Peter’s roommate at Yale died from complications from being sent overseas during World War II. Don told Peter something that made a huge impression on him ever since his “bright college years.” “Around every corner is the possibility of the unknown.” I'm continuously astonished by the beautiful ways my life continues to unfold and evolve, leading me in new directions that are deeply satisfying and enriching.
This October has been one of the most spectacular months I remember for the foliage. There’s an impressively large maple tree on Main Street that is ideally framed in the center of our east kitchen window and the window at the end of Peter’s writing room. Watching all the leaves turn pinky-orange and saluting her throughout the day is one of the great gifts of October. The foliage makes me feel exhilarated and glad to live in this beautiful part of the planet, year round. Peak foliage kept peaking, and the tourists kept coming to see for themselves.
I have a friend who lives on a lake nearby and to sit quietly and stare, letting the energy of the force of nature’s beauty absorb into your essence is a powerful healing tool for anything that might ail you. Looking – and really seeing – with refreshed eyes, as though a huge fog has lifted, is a mindfulness practice that has staying power and enlarges our soul. David told me he and his wife Heidi bought the lake and the house came with it. I perfectly understand because after a violent rain and thunderstorm during Alexandra’s graduation from Connecticut College in 1988, Peter and I stumbled on a humble, homely, taupe-colored house. The ancient white lilac tree hidden in the tiny back yard captured my heart. We bought the lilac tree that was laden with millions of diamonds, sparkling in the sunlight after all that rain. The ugly duckling of a house came with our beautiful, fragrant white lilac tree. Fortunately, we were able to transform our cottage into a swan, and realize how vitally important it is to our sense of well being to be ensconced in an aesthetically beautiful natural environment.
I began October spending a few nights at a nearby inn to weather the impending storm. We were spared a hurricane that went out to sea but there were several days of heavy winds, rain, and flooding, and I didn’t want to risk being trapped inside the cottage because it might have been too dangerous to walk about. Rather than returning home after the sun came out, I stayed a third night because I was all settled in, and the fact that no one but my immediate family knew where I was, allowed this outing to be a refreshing change and mid-fall vacation, rather than an inconvenient distraction. I was sequestered in a favorite corner room at the Mystic Marriott Inn and Spa, with two expansive views of a reservoir and tall stately trees, isolated from the real world.
Spending a few days withdrawn into seclusion was stimulating for my work. The desk is on wheels, where I place it at an angle in the center of the space that commands the best view; I light candles, and feel comforted in the cozy atmosphere with miniature pots of pink roses reminding me there is no bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. What a treat to be able to take an elevator to enjoy my meals in the good restaurant in the lobby, have Frank deliver the New York Times every morning, and have a coffee-tea maker right there.
When I’m alone at a hotel or inn, I’m kept company by my inner resources and my work, the companionship I’ve grown to appreciate more and more over this past year. I didn’t really grasp the significance of Eleanor McMillen Brown’s apt words, “Living takes time,” when she uttered them well over fifty years ago. It is perfectly possible to rush around from one thing to another without a break, with no let up from being “busy.” In my solitude, and deep contemplation about so many of life’s unanswerable questions, I have made a commitment to be deeply engaged wherever I am. As Lao-tzu, the ancient Greek sage, reminds us, “the way to do is to be.” Whenever I’m mindfully absorbed in whatever I choose to focus on, the universe keeps expanding exponentially, and where I am becomes a most pleasant place. Sometimes Alexandra and Brooke refer to me as “gum” because wherever I am is exactly where I want to be, and if for some reason it isn’t, I’ll feel it and move to a more appropriate place. These choices are ours, to a larger degree than we understand, and are important to be acutely aware of as we move about. We are energy. Everything has spirit-energy and the more sensitive we are to the nuances of our spirit of place, the more inner peace and atmosphere we will experience from the time spent in one place versus another.
Cooper, Brooke and Tony came for a long weekend over the Columbus holiday, and we enjoyed celebrating Cooper’s 7th birthday early. The following weekend we planned a birthday party for her in our party room, the kitchen. I agree with Charles Baudelaire: I have more memories than if I were a thousand years. We have celebrated all of Cooper’s birthdays in this special room, with banners, streamers, balloons, cupcakes and brightly wrapped presents. But first we had to spend a few more days with Cooper’s six-ness. Her new front teeth are following gravity and growing in fast. Being almost seven is not the same as being seven, and I was savoring my youngest grandchild’s last few days of being six.
The next weekend we were opening the cottage to show our art collection to the public to raise money for the Historical Society. Cooper and I painted the picket fence together to make it white and bright, enjoying the Indian summer weather. I got pretty excited about the prospect of opening the cottage door to strangers and being able to give them an intimately personal guide to the artists I’m most passionate about. This event gave me incentive to make a few subtle improvements to the cottage that I’ve been putting off for months.
The great reward was Alexandra coming Saturday morning with her daughters Anna and Lily. Tony drove Brooke and Cooper and the cottage would be “party ready.” The expression “party ready” rings true to us all because if our house is in good order it is natural to want to reach out to others and invite them over. But when our house is a bomb shelter, you want to double bolt the door and close the blinds.
The Historical Society event, “Behind Stonington’s Doors” offered guided tours of Notable Private Collections at seven houses with diverse architecture and styles. After lunch we all went to several of the houses, including several of friends and acquaintances. I’ve always been absolutely fascinated in observing how people live and how they bring themselves into the colors and decorations. One house, modest from the outside, at the very end of Church Street, won the prize. Five years ago, a couple with vision turned this carriage house inside out. Originally it was oriented toward land, with pretty flower gardens. The new owners blasted open the wall, creating a feeling of being on a boat, with windows to the floor and uninterrupted expanses of water just above Little Narragansett Bay. Alexandra told a friend later in the day that after viewing this house meant she’d never be happy again because no house could ever be as exciting as the experience of living “on the sea.” What a thrill. We polled the gang at dinner and from 1 – 10, this “boat house” was a unanimous 10.
Cooper loves Halloween. A lot of people do, but I’m not one of them. I would do anything I could and jump high hoops to be with my grandchildren, but not on Halloween. I took a train to New York City on Saturday to house swap, staying in Cooper’s freshly redecorated room – at her invitation – in the New York apartment, for one night to escape the craziness of this holiday, and to enjoy the city.
That admission behind me, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, something I enjoy celebrating in spirit throughout the year. Being thankful uplifts our spirits and scatters joy. I’m going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the Thanksgiving holiday this year to watch my 14 year old grandson play in a golf tournament and to spend several delicious days with my grandchildren on vacation.
On my birthday, Sunday, November 8th, I’m going to Concord, Massachusetts to give a talk at “Tea for the Troops” to raise money for the Wounded Warriors. Please try to come, spread the word and see how you can become involved. (Please see Calendar section for additional details.)
In the spirit of Thanksgiving I’d like to wish you the happiest Thanksgiving holiday season ever, and hope that the true meaning of the holiday enlarges your consciousness of just how abundantly blessed we all are, and how deeply grateful I am personally for the love and affection you and your friends have showered on me over these exiting years of mutual support and inspiration that has helped shape the happiness of my life.