waking time when I’m alone in the cottage. Paradise is a garden.

February we had a wondrous pink moon. Tulips became available in the grocery store. I attended two birthday parties where pink tulips stole the show. Candles, fire, friends and conversation created indelibly wonderful memories. Tulip-mania is contagious. The impact of one color, one flower is powerful. This reminds me of this coming summer when our tiny back yard garden will became an explosion of blue hydrangea.

Along with all this deep appreciation for the abundance of joy shared with close friends, family, and the stillness in my sanctuary where I worked, there was loss. A favorite librarian Susan died, too young, of cancer, and a friend died of old age at 97. Terry went to dancing class with Peter in Long Island in the early days. Life is moving us all. Impermanence is a continuous reminder to live in love while we are able. I think of each of you as I write. Thank you for your infinite acts of kindness. I intend to have many occasions to celebrate with you in the years ahead.

Happy March. Happy birthday Peter, March 15, 1922.

Love & Live Happy

I identify with this budding gardener

Come join me for tea!

This child is with me as I write!


Peter, always smiling, always learning

Frame a picture of yourself when you were little!

Our Paris terrace

Love & Live Happy

Tulips, tulips, tulips!

Planning ahead .... Please join Alexandra next year and consider a gift certificate for a friend and loved one to attend her 2019 Happiness Retreat and Celebration, at the Stonington Inn to be held November 6th and 7th, departing on her birthday November 8th, 2019, after a visit to the Cottage. To register and for more information please contact Aubrey or Sue at the Stonington Inn (860) 535-2000. Alexandra looks forward to seeing you all then.”

"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."
~~ Goethe

Recommended reading:

Aristotle's Way
By Edith Hall
Bank Square Books in Mystic has a supply!

Making Choices
The Joy of a Courageous Life

Flights of Memory
DAYS before Yesterday A Memoir