December 2020

I gave Elissa a bouquet of fresh daisies before Thanksgiving, and she took this photo of me outside the cottage that day.

Dear Friends,

I love you!

My dear friend Kerri called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving when I was at my writing desk in our bedroom. Suddenly, my heart leapt, and I asked, “Can you hear Peter’s clock chime?” I put the phone next to his favorite English burl-wood case clock with Westminster chimes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, his clock, with four angels with outstretched wings that hug the face, has been mostly silent. Several months ago, as I was about to fall asleep, I was surprised by joy. Out of the dark of night, in the quiet peacefulness of my bed, I heard the hammer’s sound of Peter’s presence. Bong.

My body was tingling with soul-bumps when I heard this gloriously sentimental sound of music. Kerri said, “Peter’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. You think you’re alone and you are with Peter.” Because Peter’s passion for clocks lives in and through me, the ticktock, the sense of connection and continuity, is most moving, deeply meaningful to me.

Before Kerri and I ended our conversation, I interrupted her: “Listen.” In silence, we both paused to soak in the eleven evenly timed, spacious bangs. Mysteriously, just then, the hall clock at the foot of the stairs gonged, even though it wasn’t synchronized with Peter’s clock upstairs.

Right then, Matt, Kerri’s beloved husband, brought a breakfast tray to her with pink roses, fresh hot coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. He has been made an honorary brigadier general with the Army. There will be a ceremony in December to honor his thirty-year service to our country in the military. Matt got on the phone to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, simply saying, “Alexandra, we have so much to be thankful for.” Amazing grace shared.

The mysterious timing of the awakening of this treasured object is most healing. Before going to bed the night before, I tenderly, mindfully wound the clock with the key, praying that somehow it would chime on Thanksgiving Day. When a friend asked me what I’m going to do on Thanksgiving, I told Amy I’m going to be thankful. Indeed, we all have so much to be thankful for. My cup and Peter’s clock runneth over.

Peter and I embraced all the seasons, smiling all the way!

Dr. Samuel Johnson’s wisdom reverberates in my heart. We don’t have to be informed; we need to be reminded. Peter’s clocks chiming and gonging, breathing life into the spaces they occupy, are comforting triggers under all circumstances.

Peter’s clock is frantically ticking but no longer is chiming and striking. I’m grateful I was miraculously drawn to be in the bedroom to experience this moment of pure grace I had so hoped for. My prayer was heard. I showed up. Be careful what you wish for because we have to be prepared to receive these rare, beautiful gifts. I’m thankful I felt the gentle tug of my intuition, and I followed it to the exact place I was meant to be.

I can ring a small brass mindfulness bell of Peter’s to remind me of all my abundant blessings. All the circumstances that are out of our control to change, we not merely accept but look for the silver lining. There are always countless beautiful truths we can embrace when we have intensely focused awareness of the preciousness of life. Illness, loss, death, isolation and disappointment have the power to have us deepen our love of humanity, our common purpose, our compassion and empathy. We become more contemplative. We listen, we hear. We become more engaged, more understanding of our collective human condition, how we can play our part to help.

The coronavirus has hit home. I am in quarantine. Several members of my immediate family are sick with this deadly Covid-19. I’ve been exposed. I have my fingers crossed. I meditate and pray a lot. I’m mindful of the reality in real time, in real life. Because they are younger, they probably will heal and fully recover. However, no one knows how each person’s immune system will respond. As my spiritual mentor and dear friend John Coburn understood, “We never know.” We hope. We pray. We have faith. We love.

When I wrote Choosing Happiness, I made it clear that we can choose to use our energy constructively. In my book You Are Your Choices, I wrote that the wiser the choices, the greater the joy. In real time, in this very moment, we can change our brain chemistry by the life-affirming thoughts we mindfully cultivate. We can’t put our lives on hold when life is increasingly challenging for all of us. I am choosing not to worry about my family contracting Covid-19. Instead of worrying, I am choosing to hope, to wish, to pray, to love, to do everything in my power to have things work out well. Sometimes, when I least expect it, however, I have to face reality too close for comfort. “Let go. Let God.”

This illustration, by Gracia Lam, accompanied Jane E. Brody's November 17 column in The New York Times.

Tightly Bubble Up

This is a highly contagious, airborne virus. I pray my loved ones will have a speedy recovery as I consciously am more aware of the power of love. As I count my blessings, you—my friends I’m writing to this Thanksgiving Day—are close to my heart.

Around the world, the pandemic is raging out of control. The only place this deadly virus can’t infect us is in heaven. Please, for your sake and for the love of family, friends and community, stay safe. Be an earth angel this holiday season.

Jane E. Brody is the science editor for The New York Times. Her “Personal Health” column truly hit home for me as I gratefully celebrate “Thanksgiving for one.”

The print version of the November 17 column was titled, “Here’s a great gift idea: Don’t make others sick. As winter and the holidays arrive, remember the dangers of Covid-19 and influenza.” The illustration is a gift box with a ribbon tied with ten pastel masks!

Please: Don’t lose your resolve to stay safe and healthy. Please: Don’t let your guard down. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert, told Jane Brody that “sharing air with someone is the primary mode of transmission.”

We must physically distance from others outside our bubble. This does not mean withdrawing loving-kindness—it’s the opposite. A true “bubble” is one of people who “remain highly faithful to safe practices,” he warns.

“The integrity of that bubble is only as good as its weakest link,” he said. “If one person lacks fidelity, everyone else is at risk.” Dr. Osterholm suggests we meet friends and family in outdoor settings, masked and maintaining physical distance. “The ultimate gift you can give people you love is not to get anybody infected.”

He continued: “This is your Covid year—just get through it—then hope that next year we’ll be in a very different situation. We’re going to see the darkest days of this pandemic between now and next spring,” when, as Jane Brody wrote in her column, “a vaccine may become available.”

Love to my glamorous daughters, Alexandra and Brooke.

Ten Words

I am making a deliberate, mindful meditation practice of loving-kindness. If a less than compassionate, empathetic thought enters my consciousness, I have my antidotes to bring me back to my enter of love. Am I being loving? Am I being kind? Am I being generous-spirited? Am I putting myself in someone else’s situation? Am I being patient?

This newsletter is the final one for this tumultuous year of 2020. Whether we are living in the best of times or the worst of times, right now, right where we are, this is it. This is our Time Alive. Alicia quoted from my book, “Our time alive is brief by any standard. Now is the only opportunity we’ll have to give our life meaning and satisfaction.” I’m appreciative that I am one of Alicia’s muses. We’ve all learned lessons and insights, many uncomfortable and inconvenient truths. I am profoundly grateful to feel a magnetic bond that connects us. In the most basic and powerfully beautiful ways, our higher principles and core values are strengthened by our continuing mutual caring, respect and love.

What my daughter Brooke began in a café in Paris thirty years ago is most relevant for each one of us as we’re finding ways to flourish in the uncertain, risky months ahead. Thank you for sending me your pandemic words. Oxford Languages publishes The Oxford English Dictionary and usually chooses one word for each year. This year they decided not to choose a word for 2020 because there were too many. On their short list, the 2020 words all seem to hold the weight of the world on their shoulders. Some think the words are “terrible.” Others are hoping that 2021 words will be more fun and positive. The word pandemic and the use of the term increased more than 57,000% since last year.

What we’re experiencing is that we can’t always reduce our thoughts to one word. As you can see, some friends have more than ten words to express themselves.

Oxford’s Words We're Now Familiar With

Pandemic   Coronavirus   Surge   Unprecedented   Social justice   Social distancing   Flatten the curve   Lockdown   Stay-at-home   Remote   In-person

Betty created a lovely work of art from her ten words.

Your words are uplifting, honest, dynamic, revealing, fun, funny, tender, loving, kind, beautiful and true. I want others to experience the words you so graciously and generously shared with me. Collectively, we can encourage each other to remember their brilliance and remain true to their words. As we awaken and become wiser, our words will change. These words are for now, for real, for you.

Your words, my friends, have reconnected us in the most meaningful ways. I love your stories of when and where we met, some of us going back forty-six years to when my first book was published. Style for Living: How to Make Where You Live You is dear to my heart now because what I thought and wrote about almost fifty years ago is what I’m feeling most deeply today.

Each of us has to find our own voice, sing our own songs and dance to our own words and tunes. Thank you for sharing yourselves so openly and freely. I love that we’re here to support each other in so many significant ways. Your loving-kindness has proved to help others more than you can possibly imagine. Onward and upward as you keep moving forward, one beautiful step at a time, one healthy breath at a time.

Ten (Or So) Defining Words from You During the Pandemic


Faith   Believe   Joy   Hope   Nature   Writing   Books   Photography   Create   Color


Food   Family   Friends   Quiet   Bichon   Beauty   Flowers   Pool   Discovery   Romantic


In another note with three macarons “for you,” Marla sent me several different words:

French   Kindness   Gather   Color   Theatre/Music

Mary Alice

Beauty   Simplicity   A child’s smile   A kind word   Nature   Walks   Grandchildren   Sky   Clouds   God’s love


Friend   Optimistic   Creative   Persistent   Collaborative   Spiritual   Adventurous   Supportive   Loving   Gardener   Sailor   Inquisitive   Fairies


Hiking   Blossoms   Cooking   Family   Sunny   Friend   Mother   Caring   Laughter   Beaches


Beaches   Inspiration   Faith   Art   Books   Gardens   Architecture   Music   History   Spirituality


Family   Beauty   Wine   Birds   Warmth   Gardens   Yellow   Oceans   Nowness   Reading


Baby   Cookbooks   Faith   Walks   Sunshine   Treats   Blankets   Nature   Seasons   Sisters


Reconnecting with friends   Outdoor dining   Creativity   Time   Coffee   Walking   Baking   Listening   Learning


Frenchie   Baking   Quality time   Decorating   Reading   Coloring   Cocktails   Bubble bath   Exploring   Baby kisses


Cozy   Home   Tea   Reading   Dog petting   Writing   Faith   Flowers   Bossa nova   Family


Sunshine   Flowers   Faith   A view   Birdwatching   Beach day   Grandkids   Cook   Rearrange furniture   A warm bed


Peace   Slow   Creative   Sleep   Read   Time   Cooking   Being   Space   Evolve


Home   Faith   Cooking   Comfort   Creative   Family   Uncertain   Busy   Connecting   Simplify


Calmness   Introspection   Gratitude   Enrichment   Communication   Positivity   Faith   Beauty   Rituals/routines   Courage


Beauty   Truth   Spirit   Flowers   Beach   Tomatoes   Love   Quietness   Sunshine   Summertime


Unknown   Uncertain   Unprepared   Irritated   Impatient   Insecure   Challenged   Creative   Competent   Cozy   Fortunate   Thankful!


Love   Mother   Humor   Babies   Flowers   Creator   Doer   Houses   Happiness   Orderliness


Faith   Home   Memories   Truth   Tea   Reflection   Resolution   Sunshine   Simplicity   Starlight

I had such fun at the Beauty Dharma Summit. Beauty is everywhere, and the beauty of lemons reminds me of Peter.

My Premiere Zoom

I dipped my toe and soul into doing my first virtual event. The Beauty Dharma Summit was also the first of my wonderful new friend Leslie Christin’s series of interviews. (You can watch part one here, and part two here.)

Beauty, as you know, is my lifeline. I breathe beauty because what is beautiful is both true and good. Dharma is seeking your highest self. We can let beauty be our guide.

Leslie has featured twenty-two inspirational speakers from all different disciplines. I’m thrilled and honored to have been invited, recommended by a mental health expert who is also featured in this summit. All of us understand the healing power of beauty.

Let me know how you enjoyed our conversation. I laugh just thinking of my friend and adorable neighbor Charlie raking leaves on his bluestone. (Scratch, scratch.) “It’ll only be two and a half minutes,” he told me, as we laughed on video. I said to Leslie, “All I want is real life.” In this instance, with six feet of separation, I love my neighbor as myself.

Peter's elegant mother's rings that she designed and gave to me as an engagement present were featured in the photo on Gift of a Letter.

The Story Behind My Rings

Shannon has been reading my books since she was a young college student. She wrote me kind words, telling me my books have inspired her and informed her adult life “in appreciation of seeking beauty and intention in the everyday.”

Stories bring meaning into everything. I was delighted to have Shannon write that she’s always been intrigued by “the beautiful green and purple domed rings” I wear, wanting to know if they were family pieces. Yes, there is a story behind the rings; a most happy story indeed.

You may recall that Peter and I went to Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street on a Saturday afternoon in the early spring of 1974. We’d had a romantic lunch in our then-favorite restaurant our dear friend Charles Masson ran with his elegant grande dame mother, Giselle.

Peter headed straight to the jewelry counter, which used to be on the first floor, and asked a lovely lady for “the least expensive wedding ring in the case.” He settled for one costing $55. Coincidentally, this ring of intertwined golden rope was designed by an aesthetic mentor and muse, Van Day Truex. (He ended up becoming the head buyer for Tiffany & Co. until his untimely death of a heart attack on a buying trip for the company.)

When Peter and I went to visit his mother after our return from our honeymoon in Paris and Bermuda, I proudly showed off my “band of gold.” She left us in the living room, went to her safe in the hall linen closet and appeared with a clear plastic fishing tackle box full of precious jewels. She had me select a ring to accompany my poor, lonely wedding ring. Shannon, the green stone is not jade, as you guessed—it is a cabochon emerald, a highly polished convex-cut unfaceted gem. My middle name is Green. My mother’s maiden name was Green. I selected the green stone, putting my ring on the outside of my finger as a guard ring.

You can see the rings on my hand in this photograph of me and Peter.

I was dancing around the room in pure glee, showing it off to Peter and his sweet, adoring mother. Seated on a loveseat next to Peter, his mother reached into a ring section in the colorful box of gems and produced a purple star sapphire. She reached for my ring finger, lovingly caressing my long fingers, and slipped the sapphire next to the emerald. “There.”

That is the story of my gorgeous, unusually large, colorful gemstones on my ring finger that accompany Peter’s “golden rope.”

For decades I never took off Peter’s mother’s rings—I mean never. Over the years, with wear and lots of gardening, they needed to rest in the summer months. Peter’s mother designed the setting. While I agree with Peter that “possessions possess you,” these two rings have such grace and meaningful associations, they are now an intricate part of my love story that is still ongoing. To me, the rings are sacred, and therefore nonmaterial.

To Shannon and all my dear friends, thank you for your tender, loving devotion over so many years, seasons of change and renewal and personal growth.

I’m now wearing Peter’s mother’s rings with increased joy because of your intrigue, Shannon. Thank you. Thank you for caring, for asking to know why, what, where and “how come” the rings!

Abundant beauty—flowers, candles, bread. Time Alive.

As I close this letter to all of you, know that my heart is expanding in understanding and compassion as we share all the best of times and the worst of times together. Keep writing me your stories. I care deeply. I’m here, as you are for me. You know, in any way I can be useful, we can share “deep talk.”

I continue to Love & Live Happy. I will, with your support and love; I hope and trust you will with mine. Enjoy the sacredness of this holiday season 2020. We will renew our vows of love. Let the inspirational words of this precious season’s holiday hymns and music bring timeless tidings of comfort and joy.

Let’s practice the mindfulness practice of loving-kindness together. In this exciting new year, I’m leaning in. I’m looking forward to exciting new beginnings. I thank each of you for your huge contributions to my spirit energy throughout my adult years. What an exciting journey we’re on in the forward flow of life’s cycles.

Do whatever is in the power of your will to “make the season bright.” Light the lights. Light candles. Light up our hearts with your smile, your dancing eyes and your beautiful soul. See the irony in a crisis, and have as much fun as you can, whenever you can, for as long as you can.

Happy, happy holiday season. Every day, we can live with “elegance, order, beauty and grace” throughout this new, last month of the infamous year 2020. We can look forward to 2021 with optimism and hope.

Great Love to You,

Books for December

The Book of Hygge
The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection
by Louisa Thomsen Brits

Paris in Bloom
by Georgianna Lane

Paris in Bloom is a romantic picture book of the essence of Paris’s passion for flowers. I love Georgianna Lane’s light-infused photography of flower markets, gardens, parks, floral boutiques, hotel window boxes and lobbies. I spend joyful, timeless moments sipping tea, envisioning all the beauty of Paris in the springtime I know so well. For those of us who love Paris, this book will make your heart blossom as you absorb every bloom.

Wabi-Sabi Welcome
Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease
by Julie Pointer Adams

Great appreciation to you, Dorie, for telling me about the books you’ve loved reading when you were in quarantine. I read about wabi-sabi and hygge, I’ve felt cozier, more comfortable and quietly content in my self-isolation after learning I’ve been exposed. I’m embracing the “open-air life,” bundling up when necessary and using the outdoor heater.

The three books, together, speak to me in nostalgic ways that feed my soul. What a gift to wrap my arms around them at the same time. I feel they have a healing power of nourishment for the spirit and are a lingering tonic. Coincidentally, my friend Lynne from Canada sent me some of the wonderful photographer (and author!) Georgianna Lane’s greeting cards for my birthday with a note, “You may want to check her out.”

Thank you, dear Elissa, for memorializing in photo Peter's precious gift to me early on in our marriage.


Elissa is a genius. She translates my handwriting from different colored paper and shades of ink to the typeset you read. In the November newsletter, I wrote two words she visualized differently than what I wrote. Please drop me a postcard if you spotted either one of them!

1: “Aristotle’s advice to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.” Brilliant Elissa interpreted it as season. Not a typo. We must naturally adapt to the circumstances we are currently facing. I wrote reason. Season also applies. A double silver lining. We turned an error into an additional insight.

2: I wrote, “Writers write.” Elissa’s understanding was that I wrote “Writers unite.” I agree. We’re a team. Peter always urged us to write. “Writers WRITE.” Elissa, thank you for your contributions; writers should also UNITE. Let’s write and unite all that is true, good and beautiful.

Speaking of Elissa, she’s also an artist and has started an online shop selling some of her flower and bird paintings, plus postcards and stickers. You can find them here.

Bravo Bravo, Elissa!

Quotes for December

“To have little is to possess. To have plenty is to be perplexed.” —Lao Tzu


“A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.” —Bertrand Russell


“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth.” —Albert Einstein