Happy August! I’m mindfully aware of how precious this summer is for all of us. I’m deliberately slowing the pace to savor every sensual delight possible as I stay close to home, thrilled to spend leisurely time luxuriating in the quietude. In brilliant dappling sunlight, under the shade of a blue and green umbrella that echos the spirit of the sails’ colors all bobbing about in the refreshing breeze parading in front of me, I pause – living in an enchanted seaside coastal village is an incomparable grace note year round, but its sensual pleasures and bounty come to their full glory in the summer.
I’m most thankful Peter wrote “Village: Where to Live & How to Live.” Having lived in New York City since 1959, and transitioning to this charming town, now living here when I’m not traveling, has proven to be the most deeply meaningful environment that inspires my greatest sense of joy and flourishing. Peter and I have been here, off and on, since 1988, while living most of the time in the city where we both worked and raised our daughters. But moving here to the cottage as our true “home” the last years of Peter’s life, having Stonington Village our universe, is a sustaining comfort and an ideal community for me now that I’m living alone.
True, I’m often alone, by choice, but I’m not lonely. The cottage has Peter’s living, breathing aura; everywhere I come and go, as I move about inside the cottage and around the peninsula, are present moments flooded with tender, loving memories of our rich, full lives together. It’s hard to imagine a more glorious place to celebrate the 4th of July Family reunion than here. When Peter and I came here on a sunny July 4th years ago full time, we had family here to greet us. With the added excitement of the country’s birthday, with spectacular fireworks, this national holiday has now become a tradition in our family to gather and savor spending quality time together. This year we were blessed and enjoyed spectacular weather. As tradition, daughter Alexandra’s husband Peter cooked on the grill and we delighted in a banquet with delicious fresh dishes. We all enjoyed pampering together. Our local farmers market is a wonderful place to go Saturday mornings to gather the fresh ingredients to create farm-to-table flavorful seasonal vegetables, fruits, cheeses and pies. The strawberries were particularly spectacular this year.
After the colorful July 4th parade in which the entire town participates in, in one way or another, the “grands” and local friends had a lemonade stand to raise money for the Stonington Free Library. Business was brisk. Cooper had a play date to bake and decorate cupcakes and they received great praise. With the help of a matching gift from parents and grandparents, we were able to give a check to the library for the Children’s room for $148.00. The color coordinated cash box inadvertently locked in the middle of the rush excitement, and no one remembered the combination. Without skipping a beat, we had a purple one as a back up; put some change in, and we were good to go. Bella, one of my granddaughter Anna’s friends, who lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and is in her class at school, comes with her two brothers the same time every year to visit her grandparents, who live a few blocks away, and are friends of mine. She tirelessly tried every number and the box magically opened at 120. Now we know; the secret is out!
A few yards down Water Street is a wonderful sailing and science camp. The gang of friends that go makes their water sports so much more thrilling. We served lunch at the cottage before they’d gather their gear and enthusiastically return for more fun at camp. It’s hard to imagine a more wonderful opportunity to sail, swim, go to nearby islands, and have lessons in survival and safety while being out and about in the water.
When the grandchildren are here it is a whoosh of electricity and activities—bike rides, ice cream tent visits, swimming at the dock, home movies, sleepovers and the gift of time, creating indelible memories. I’m certain we all appreciate these exhilarating, exciting days that come and go in a flurry and are non-stop action, packed with laughter and pleasure. And then, boom, the family returns to their private lives at home, and the cottage is in quiet, clean and uncluttered and an inspiring sanctuary where I can settle back to work with reserved appreciation for all the blessings in my life, and how especially glad I am to be in this beautiful corner of the world that is a sacred place of ideal loveliness for all to enjoy. After everyone left, not only did I miss my family, but I missed seeing the grandchildren’s bikes in the garden, reminders of their sense of freedom moving about the village. I put them away but the vision lingers in my heart.
Mid July, a fan of my books who met me in 1990 when I was giving a talk at the Boston Design Center when my book of Color was published, threw a spectacular celebration in my honor. Our being acquaintances over the years morphed into a friendship, and June’s party featuring her favorite book of mine, “Choosing Happiness,” was a most joyful event on a perfectly beautiful hot summer day with cool breezes from the Mystic River refreshing us on her front porch. Four couples arrived from Rhode Island by boat, making the occasion most festive indeed. John came from Bank Square Books and sold a variety of different titles. In my brief talk, I mentioned that chances are I would never know June and her husband Brian or meet their friends if it weren’t for the connection of my being a writer. Because of this bond between reader and writer, there is a built-in synergy that creates a mutual affection and understanding. There’s a frame of reference and unspoken communication. So many of my most meaningful friendships have grown from this symbiotic association. There is a powerful mystery involved in writing largely to unknown others, and over time, space, and good luck, strangers meet and something clicks. June’s porch party celebrated all the wonders of friendships and sharing the happiness we can bring to each other and how we can spread this positive attitude to others through our gifts and talents. I felt so grateful and was deeply touched that I’ve now met new people who will add to my learning and all sorts of doors and windows will open to move light and knowledge through their journeys. I’m looking forward to all the good we can do as we work together in the fun spirit of joie de vivre.
July brought us the two presidential conventions. Alexandra has a new job at Real Clear Politics as associate editor and columnist. I watched her on the television as she covered the political conventions with their unparalleled surprises and complex situations. Real Clear Politics is the most trusted non-partisan platform for political news. I expect there will be a lot more surprises in these vitally important weeks leading up to the historic election November 8th. This significant day happens to be my 75th birthday. As a gift to me on my big day, I urge everyone to vote. I’m trying to stay informed, to probe the deep questions of what is best for our country and what is best for our global family. We are “the people” and we must make our voices heard.
I refer to my master teacher Aristotle in these challenging times. The aim and purpose of life is happiness. When we do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, the universal energy of love, compassion and empathy will strengthen our resolve. By having a personal philosophy that wants to try to live up to our highest virtues and values, principled by our inner strength and courage and optimistic spirit, we will continuously cultivate our character and our unbending commitment to live on the sunny side of the street, looking up at the external space of opportunities to be useful as we strive to make a positive, lasting difference.
The Nikko blue hydrangeas are having an “off” year, but this summer is too important to me to have a dormant secret, private garden. We’ve plunked in seven “Endless Summer” hydrangea bushes. I now have a pretty garden that inspires me as I write at my table facing the harbor—my summer living room.
Thank you for sharing our mutually exciting stories of our evolving passions. Each of you adds countless grace notes to my life. Please remember this truth. I’m lifted up by your examples of our love, generosity of spirit, and boundless kindness.