The merry month of May was a grand celebration. The snow melted, the buds burst into their full glory of the heralding of spring. One of my most cherished rituals is when the hot pink geraniums are plunked into the empty window boxes surrounding the cottage. This winter was so harsh and the evergreens died and needed to disappear. There were several weeks with nothing, making the neighbors question whether I was moving away. “Empty and Be Full.” I knew we had to wait to be certain we had experienced our last frost. Patience. For Mother’s Day weekend we jumped the usual cycle and put some in the front for photo ops, and with family coming, for good cheer, followed with the full display shortly afterwards. What’s so extraordinarily wonderful about this yearly ritual of welcoming the sun, warmth, the garden blooming and the blessed window boxes, is the interconnection between how the geraniums encircling our living rooms, our study, dining room, two bedrooms, kitchen and buttery is the joy they add to each room in the main floor of our sweet old cottage.
Rooms come alive when there are plants and flowers growing. I can anticipate enjoying this delightful feast to the eye until the next frost – months away. We had a Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington last November 8th and 9th. The afternoon after our cottage visit, when most people were headed home, the temperature dropped 30 degrees within a few hours. The geraniums immediately froze and died. Several years ago on Christmas day it was 68 degrees and they were in their full glory as I wrote about John Coburn, one of the six “Men in My Life,” whose mantra was “You Never Know.” In addition to the glorious geraniums, our white lilac tree is in full bloom, our tiny round patio is bursting with lily-of-the-valley. We have purple iris popping open, pink peonies about to burst open their shells, and forget-me-nots. Most of the roses hugging the picket fence survived the winter and buds are appearing.
Traditionally Peter always assured us we’d have gardenias in the spring. I promised him before he died that I would continue the rituals we’d cultivated over the four decades we were married, and I’m delighted to report, I am moving forward, on track, carrying on with his steadfast guidance and companionship. I now have a huge gardenia plant dripping with buds that I put in the garden to get sunlight and fresh air.
We went to Paris 44 years ago after our wedding reception May 18th, 1974. This year I flew to Paris the night before our anniversary, arriving in the morning, to spend the day in glorious reflection and a heart bursting with feelings of appreciation and celebration.
My favorite chef, Jean Georges, was in Paris at the same time I was, and his brother told me he would be at his restaurant Le Market for lunch. I treated myself to his famous truffle pizza and an amazing salad before going outside in the warm sunshine for my café under flowering topiary fragrant umbrellas. Having a visit with Jean Georges was a special anniversary treat that set the tone for my entire soiree.
The day I left New York City for Paris, I asked Cooper (now 9) where she wanted to be with me during my brief return to Paris to celebrate our 44th anniversary. Without skipping a beat, Cooper said, “next to Peter Rabbit in your heart Grand Mommy.” Bringing Peter and loved ones with me on my journey, wherever my adventures take me, is a powerful revelation for any skeptics who don’t think it possible. I feel Peter’s energy when I walk around the gloriously romantic city that holds so much history and so much of our personal happiness. Returning to Paris refreshes all the accumulated memories that trigger my brain in powerfully, profound dimension, but it doesn’t rest in the past. I feel Peter’s presence, his vibrational energetic connections, comforting me as I feel the mystery of these sensations that are too heartfelt to ever expect others to understand.
The closest friends in our inner circle the last few years that Peter lived on earth, keep him in the present tense. Peter continues to raise me up to “more than I can be.” He raises me up, makes me strong, and my happiness is more than solace. I feel the profound joy of what we lived and loved together. Peter Megargee Brown and I started as respected friends and our intertwining continues to reverberate in my life living with him in his new spirit-energy. May is a sacred month because of our union and our growing devotion. I continue to live in love with Peter in all the realms and depths of emotion that I feel is truly transcending death, holding us together here inside my heart, soul and being.
I’ve taken on an enormously important project as I work on my new book. I’m combining our libraries. Peter’s writing room is now where all books are on shelves, along with his, and all the ones we read together. Both Peter and I mark our books, underling certain information, making notes and references in the margins, and many of our books have been read and re-read over many, many years. Peter left a paper trail that is a continuous inspiration. He was in the habit of writing the date in books, when and where he read them, and how he was feeling about life along the way. My mentor Mrs. Eleanor McMillan Brown taught the designers who worked for her that when you change one thing you have to re-think everything. One thing leads to another.
The most private of all spaces in the cottage is “three,” where all our nostalgic, sentimental treasures are scattered around for our grandchildren to explore and make more knowledgeable connections about their beloved Peter Rabbit. I am going to set up bookshelves on “three” for the books that I want to keep that are more pure Peter, and not that emotionally relevant to me, but more legal in nature.
By going through every book, cleaning, painting the bookcases, and opening up the feeling of density by having a few volumes face out, and putting some Roger Muhl paintings here and there, I find this project the most exhilarating, moving experience. When I was in Chevy Chase visiting my family, I felt so uplifted seeing my daughter Alexandra’s bookcases so open, with “space to breathe.” The Japanese keep a shelf bare in order to have “space to breathe.” I am extremely strict about what I am giving precious real estate to because I am constantly accumulating more books and feel so uplifted when these adjoining writing rooms are well ordered, currently inspiring for me, and pleasing to the eye. This renovation is a lengthy project and I am going to be patient because I want this expanded space to be full of fresh, vital fresh air. Even the hum of the room purifier encourages me to breathe more deeply. Because I feel the exhilaration from my vision, buoyed by my enthusiasm about my new books, all this is interconnected in meaningful ways.
With this sentimental journey of writing about the heroes I love and rearranging our most precious living spaces in the cottage, I am anticipating a most enlightening, joyful June.
I am going to Lily’s 8th grade graduation ceremony, “Moving on.” Here’s to all of us as we move forward in love and understanding. Happy June!