Happy April! No fooling! April showers always bring May flowers, and while there are some rainy days in the forecast, the signs of Spring’s exuberance are visible everywhere and our flowers and flowering trees slurp up the nourishing life-creating water. Great personal excitement: the warmer weather is signaling the eight gardenia plans I nourished all winter to begin to show buds.
The entire month of March flowed seamlessly in pleasant quiet rituals and remembrances, focusing my intention on celebrating Peter’s birth and life in festive ways every day. Thanks to those of you whom I was blessed to celebrate with as well as all who sent your love and warm wishes, along with your vivid memories and great personal heart-warming stories. I am a sponge soaking up all of Peter’s great legacy and amazing influence to inspire us to live beautifully. One sad note of recognition of the terrorist’s attacks on Brussels and the unrest in Paris and all over Europe. We are all informed about the evil, and I hope we will use our knowledge to recommit ourselves to living as well as is humanly in our power, under all circumstances in the real world, and hold fast to the values and principles we hold dear.
Our 33 year old stove got tired and it became clear my family wanted me to spring for a new model – one that would dependably allow for my children and grandchildren to be able to bake muffins and cookies for me without burning. Cooper went to the store with us and was the one who spoke to the saleswoman, asking for a white stove. The weekend we celebrated Peter’s 94th birthday, we had a fun dinner party, putting the stove and oven to heavy use as we took full advantage of our new family member – “Cooper’s stove.”
We bought fresh spinach and lettuces at the farmers market in the morning and cookies at the best bakery, Zest, also at the Velvet Mill market, and anticipated the evening at home while celebrating Peter all afternoon, walking around Mystic, going to the fun candy store on the river walk that just reopened, and Bank Square Books, a favorite destination.
Cooper, now 7, keeps Peter alive in so many gestures and rearranging of his symbolic objects and in her stories about him and all the places he occupied in her heart and in the cottage are “happiness stations.” Together we set the banquet table, loaded with candles, sea shells, flowers, and plants. We selected a tablecloth with wide yellow stripes and blue and pink morning glories – an Easter tradition. Dinner preparation was fun with Cooper spinning the spinach and lettuce dry as Brooke and I admired our adoring helper. Our kitchen is uncluttered and a great place to gather at the kitchen table and prepare our dinner, enjoying using the new stove with the instant heat and the new oven that is reliable in the temperature gage.
After delicious tasty treats, including Cooper’s special secret recipe for guacamole, we toasted Peter, and had lots of laughs and luxuriated in the romantic glow of candlelight, grateful we were having a cookie party to always “end with a sweet.” Having our selection of ginger-chocolate chip, peanut butter, and chocolate chip cookies to choose from, we all voted and the ginger-chocolate chip got first prize.
Tony did the dishes and Cooper and I snuggled on a loveseat in the living room and watched “Grease.” I squirmed several times to think that a seven year old was so excited to see it with “Grandmommy.” I loved remembering the music and John Travolta’s dance, and flashed back to the dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman where Peter was burying me a swinging red gossamer silk dress in the same women’s dressing room where John Travolta was supervising his mother trying on the same dress, and, coincidentally, my hero actor in the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Gregory Peck, was buying his wife a pair of bright blue high heel shoes in the adjacent area. A fun memory and retail treat at Fifth Avenue at 58th Street on a high floor with a grand view of Central Park. To extend the fun, Peter and I went to their café and sat at the cozy bar looking out on the park, enjoying the serendipity of these seemingly inconsequential moments that are of little importance, but strung together in the continuous flow of life’s swift orbit, they are fun sparks of recall that add spice to the ordinariness of our everyday lives. The more sweet remembrances we have as our mind deliberately drifts into nostalgia, the richer our present experiences.
At the end of Peter’s life when he’d paint in the kitchen, Cooper would run in to kiss him goodbye before heading off to sailing and science camp a few hundred feet down Water Street. Peter used to say, “Bless your heart Cooper,” but seated, he’d kiss the top of her head and say, “Bless your head Cooper.” As we were snuggling and I was kissing the top of her head, when I repeated his words, Cooper wiggled her shoulders in pleased recollection, in the same spirit as her joy in sitting in Peter Rabbit’s chair for breakfast at the head of the table. Far more enjoyable then paying lots of money to go to a spa to relax, where people are paid to make us feel comfortable, we can be present in the privacy of our own home, content to experience the simplest wonders of our ordinary, quiet, every day normal life. I’ve come to treasure the rituals I establish that bring me dependable hours of constructive pleasure.
By our mindful awareness, we elevate these ho-hum, routine, repetitious moments into intimate scenes of our inner lives where we are the main character, and in many ways, we create the stage setting, the colors, the costumes, the lighting, the mood and spirit of “our home.” The props and the impromptu script, completely prompted by the occasion , where we create “happiness stations” throughout our home, home truly is where the heart is, and our readiness to find great pleasure and meaning in the moment requires being flexible, adaptable, and embracing the real world with the vast range of possibilities for self-reflection and inner transformation.
To the degree that we have the luxury of leisure to be free to live a large portion of our wildly exciting lives extemporaneously, thinking for ourselves, studying brilliant philosophers, we will be surprised by the sense of inner peace and “all’s well in the world” feeling when we’re able to maintain keeping our energy optimistic and positive because we feel secure that we are motivated by love and all the virtues that are good, right and true. In our essence, we are graced with calm and joy. Being present, walking about, observing the beauty our eye and soul yearns for, and creating little pockets of prettiness out of this air when we’re at home does wonders to lift our spirits into higher fires of energy and delight. There is a powerful reward when the reality is that we are doing the best we can.
Before Cooper, Brooke, and Tony headed back to New York, where Cooper was meeting with a team of classmates to work on a large science project, we all embraced the warm temperatures and abundant sunshine, rounding the corner from winter to spring, and we went to Breakwater Restaurant where we sat at a table next to the railing in front of the dock, enjoying having lunch out-of-doors in the salt air at the water’s edge, watching the waves lap to shore, feeling the exhilaration of the enjoyment of right now, while also anticipating having the whole family come for a family vacation this summer in our sweet coastal Connecticut village.
On St. Patrick’s evening, I had dinner with friends at a favorite restaurant in Mystic, Bravo Bravo. Kevin, a friend who is the host at the bar, draws a crowd of regulars. Whenever I’m alone I’m surrounded by his fans whom I find colorful and entertaining. We were a big group and sat in front of the window. When I didn’t order corn beef and cabbage as was the special for the occasion, Carol, the owner, chef, and friend, popped up to go to the kitchen to make me the best grilled toast, tomato bruschetta salad with arugula and a lemon oil dressing. We all shared cauliflower dumplings with a yummy dipping sauce. Voices magnified and everyone began talking over each other – Carol laughed, “It’s a crazy world, but I love it. Aren't’ you happy to be out of the house Alexandra?”
Cooking is Carol’s mission, her passion. She believes she’s been given this special gift in her taste buds. When she’s in a kitchen cooking, she’s in her own private world and loves to use her hands to create delicious taste treats she knows immediately will be appreciated. When someone loves what they do for work, they are energized by it, even if they spend long hours on their feet, and, yes, sometimes there’s excessive heat in the kitchen. Whenever someone complains, it is a sign that, for whatever reason, something is wrong for that person, not wrong in general, and a change is appropriate. Carol is flourishing in the restaurant world she knows and loves so well.
Peter and I both appreciated the restaurant world and going to a new one that had been recommended is always a treat to anticipate. Friends were planning to move to Portland, Oregon on the tidal full moon March 23rd and we planned a celebration near where he’d lived for several years in his late teens in Westbrook, Connecticut, near Old Saybrook and historic Essex. We enjoyed having coffee and tea at a cute shop on Main Street in Essex where the line down the center of the road is painted red, white, and blue, after going to Thomas’s mother’s lifestyle shop on the corner of Main Street and walking about the old village appreciating the 18th century. We dined at Café Routier, indulging in delicious truffle fries with a delicious mystery sauce, a huge upgrade from ketchup or mustard. Eden, Thomas and I ordered several different appetizers and side salads and vegetables, the prize being the vegetable risotto with beets, carrots, and root vegetables. The temperature dropped dramatically and leaving the warm atmosphere of this charming bistro on a Saturday evening, we smelled snow. A late snowstorm was headed toward us. Ironically, the next day was the first day of spring!
As it turned out, the snow began to fall early the next morning. Without exception, no one was looking forward to the return to the cold and snow, except me. I love snow and, because it will come whether I enjoy it or not, the news came as an opportunity for me to experience the majesty of being in the magic of the millions of snowflakes dancing in the air, the kind I loved to stick out my tongue and taste as a little girl. I’ve lived all my life in New England, and I’ve embraced the four seasons. Once again, I was conscious of the quiet, the beauty of the here moment, right on my tongue, when everything is peaceful and fresh, when we’re invited to take deep breaths of awareness, observing just how beautiful and sacred nature is. For several hours I sat at the bedroom writing desk mesmerized, aware I had nothing to do with the circumstances, but soaking in the gift, cozy inside the cottage, observing the winter wonderland was a secret distraction I invited and appreciated the snow scene with the intensity as if it were the first and the last snowstorm of my life. This provided a change, a chance to be still, to look at life refreshed through rose-tinted glasses because after several hours the snow melted in the 60 degree temperatures. For the time it lasted, in my mind’s eye, I was young again and Peter was here with me. The garden looked so pretty through the blue hydrangea plants inside on the kitchen table that will be outside in four months, creating a hydrangea jungle, the beauty summer brings us.
To further stimulate my reverie, I put on some blue striped Wellington boots to run out into he garden, stick out my tongue, look about at the snow-laden trees and hydrangea bushes and crunch in the virgin snow. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Carpe momentium. Some moments are, indeed, big as years.
I wore Easter egg colors. After all, it’s officially Spring! My pastel greens, pinks, yellows, blues, and purples made me smile as I walked about the village with warm temperatures and by late afternoon, not a sign of snow, with dry sidewalks and roads.
My family went on spring vacations during school break and I took the opportunity to go to New York City to enjoy the freedom of leisure to go to museums, a movie or two, and people-watch in favorite familiar haunts of Peter’s and mine in a city we dearly love.
Happy April! March gave me a deeper understanding of the power and glory of everydayness and everyday truly should be the first day of Spring!