May 2021

“There is a blessing in the air.” —William Wordsworth

Peter and me at the boatyard in Stonington Village, where we liked to hang out.

Dear Friends,

Happy May!

I’m writing you early on in April because, in the merry month of May, my beloved literary assistant Elissa is having a baby boy. He is quite lively and might come early!

One thing to leads to another. Our new mommy is taking three months away from her career. The great good news is in the summer months—June, July and August—I will be sharing unpublished essays with you from my collection Choosing Beauty. Think of this time as a pause. I’ll be in “bardo” in between our traditional newsletters. My September newsletter will be a joy to behold for me.

The continuity of our staying in touch is vitally important to me. I am not going anywhere. I will be home, tending to my writing, enjoying the blessings of living in a spot on the globe I feel is best described in one word: paradise. My writing room will move outdoors, in our tiny backyard, our hydrangea forest.

We’ll have a picture or two of our freshly renovated cottage. I’m anticipating being full of beans, enthusiastic to feel we’re having a face-to-face visit in the garden. September, as many of you remember, is the month Peter and I fell in everlasting love. On the 25th of the month I will be celebrating the seventh year since he died. What extraordinarily enlightening years indeed!

Let’s think of this summer as my sabbatical. I will use this “leave of absence” to let my heart grow fonder. I will feel close to you as I write. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, in my daily rituals, and most tenderly in the blossoming garden of my soul.

You're Invited!

On June 7, I am delighted to be a featured speaker at an online virtual summit called Living Essentially Strong—Cultivating a Lifestyle of Self-Care and Ultimate Joy. This event will be hosted by Christina Arnold, a Joy Life Coach and a regional director with Joy Coaching America from Orange County, California. Christina and I will discuss the rituals I use to support my health, happiness and overall well-being. 

Click this link for more information and to register for the discussion! We hope to see you there!

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into
its most appropriate spot.”

Lily of the valley was my wedding flower.

Thanks to the post office, pen, ink and paper, we can stay in touch. I will send vintage postcards, with 30-plus years of booster stamps. I love hearing from you—but now, this will require a stamp or two because there will be no emails received until late August. Please remember I need your mailing address in order to respond to your former emails. If you feel it appropriate, I’d love your telephone number also. We never know.

I’m looking forward to May’s spring blossoming. Lilies of the valley will appear around the hydrangea leaves and buds. Because this is my wedding flower, I will savor all the memories of our wedding 47 years ago. The hot pink geraniums will dazzle in the window boxes for Memorial Day weekend.

For my May newsletter, I’m sharing some of my predawn musings, fresh from my dreams. This five a.m. awakening habit is inspired in my consciousness. I look forward to my peace and quiet before the day awakens, as I have for over half a century.

This photo, by Jim Hicks, shows the boatyard in Stonington Village.

Early Mornings and Rituals

In my energetic, happy state, I’m treasuring all the time I require to fill my well. Self-care requires wise reflection and lifestyle choices. When we establish daily rituals, they help us center ourselves. Mindfully, we learn more and better ways to be in love with love. The life we are living right now can become more meaningful, more significant when we create and maintain purposeful ritual practices.

For example, I’m happiest, more exuberant, when I get to bed at a reasonable hour, in order to gladly awaken before five. When I’m rested, invigorated and wanting to get up early to greet a fresh new day, I feel I own the day. Sleep hygiene is vital to our spirit-energy. I don’t always meet my target of eight hours of sleep, but when I do, I’m richly rewarded. Everything I am engaged in seems to flow more smoothly, with an enriched sense of pleasure and playfulness.

“This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”

The pink cherry blossoms bring joy every spring.

In the quiet of the predawn hours, I turn inward. Rather than being task-oriented or planning my day, I simply listen. This is my time of reflection. In my “common book,” I jot down impressions, fleeting thoughts, intimate feelings and words. I read Grace Notes. I look around, admiring a vase of pink roses on the kitchen table, reflecting in a windowpane mirror on the wall. When the four windows in the kitchen echo the design of the wall-hanging mirror, but the glass is black, I see light, color and beauty near me. I feel comforted by my awareness as I recognize all the ingredients that go into a happy state of being. Presence is key. This timeless, invisible soul-searching practice builds a solid foundation of wisdom’s truths.

Once we’re more aware of what makes us happy, self-care becomes seamlessly interwoven into the tapestry of our moment-to-moment thoughts and actions. One of my favorite mugs, a gift from my friend Kerri, is a strong “harbor water” blue color. In white, the words “Think happy, be happy.” Maintaining a positive, constructive attitude becomes more natural when we’re living in the spirit of universal compassion. The empathetic love we have for others transcends the inevitability of loss. Eternal life is never-ending love. When we’ve felt pain ourselves, we’re able to increase our capacity to empathize with loved ones’ losses.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
—Thornton Wilder

The glory of springtime lilacs.

Remembering our moments of complete happiness helps us put our enlightened sense of gratitude into loving-kindness activities. Bringing smiles to the lives of someone in need of “loving up” always lifts our spirits. “If we’re happy and we know it, clap our hands.” Clapping our hands for our own awareness of our happiness feels great. My literary agent and friend Carl patted the surface of a table twice. “Ah, this is the way life should be.” I always knew when Carl was well pleased. When we’re awake, aware, seeing beyond the normal, pay attention to what creates this sense of wanting to jump for joy. Reflection time allows this expansive inner space. Emotions are highly contagious. How we feel helps or harms others.

Truth will always be our inner compass. Our intuition will guide our path, no matter how steep the climb. The reason Aristotle considered courage the greatest virtue is because when we have the courage of our convictions, all the other virtues are available to use to harmonize our whole being. Any form of mindfulness will bring more clarity to our self-care. Caring for the soul makes us more conscious of reality. We are more inspired to make some appropriate adjustments to bring us back to our center. I know when I’m sublimely happy. Feeling well rested is a big part of my pleasure in living my life to the hilt.

“Contemplation is the highest form of activity.” —Aristotle

When I have the necessary courage to live by my beliefs, and I am free to think my own authentic thoughts, I feel I’m being true to my higher self. We are responsible for our thoughts. Only we can elevate our thinking so it will be worthy of the gods. Research has shown that the more loving and compassionate our thinking, the more our brain responds with our natural happiness boosters.

Aristotle taught that our greatest happiness is when we are contemplating. This was his belief in the power of our thoughts creating happiness. We owe it to ourselves to carve out whatever time it takes to think the thoughts that bring us our greatest sense of self-worth and purpose. We gain strength and resilience to do our best. Time alone, reflecting, is essential to our transformation.

Connecticut is in full bloom!

Learning how to take excellent care of our body, mind and spirit-energy is a daily process. Yesterday’s habits and denial may not show outward signs of pending trouble, but prevention is always a wise choice. We now know enough about cause and effect to pay attention to our personal private needs more mindfully. We don’t want to press our luck. If we have neglected our self-care, now is our time to refocus our priorities. We are on this earth to play our part, to contribute to the greater good. All that will ever be expected of us is for us to do our best in all situations. Ask yourself, “That’s all?” The only person I can control is myself. “That’s all.”

The only human soul we control is inside our physical body. The healthier our flesh, bones, blood and cells, the better the environment for our soul to flourish.

How we think and feel matters. Outside circumstances only account for 10% of our subjective well-being. While we can’t change our genes (50%), we can improve the areas of our environment (40%) that will increase our health and happiness. Peter died when his earthly journey appropriately ended.

Thank you, Karen, for sending this picture of daffodils at Gunnersbury Park in Ealing, London.

I never feel alone. Peter and Carl are still my muses. Their bodies are dead, “fertilizing daffodils.” As Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) told his students in the important movie Dead Poets Society, while looking at the wall of framed class pictures of ancient alumni: “You see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you.”

I had published this quote slightly differently in a March Grace Notes entry. The thought of Peter and Carl nourishing the soil of my “host of daffodils” (I have them in several sunny spots in the cottage) tickles me to soul-bumps. Awe.

Peter and Carl’s essence hasn’t vanished. They are vital parts of me and will be forever. I love them so much, I feel their spirit-energy profoundly. Their contribution to my passion is especially felt at the tip of the gold nib of a favorite fountain pen. I don’t have to see their body. I know their presence inside me. Their spirits are directly connected to my soul. The spirit realm raises us up into the timelessness of love’s eternal sunrises.

When dawn breaks in and the darkness leaves the sky, I move from east to west to fully savor the sunrise’s fleeting colors and their reflections in Narragansett Bay and the harbor. I meditate on how fortunate I am to know and love so many people who have moved me throughout my life, lifting me up on angel’s wings. In the consciousness of being in love with love, we’re able to experience truth from a wide, timeless perspective. Life is short. When we feel we’re on top of a mountain, where the air is perfumed by loving-kindness, this is our time to thrive, to flourish, to bask in the glory of our fleeting earthly journey. There is love everywhere. We’re free to be in love. I remind myself to appreciate every sacred moment we are alive. This is our opportunity to thrive!

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love.” —Thornton Wilder

My gardenia blossoms bring me joy. Peter gave me this Chanel No. 5 bottle in Paris, and I in turn gave it to Elissa.

When love’s powerful force for good opens up our heart so wide that we feel we’re bursting, we can light candles, ring bells, skip and know truth is marching us on. What is true, good and beautiful will light our path as we stretch open our arms as our wings take flight. Once we experience this inner light, we must commit our whole being to the truth of love. This commitment to ourselves requires patience as we reflect on our inner resources. Self-knowledge is an evolving process of discovery and growth. The most important truth for us is remembering to be true to our core being. I laugh at all the ways I like to amuse myself. When I lovingly tend to my gardens throughout the cottage, turning plants around, misting them, watering them with a blue can, I feel love in all my pores. When I’m not kissing all my buds, I’m blowing kisses, blessing them for their beauty, for the joy they bring me.

Marcus Aurelius wrote in his journal Meditations, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” When we quietly make up our mind to work on ourselves, to make life better, we will see great results. Today, we can plant seeds and bulbs deep enough in the soil of our own soul to take root. Outside events simply are. Circumstances are objective, not subject to our opinion or our immediate control. A Buddhist friend has a saying that always rings true: “Things are the way they are, and not the way they are not.” Whatever we are experiencing “outside” is just that—outside. What’s “inside,” what our inner life looks like, from our sacred soul’s perspective, is our concern and in our power to transform. We create our happiness by our disciplined thoughts and loving actions toward ourselves and others.

“We live only the present, so infinitely small. The rest either has already been lived, or else it is uncertain.” —Marcus Aurelius

Lilacs in a vase, by Edouard Manet.

The challenging task before us in the art of living in love is for us to become more unquestionably good—wiser, more self-controlled, more just and courageous. Those are the values of the stoic emperor, Marcus Aurelius. As the most powerful person in the world at the time he was emperor of Rome, Marcus was ever so humble, quoting the virtues of an enlightened slave he admired, Epictetus. Epictetus did not have an easy life, but it’s quite possible that the hardships he experienced brought him wisdom.

Remember to let your vulnerabilities strengthen you. When we have learned valuable lessons about love, we grow to become wiser, more self-controlled and courageous. When we are good, we will be happy. Love is good for us and creates well-being in others.

Love’s perfume makes the air smell divinely. We take care of our mind, body and spirit by practicing loving-kindness toward our neighbor as ourselves. Marcus Aurelius’s only published book is Meditations. He was writing his insights to himself.

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
—Carl Jung

I embrace seeing flowers and flowering plants through my windows.

When light shines into the windows of the cottage, I embrace seeing all the flowers and flowering plants in natural light. After spending this quiet time cultivating my soul, I’m energized to soak in an Epsom salt bath, get dressed and seize the day.

Pull up a chair. Let’s sip jasmine and ginger tea and carry on an enlightening conversation. Tell me, what’s in your heart?

In closing, I want to remind you how grateful I am for our friendship. I’m acutely sensitive to your contributions to my happiness as a writer. Through my work, since 1974, we have grown closer. You have taught me, inspired me and loved me in great, supportive ways. I can’t imagine my life without all our memories and all we have to share in the years ahead.

Happy Spring, Happy May, June, July and August! I hope you have the happiest summer possible. Please continue to read my website. Enjoy a few of my essays from Choosing Beauty.

I’m looking forward to the mystery of my sabbatical. I’m curious what will flower into full bloom.

May the sun be on your back, with love in your heart. The two words I say in my daily meditations are thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love & Live Happy,

“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” —Nikos Kazantzakis

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day.

—Sanskrit Proverb