A senior editor from the Reader’s Digest advised me when I was a young woman yearning to become a writer, never to read the paper until you’ve done your creative writing. Such apt advice. The world seems to be falling apart in all corners of the globe. Good news doesn’t sell. Everything seems so dark on the national and international scale. But in our quiet, charming seaside walking village, I feel great joy.
The French philosopher and writer Voltaire advised us in his classic book, Candide, to “cultivate your own garden.” I’m taking his advice to heart. There was a charismatic minister at Unity Church in Lincoln Center in New York City, Eric Butterworth, who preached, “Do your best and leave the rest.” If there is something we can do to be useful, do it. If not, move on. In Sanskrit, the classic language of India, one of my favorite maxims seems to best reflect the voice of my new book, “Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.” Peter and I have this as a private mantra and have as long as I can remember. The more deeply we live, the more compassionate and empathetic we will become. We learn to reconcile opposing views, bringing ourselves to accept the real world and transcend the suffering and feel joy. We recognize there is mayhem but the fundamental principles to live by continuously remind us to rise up, to soldier on, to always look on the bright side of life, maximizing all that is true, good and beautiful.
Fortunately, I’m an intimate, philosophical writer, not a journalist. I’m free to express my personal opinions and share my love of life with my readers. Being informed is vitally important, but it shouldn’t weaken our resolve to live a beautiful life and make the best of every situation.
We were surrounded by family and close friends in August. So many serendipitous events sweetened our days and evenings. The weather held out beautifully the whole month, bringing the bright sunlight and warmth by day, along with cooler nights to give us fresh air to sleep well. When we have a string of lovely pleasant days, everyone seems to smile and feels abundantly grateful for the gifts of nature, kindness and love we’ve given so freely every day.
My literary agent, Carl Brandt, died a year ago, causing me to re-think everything. Trying to complete “Joyful Living In the Real World” without his advice and counsel is the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since I became a writer. However, I’m embracing this new reality that was forced on me and I’m not making any excuses. I’m simply doing what is most suitable under less than ideal circumstances.
I’m living on a far more conscious level now that I don’t have Carl in my immediate life. I’m more aware of the impermanence of life, and how vitally important it is to have realistic expectations about every aspect of our lives in order to feel great satisfaction about our own happiness level, and our ability to spread light and love to others.
This year I’ve experienced growing pains, learning more about my feelings about death and the inevitability of aging and all the necessary changes that must be intelligently addressed. It is true that Carl died last August 13th. It is also true that I went through a period where I grieved this huge loss as I felt the hole in my heart. But time, patience, love and beauty have supported me during the transition between life and after life. My sense of loss has transitioned into my humble sense of gratitude and good fortune to have had Carl as my intellectual muse and partner for 52 years. We were a formidable creative pair indeed. As a tribute to Carl’s central role in my life, I will continue to refer to him in the present tense. Carl lives on in my soul in a rainbow of ways, his voice still guiding me in a mysterious language of joyful connectedness. When we toast Carl, he is “at table” jubilantly celebrating with us, nibbling on truffle popcorn and smiling at our union. Somehow I feel his grace as Peter and I share all the pleasures of our quiet, gentle, tender days. Carl’s kindness and love of Peter is equal to his love of me. He wrote us a letter saying, “We may be oldies but we’re goodies!” Everything good is now a goodie. Carl lives in me and through me. Thank you for your individual, caring help as I greet each new day on these new terms, in this fresh new light on an unfamiliar path.
All month we experienced joyful celebrations, every person adding to our source of great pleasure. This year has allowed me the sensitivity to deliberately pay attention to what is occurring within myself as it is happening. In real-time, I’m here, now. By observing my experiences as they unfold, without judgment, my mindful awareness I’m able to deepen the power to shape my thinking and therefore how and what I experience. My well being and ability to feel happiness is cultivated and accumulative, not ruled by circumstances beyond my control.
Quite simply, August has been the happiest month I can remember. Peter has never been happier. Our days have been joyful. He continues to enjoy his painting, and I’m mesmerized by the beauty of his colorful, clear colored seascapes. I feel a sense of expansiveness and eternity in his infinity blue skies and water, while sitting next to him at our kitchen table. These are priceless timeless moments we’re treasuring.
We go across the street when friends join us and dine on the dock at Swooner restaurant, savoring the sea breezes, the salty air, and the boats coming and going in full sail in the harbor, while enjoying all the pleasures of summer on a plate with local tomatoes, corn and salad.
When Claire and Lee came for lunch from New Canaan one Saturday recently, at four o’clock I laughed, “It’s either here or the kitchen. You choose.” We laughed until we almost cried for joy. We ordered cheese and crackers and kept the celebration just where we were until the sunset reminded us it was 8 PM. They spent the night, and the next day we greeted friends from New Hampshire who came of a visit. We all had lunch together Sunday at the same table. Claire and Lee, Kerri and Matt, carried on together as though they all were best friends at college.
Having Cooper here so much of the summer has brought us so much pleasure. September first she starts first grade. Alexandra’s children are already in school.
Fall is here. September is a favorite month, sentimental because it was the month Peter and I discovered our friendship of excellence had evolved into a life time of devotion and commitment. We will be celebrating Brooke and Tony’s 10th wedding anniversary and their two birthdays, Alexandra and Peter’s 16th anniversary, and the launch of Stonington Sea Salt.
Our cottage has sunflowers in exuberance, reminding us to always face the sun. Our hearts are bursting with love, appreciation and affection and deep appreciation to all of you who continue to reach out to us in loving kindness. I can’t imagine my life being as rich, full and poignant without each of you.
It is my sincere desire to continue on this exciting journey together. As Carl always signed off, before he wrote “love,” “Onward and upward.” Peter told me he’s enjoying all the pleasures of the world. “The beauty of life involved means everything.” When you listen to the song “Try to remember the day in September and follow, follow, follow,” please think of us; we will think of you.
Great love to you!