February 2023

Photo by Elissa

Pieces from my scarf and quilt collections hanging in the auditorium at the pop-up exhibition "Alexandra Stoddard: A Colorful Life."

Upcoming Event: Living with Color and Beauty

Sunday, February 12, 2:00 – 3:30

Lyman Allyn Art Museum Auditorium

At this event, I will be in conversation with Tanya Pohrt, the brilliant curator of the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, to discuss the art and objects in the pop-up exhibition “Alexandra Stoddard: A Colorful Life." I will share stories from my life and career and ideas about how beauty and color can help enrich our daily lives. I’d love to see you there!

Members $10; Non-Members $15
RSVP to 860.443.2545 ext. 2129 or email info@lymanallyn.org.

See more about the event and the exhibition here.

Photo by Elissa

My pop-up exhibition, "Alexandra Stoddard: A Colorful Life" opened last week at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, Connecticut!

Dear Friends,

I love you! Happy month of love!

Because my dear friend and literary assistant Elissa went on Christmas holiday to her hometown in Michigan to be with her family and friends, I wrote my January newsletter to you earlier than usual. Let me circle back to where we left off, in mid-December, before I leap forward into the most exciting January ever. I continued to celebrate the festive mood of holiday decorations and houses looking so enchanting in the dark of light. Leave it to humans’ creativity to create feasts and rituals to lift your spirits in the darkest time of year.

I flew down to Washington to visit my daughter Alexandra for a few days, returning home two days before Christmas. My neighbor and earth-angel Charlie had told me about a John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Gallery curated by a good friend. When I told Alexandra, also a fan of the artist, she miraculously made it possible. Gallery after gallery, his paintings during his visits to Spain were beautifully displayed.

My favorite ritual is browsing the museum gift store for books, notecards and postcards. I enjoy looking around to see what excites me to bring home. Because the merchandise relates to the artists and what they create, I usually find a few things to remind me of my museum visit. Afterward, Alexandra drove us to Bethesda, Maryland, for lunch at a favorite, Mon Ami Gabi. What an added treat to go to an authentic, classical French bistro.

Photo by Brooke

Nature’s spectacular Christmas gift of the sunset!

We went to Alexandra’s house to wrap presents for the grandchildren. The dining room was temporarily off limits to Nick, Anna and Lily. Christmas carols were on the radio, a balsam cedar candle scented the air, and we immersed ourselves in the colorful Christmas wrapping paper Alexandra has been collecting for years. Such a generous supply of rolls and rolls of different designs and color combinations renewed my appreciation for the joy of holiday decorations and the traditions that families create through generations.

Visiting family and enjoying being festive together heightened my appreciation to be with my daughter Brooke, her husband Tony and my granddaughter Cooper for Christmas Eve. We had a delicious dinner at Shipwright’s Daughter in Mystic, a restaurant with an inspired chef, David Standridge, who cooks with love. Miraculously, fresh black shaved truffles were on the menu for the first time. When I ordered the yummy mushroom pasta, David appeared as the truffle man! No words can describe my elation.

On Christmas morning, I relished the quiet time to meditate, study and write. I lit lots of candles and sang along with Christmas carols, flowing in a calm trance of pure bliss. I lingered as I appreciated the art that I’ve been collecting for nearly 60 years. Going to Washington, having a change of environment and seeing great art renewed my appreciation for my intimately personal collection. Taking a deep breath, on Christmas morning, I felt the fullness of life’s beauty. What I experienced was a spontaneous solitary meditation on my love of life, and my connectedness to loved ones.

Photo by Elissa

For Christmas every year, Alexandra gives me an amaryllis in early November for a late January/early February burst of beauty. This one is like a symphony.

The afternoon was enchanting in so many sweet ways. Brooke, Tony, Cooper and I voted on going to the Ocean House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. We tried to keep our expectations low, because we didn’t want to set ourselves up for disappointment. The inn doesn’t take reservations in the afternoon, our favorite time to go. We envisioned sitting by the fire, on a frigid cold day, in the bar area, ordering drinks and a simple lunch from their menu!

“Welcome to the Ocean House” was our cheerful greeting from the valet attendant. The receptionist was cheerful and told us the table in front of the fire “just needed to be wiped off.” Ah, a Christmas miracle: warm, romantic fire, bright sunlight, Christmas music at a favorite inn on the water with beloved family. Cozy, we even thought of going out on the veranda to have the full view of the Atlantic Ocean waves crashing to shore. One step out the door brought us back to our perfect, comfortable spot. Through the glass windows, Cooper and I felt the warmth of the sun as we sat on the banquette and toasted each other. “Merry Christmas.”

My spirits remained high, but I felt I was catching a cold. Early the next week, I tested positive for Covid. For approximately 10 days, I felt tired, and I rested in my forced isolation. Just as the new year arrived, the fog and fatigue lifted, and I felt well again. I was spared. Blessedly, I’d avoided getting Covid for three years. When I did, my lungs were not affected. As I write, I have experienced no lingering Covid symptoms. I am definitely blessed that my case was so mild. I’m a great believer in vaccinations, boosters and getting flu shots. With my health vulnerabilities, I need all the help I can get to maintain my health.

Einstein believed, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I agree!

Photo by Elissa

My collection of marbleized paper is among the treasures featured in the pop-up exhibition.

“When One Thing Changes, Rethink Everything”

After much thought and discussion with my team, we have decided we will not be having any more Happiness Retreats. For three years in a row, the Inn at Stonington and I have had to postpone them because of the pandemic. We are living in an age of uncertainty.

The last retreat was March 11-13, 2020, right on the cusp of lockdown. Lisa couldn’t come from Canada for fear she wouldn’t be able to return home. Several people, under doctors’ care, were told not to take the risk because of Covid. I was advised not to have people come to my house because of my health issues.

Since 2002, when Choosing Happiness was published, we’ve hosted friends from all over the United States and Canada. 

Photo by Elissa

I started collecting Porthault linens in 1961, and we hung the beautiful hand towels, napkins and cocktail napkins as part of the exhibition.

Until Peter’s death, he was a huge draw for the men to come with their partners. There were more than a few women who were drawn to his exceptional spirit and character. You know who you are!

Change is our only certainty. We don’t know what we don’t know. I am now older, and what was appropriate a few decades ago, and as recently as pre-Covid, is no longer appropriate. Rather than wishing for next year and the next, not knowing what we don’t know, there will longer be any Happiness Retreats.

I’m sure many of you will still find Stonington Village a happy place to come visit, year-round. Many of you come for several stays a year as your domestic retreats for two. The wonderful team of friends at the Inn at Stonington will warmly greet you, as before.

Love and memories are in our control. I treasure every retreat we shared and thank you for your friendship over the years.

“I use my collections to bring joy to my daily work and life.”

—Alexandra Stoddard

Photo by Elissa

I said a few words at the beginning of the opening reception for "Alexandra Stoddard: A Colorful Life." What a magnificent event!

"A Colorful Life" in an Art Museum!

The Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London is having a color exhibition, “Chromatopia: Stories of Color in Art,” now until March 5. As part of their color story, this wonderful museum is currently displaying a pop-up exhibition in the auditorium—"Alexandra Stoddard: A Colorful Life.” On January 27, they hosted a lovely reception. We all congregated in the library, enjoying tea and delicious goodies, before the director, Sam, welcomed everyone.

For all of you who attended, thank you. I met new friends and saw so many old friends, art collectors and former clients. Both Alexandra and Brooke were there. I said a few words about my love of art and how much it has meant to me to collect paintings by living artists. After I spoke, I introduced the museum’s brilliant art curator, Tanya, who spoke about the collection she curated from my colorful objects that all have deeply personal stories.

Photo by Elissa

The entire staff of Lyman Allyn—including Sam, the director, and Tanya, the curator—are incredible, talented and wonderful people.

Tanya is highly regarded in the art world. She creates the background stories about what is being displayed in the signage. Sam told me other museums are so impressed by Lyman Allyn’s display signage that other museums are emulating theirs.

As we announced above, Tanya and I are giving a talk in the auditorium on Sunday, February 12, at 2 p.m., followed by a book signing. This pop-up exhibition and our talk on color, beauty and art is quite thrilling. If there is a chance you can attend, it will be a happy happening. Opportunities like this are once and will never be repeated. Please try to come if you can. Tell your family and friends. The pop-up exhibition will be on display until Sunday, February 26, and there will be a video link to view the talk afterward for anyone who cannot make the trip.

Working with Tanya and the entire team of exceptionally fine, talented people has been a gift to me that I will treasure. Being part of setting up an exhibition was fascinating as well as extremely exhilarating. I’m on a high. I’ve been with family and friends and feel so supported, grateful and inspired.

Photo by Mike

Charlotte’s spectacular bouquet decorated the table at the pop-up exhibition opening.

The Good Life

I’m feeling your enormous outpouring of warmth and affection moving into this month. Thank you for being such a presence in my life. There is an invisible power in our mutual interests. What attracts our minds and hearts is not necessary to openly express.

Let us continue to share in the mystery. There is magic in our intertwining. Embrace the unknown spiritual realm we humans can’t grasp because we haven’t been fully opened to this heightened resonance. All we can do is love each other just as we are. We will flow peacefully in the river of life when we let go of judging others. Our responsibility is to make the most of our inner growth. It’s one thing to know better in theory. The test is how we behave when we are suddenly made aware of an emergency. We will continuously be tested. Every time there are devastations, they will serve to reveal and enrich a deepening and inner strength.

In the month of January, I read about Socrates, who was Plato’s teacher, Plato being Aristotle’s teacher. Socrates never wrote because he felt writing our thoughts helped create lazy brains. Fortunately, we have many deep thinkers who have captured and written down his philosophies. Socrates believed the achievement of happiness is the purpose of life. Aristotle wrote that the aim and purpose of life is happiness: the goal, the end of all longing.

Photo by Elissa

A beautiful display of some of my yellow treasures and Roger Mühl paintings at the pop-up exhibition.

So much of what we do from day to day is search and strive for our well-being, for the good life. Thich Nhat Hanh, the monk and author who died last year, was quoted in the New York Times recently: “Many of us have been running all our lives. Practice stopping.”

January gave me an ideal balance of gallivanting with friends and practicing meditative solitude. Oh, how I thrive on this inner-outer energy. Spending time alone to putter, tenderly watering the geraniums, primroses, cyclamen, winter jasmine, amaryllis, paperwhites, daffodils and hyacinth plants enhances my happiness: my plant watering meditation! Being completely relaxed, in my own home, appreciating the cozy way I feel when I’m in my own intimate surroundings, doing work I love, is richly rewarding. A Christmas present I gave myself.

The more love we feel in our heart and soul, the greater our personal happiness and the more joy we experience. Making a regular practice of studying great writers who inspire our higher angels is a precious gift we have to share with those we love.

The Dalai Lama is one of my sacred teachers on the true, sustainable understanding of happiness.

Photo by Elissa

My quote, "Rituals of quiet and calm encourage us to enjoy our own good company," was featured in Decorate With Style magazine!

There are two kinds of happiness. The first is the enjoyment of pleasure through the senses. But we can also experience happiness at the deeper level through our mind, such as through love, compassion and generosity characterized by a sense of fulfillment. While the joy of the senses is brief, the joy at this deeper level is much longer lasting. It is true joy.

I understand how vitally important our internal, invisible inner thoughts are to our sense of wellness. When we care for and nurture our soul, we feel whole, complete and full. Being awake, aware and focused on this present moment can provide this true, pure joy of our mind.

I turned my "Love" stamp collection into a little collage. I love love!

The deeper our breath, the more focused we can be. Being present in every moment of our time alive is impossible. However, being completely focused on our breath in alert, aha moments of awe can encourage us to let more light guide us. This inner awakening brings us closer to wanting to capture the truth. Even when we can’t possess the truth any more than we can possess another loved one, we can always get closer. This is the great benefit of solitude: we are given the gift of grace. Whether we deserve it or not, it is in these beautiful hours of contemplation that we are feeling this connectedness and trust to the vast universe. Our love of others is a mirror reflection of our love of our own body and soul we were born into.

Embrace who we are at our core. Others, as Socrates well understood, can be ignorant about our essence. What is and will always be important is for us to be true to ourselves. The good life requires us to have character that values kindness, compassion and truth.

We live in a complex world. Not everyone, we’ve found out, is kind. Not everyone lives by the Golden Rule. I love this quote from the political adviser to FDR:

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind."

—Bernard M. Baruch

The love I have with Peter transcends death and brings me daily joy.

You and I are original. In my book Daring to be Yourself, I told stories of how others followed their own heart and experienced bliss. Joseph Campbell’s most well-known motto, “Follow your bliss,” is advice we can all embrace. We tell our own story by our actions. Bliss is extreme happiness, a form of spiritual joy we only experience when we use our talents and gifts in our own original ways. Through trial and error, we forge our own path. It is this inner searching for our truth, for what brings us to our center, that makes us realize the height of our unique powers. When we choose to be authentic, we discover what brings us the inner peace, the harmony and the sense of fulfillment we all want.

May this sense of fulfillment carry you into the month of love. Life is an aphrodisiac. My book Living in Love still brings me joy to remember all the people I’ve loved who are no longer in the human form. Love that transcends us doesn’t diminish with distance or death. Absence is an opportunity to rise into a higher realm of spiritual bliss. Continue to love all the people you’ve known and loved throughout your life’s journey so far. Happiness is loving what is true, good and beautiful. It is loving yourself in order to increase your love of others.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Let’s together spend every day spreading joy and love to others.

Love & Live Happy,

Photo by Mike

Mike couldn’t help but take a photo of the bouquet of tulips mimicking Roger Mühl’s tulips.

Roger Mühl Original Available

I’m letting go of an original oil painting 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)
Oil on Canvas
5 3/8 x 9 3/8 in (canvas size)
Painted ca. 1991
This classic still life of ruby red cherries in a lush green bowl is dynamic.

My dear friend Rebecca and I share our passion for Roger Mühl’s art.