August 2023

Photo by Elissa

Enjoying an iced coffee at Macondo in Stonington.

Dear Friends,

I love you!

Happy August. July was filled with so much love and joy. I’m bursting with the beauty of remembering how much enjoyment and excitement I experienced in my thoughts and actions.

In my last letter, I wrote that life is art. I’m passionate about continuing to explore all the new and varied ways we can live with greater wisdom and passion. Because I look forward to writing you each month, I tend to be all over the place in what flows from pen to paper. I think of all my heroes, my angels, my critics, my family, my friends, as well as unknown others as I write you.

Each one of you continues to be vitally important to my well-being. I’m growing more profoundly aware just how much I care, love and admire all of you who have made yourselves known to me. You are my teachers, my researchers, my confidants, my muses and my friends. Some of you make me laugh out loud and share a sense of irony at life’s unexpected, yet inevitable, surprises in an unpredictable world. Often, I am moved to tears by your tender devotion to a loved one.

Photo by Elissa

I painted my black fireplaces a bright blue, and they bring me so much joy.

I have been exceptionally appreciative lately just how much I love being alive. In my exceedingly sensual body, I’m breathing fresh, salty sea air and looking at the continuous flow of beauty on the harbor view, from the cottage or when I’m on a stroll. I value the privilege of living near water more than ever.

Each one of us has strong feelings, desires and passions we can explore. We become inspired to develop and refine our innate talents through the connections we feel with the artists we most admire. For all of you who have known me since the 1960s, you understand my love of the Impressionist master artist, Claude Monet.

I owe being an art collector and art enthusiast to Monet, who taught me to see through the surface of things to the transcendent depths. I wanted to dedicate my book Open Your Eyes to him, but over a long, memorably pleasant "editorial luncheon,” my wise literary agent, Carl, suggested I dedicate it to a living artist. Immediately he smiled when I told him I’d dedicate it to Roger Mühl, the contemporary French artist I've avidly collected. Carl’s smile always made me melt; because he was so deeply serious, his smiles resulted from his extreme delight. “I was hoping you’d come to that conclusion, Sandie, because he will be so touched.”

Photo by Jane

Jane took this beautiful photo of double lilies in her garden.

One good thing always leads to another. Roger and his wife Line flew over on the Concord from the south of France to attend my publishing party in New York City. I have a vivid memory of Carl and Roger spending time together, obviously enjoying each other’s company. Knowing how genuinely Carl admired my favorite living artist, this meant a lot to me, because they are both so influential to my life.

Some of you may remember my writing about Carl asking me “an impossible request” to “borrow for the duration” a few Mühl paintings. Several months before he died of bone marrow cancer, you recall, he came to Stonington and selected two large canvases and, with my help, removed them from the living room and kitchen of the cottage. One thing always leads to another, and that is the exciting mystery. We never know what is ahead of us.

When we expose ourselves to a wide variety of sensual experiences, we learn where our heart opens the widest. My mother exposed me to Monet when I was five, and an interior design boss told me to go to Mühl’s first exhibition in America (in New York City) when I was 19. I can’t imagine greater good fortune as I look back on my love of these two French Impressionists living a century apart.

Photo by Elissa

Brooke gave me this Monet box from the Marmottan in Paris.

I enjoy reflecting on my friendship with my literary agent and my favorite artist. Having been in a position to be able to lend two of Roger’s paintings to Carl for the last months of his life brings me solace. I love feeling all the mysterious intertwining of our lives’ sensual and spiritual relationships that we develop over time.

One of the highlights of July was returning to The Kate (The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook) to see a documentary, Water Lilies of Monet—The Magic of Water and Light. For 90 awe-inspiring minutes, I was transported to France, a beloved country. As Monet’s life was documented and his artistic expressions relived, I was able to relive all of France’s sensual pleasures, its rich artistic history and incomparable charm and beauty.

I hold Monet’s garden in my heart.

Monet’s genius became vividly alive on the big screen. We were able to look at his masterpieces in Paris museums (the Orangerie, the Marmottan, the Orsay) and his beloved last home, Giverny. It moved me to be reminded that when I was five, I saw my favorite Monet at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Monet’s life story is a colorful reminder that artists are inspired human beings. Knowing a famous French artist from a century later for over four decades helps me understand the interconnectedness of the artists’ lives. Monet was Mühl’s artistic ancestor. Because of their passion to express themselves visually, they help us see beauty wherever we are. Artists show us who we are at our core.

We all have our natural desire to express what’s burning to be known. Some of us compose, some sing, others listen to musicians. In all forms of artistic expression and appreciation, there is interbeing, interconnection. We feel this powerful, invisible bond that makes us better than we could be without each other. On the first page of Open Your Eyes, I have a photograph of Monet. He’s seated, looking at his garden with his white beard, straw hat and glasses. I can envision myself sitting next to him on a bench. He wrote:

“Put your hand in mine and let us help one another to see things better.”

A photograph I took of Peter in Giverny.

Who are the inspired, dedicated artists who have opened your eyes to see beyond the ordinary to extraordinary beauty? To appreciate your ability to feel wonder at a colorful weed and feel the peaceful harmony of wind chimes in your garden and see color and shapes in sound? What are some of your natural gifts you are able to put to use every day?

Monet began his life in Paris near the Seine. He moved to Giverny and embarked on creating and cultivating his own enchanting gardens. He created his out-of-doors living art studio in order to paint what he loved so dearly—his colorful flowers.

His last dozen or so years, from the 1910s to his death in 1926, Monet painted the water-lily pond and the iconic green Japanese bridge he created at Giverny to complete his dream. From his birth until his death, his obsessions with water and light gave France his magical, final legacy: “a symbol of peace, hope and resistance in a battered and bloody world.” By transforming his private world of retreat into an earthly paradise, his inspiration, vision and complete devotion to his artistic genius transformed modern art. We owe a great debt to Monet. His water lilies awaken us to the miracle of life’s wondrous beauty that is ours to appreciate, cultivate and capture. We have renewed hope and faith that our own vision can add to his contributions we have inherited.

Photo by Elissa

My new baby ficus tree has taken its spot on the front steps.

On that sunny Saturday afternoon, the auditorium at the Kate was silent after our enthusiastic clapping in unison. Our collective exuberance and reverence were palpable. My friend and I drove home on country roads, stopping for ice cream. My mocha chip sugar cone completely absorbed my attention. I licked methodically in the warm air as my ice cream quickly melted and dripped. Ice cream is always a happiness-making ritual, usually shared and such a sensual pleasure of delightful deliciousness.

We stopped at a nursery in Noank, and I fell in love with a small ficus tree. I’d bought one on Peter and my anniversary last May at the same place, and it is thriving in our bedroom. Because the rose tree I had on the steps in front of the cottage died last winter, I envisioned loving up a new addition to the front landing. The giant tree in the kitchen was once a small ficus I kept outside in summer months. I love seeing baby, shiny, pale, translucent leaves appear on this 10-year-old treasure.

It's rained several times since I brought my new baby home. I can almost feel its glee as it slurps up the nourishing, life-sustaining water. One small portion of the ficus needs to face the sun because it had been deprived of light when placed against a wall in the nursery. As we know, rotating our plants so they grow evenly all around is a habit we practice as gardeners!

Photo by Elissa

I’m delighted by my gardenia plant’s three new blossoms!

Once home, after that extraordinarily fulfilling, inspiring documentary about the magic of water and light, I felt at home in the deepest sense. I, too, am obsessed with light and water. Being able to see water everywhere in Stonington is such a gift. Monet knew what consumed his mind and heart, and he lived his passion. Whenever I make the pilgrimage to Paris and go to Giverny, I feel Monet’s inspiring presence. Peter also loved our visits there, as well as the bucolic farmland along the scenic rural roads surrounding Monet’s village home, and this greatly enhances my most memorably happy associations of Giverny and Monet.

When we nourish and cultivate our own garden, as Monet’s example illustrates, we are spreading positive life-affirming messages to all those whose lives we touch. Whenever we create or enhance, enrich or celebrate anything that brings happiness to our own soul and to others, we are fulfilling our human potential to live our best life. Because all positive thoughts and feelings begin from our soul’s inner essence, we can only add joy to others if we experience it personally. By getting in intimate touch with our own strong feelings, we tap into the universe, raising our consciousness to higher octaves of frequency.

Van Gogh felt cypress trees were upward flames toward heaven.

Monet’s deep need to live in a beautifully inspiring environment in order to paint his immediate surroundings inspires us to emulate him in our own forms of self-expression. Whenever we are aware of our deepest emotions and stay true to the yearning in our heart, greater clarity of life’s miraculous gifts spontaneously appears. We’re awake, alert, leaning in kinetically to the wondrous range of our sensual natural talents.

I am blessed to be living in such a beautiful corner of the world, surrounded by light and water. I feel exhilarated merely by looking out at the harbor and my garden and by inhaling the salty sea air. I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am to live in such a culturally rich geographic area between New York City and Boston. One of my greatest pleasures of living in Stonington full time is to be able to go to the theater and museums on day trips, without having to spend the night in a hotel. A friend and I took the train to New York to see the Vincent Van Gogh cypress tree exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, soaked in other exhibitions and returned to our homes at bedtime.

Photo by Elissa

Peter always promised me a rose garden!

At the Granite Theatre in nearby Westerly (a 13-minute drive), I recently saw a moving, heart-melting performance of Guys and Dolls. Not only was the dancing superb, as well as the singing of favorite songs, but the action was also exceptional. Miss Adelaide was so in character, we could all relate to her role. When I’m moved to shed a tear or two, leaving the theater with a renewed dose of love of life, I’m not feeling my age.

My lifelong love of musicals’ magic spell has never faded. My ability to be transported into the live performance’s story in song and dance never disappoints. I always feel invigorated by the relationship between actor and audience, the bond and vibrations we share. We are not mere spectators passively watching; we are a crucial element in the performance.

When I went to Here You Come Again at the end of July, I was unprepared for the two-actor show’s excellence. In the musical, Dolly Parton saves Kevin’s life “in 12 easy songs.” Wow. The setting is May 2020, in Longview, Texas, during lockdown. Kevin is in the attic of his parents’ house, isolated from humanity. His mother bangs, puts his meals in a basket, and he retrieves them with a fishing net up a chute in this germ-phobic house where everyone is frightened of catching COVID-19. 

Photo by Elissa

I wear this favorite caftan while lounging at home in my garden.

A poster of Dolly, a pink “What Would Dolly Do?” T-shirt on a life-size mannequin, her music and his obsession aren’t enough to help his despair. Suddenly, Dolly bursts through the poster on the wall in brilliant light, in a butterfly sequin dress, boobs projecting onward and upward. She comes to Kevin as a savior and sings the songs “Here You Come Again” and “Hush-A-Bye Hard Times.”

Deep breath. After days of loving Kevin, encouraging him to look up and clean up, Dolly helps him heal and gain confidence. By letting go of feeling sorry for himself, he begins to think of others, as Dolly exemplifies.

Out of loving-kindness and compassionate understanding, the angel Dolly leaves him to move toward the light of opportunity to build, on his own, his strength and determination. Two hundred Dolly fans were enraptured as the actress playing Dolly returned to the stage to belt out “I Will Always Love You,” ending this master-class performance with a duet, “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.”

“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Photo by Elissa

I bought these gladiolus flowers from a favorite farm stand on nearby Cove Road.

As we embrace this new month of August together, let your heart take lots of leaps into the unknown. Together, let’s continue to explore all the possibilities of life’s abundant goodness. As long as we live, we can choose to seek and find beauty and love through our body’s senses. Our soul’s code, her secret symbols, help us be more skillful in the art of living.

Remember, there are no coincidences. They are ways for us to pay attention to our interbeing. We experience transformation every moment we breathe.

Love & Live Happy,

Photo by Elissa

Kevin planted the light pink rose bushes (behind the cellar door) that I bought in an auction at the Lyman Allyn fundraiser this spring with Brooke.

Lithograph for Sale

This month, I’m letting go of a lithograph by Roger Mühl if anyone is interested in adding it to their art collection; please contact Pauline at Artioli Findlay (artiolifindlay@gmail.com) for more information.

Roger Mühl (French, 1929 - 2008)
Provence X Devant le jardin
Limited edition French lithograph
16 3/4 x 12 1/2 in
The image is printed to the edge of the sheet of paper.
Edition #VII of XX
Executed / printed 1986

Brilliant South of France sunlight is the focus of this lovely rooftop landscape in front of a garden.

Photo by Elissa

Buddha’s wind chimes in the garden between my house and Charlie’s charm us both.