AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
I love you!
I’m in love with springtime’s promise of rebirth. The happiest month of May is greeting us with her wide-open arms and ever-expanding wings. Spring is “busting out all over,” quite literally putting a spring in our step among nature’s extravagant colors, light and exuberant beauty.
In April’s newsletter, I wrote to you about all the exciting activities and events I’d enjoyed in March. My anticipation of April heralding in springtime was intense. We all understand that April’s showers bring May’s flowers; what we are most astonished by is exuberant joy. Spring’s magical spell never gets old. As the earth comes to life, we mirror her good energy, gladly caught up in this expansive feast to our senses by nature’s powerful force.
From the first light of dawn to the brilliance of the sky’s electrifying sunsets, I continue to be in awe. We know in our heads that spring follows winter. From black-and-white movies or Plato’s cave, where we only see shadows, there is a thrill of the season’s spectacular technicolor display. After the cozy comforts of spending more time hunkered down in the winter months, spring’s full color spectrum is a blessing to behold. In her bright light and warmth from the sun, I’ve felt a sense of reverence and wonder that permeates my body and soul.
I’m spending my waking hours cultivating this elevated spirit. Being an unabashed worshipper of the sun, I’m encircled in this atmosphere of aesthetic excellence. The end of May is when the geraniums return to the window boxes: a rite of passage just before Memorial Day weekend. I intentionally add to my meditation practice a ritual of observation of all living plants and flowers I tend to in the cottage. In the undisturbed quiet of early morning, I make the rounds, gently removing anything brown or that’s over its bloom, allowing all the energy to go to new growth. By poking my index finger into the soil, I can determine if it’s time to water. As we all know, plants, flowers and humans all have our specific nutritional requirements. Not too much. Not too little. We get to know each member of our potted garden’s sweet spot in order to coax their best performance.
Along with a watering can and a spray bottle to mist the green leaves, I have some garden scissors. Some of my friends think I have a green thumb. I don’t. No one does. People who love plants and flowers enjoy paying attention to them while extending their life. For me, it’s of vital importance to have nature’s living things to feed my soul inside all year round. Flowers, trees and plants bring rooms to life. A room with living things draws us to its natural beauty and energy.
Everyone who came to the cottage in April commented on the fragrant gardenias. I’ve also been lighting a large, chubby jasmine candle Alexandra brought me on her last visit. The scent of jasmine commingling with gardenias perfumes the air, with the added allure of sea breezes coming off the harbor, sensationally heightening the pleasant atmosphere. Upon leaving the living room recently, Charlie sniffed several fresh white gardenia blossoms. As an aside, he commented that caring for plants to thrive is like loving a child. Gardenias require tender loving care to keep on blooming, just like a child does. In the same way, our inner child also needs love and tenderness to encourage and support our journey.
Springtime is an ideal teacher. Emerson wrote so movingly in Nature how we can “enjoy an original relation to the universe.” We, fundamentally, are nature. Rather than looking out at her wondrous beauty, we can deliberately spend more of our waking hours being absorbed in her life-giving, life-enhancing, life-sustaining energy. Sunlight, along with diet and massage, are naturopathic remedies for illness. This is the time of year to get outside to absorb all the natural benefits of the material world and its phenomenal pleasures to our senses.
Ah. After the winter months with the yard looking dried up, even dead, the evergreens in the window boxes were emptied, and it was time for a spring cleanup in the garden. What a difference it makes to have a tidy backyard to retreat to in the warm sunlight of the afternoon’s peace. The boating season is coming soon. For now, I look out at the water on the harbor and see no boats. Without the distraction of all the water activity, I can open my eyes wide, look up from my “summer writing room” and meditate. Sometimes the water is smooth as glass, creating a mirror image and reflecting the land on the opposite side of the harbor. The calm has a still energy that is soothing, clarifying any unsettlement of the mind.
Time and space dissolve in moments of observing the emptiness and fullness of nature. Is it patience we learn from these unplanned moments of awareness? Is it a taste of wisdom that only comes when we value spending these unhurried, leisurely times of pure, true freedom? From my current stage, I have slowed down due to the years I have enjoyed living to the hilt. Something gradually accompanies maturity: we instinctively enjoy a slower flow to our whole way of being in the moment. Rushing through anything lacks the calm, enjoyable self-control of our breath.
We may not all become poets in springtime, but we can let their words uplift our spirits. The Irish poet William Butler Yeats assured us that joy is wisdom. The British poet John Keats taught us that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. How true and beautifully these words are made visible in nature’s marvels. We pause to observe the delicacy of one or two daffodils gently wafting in the sunlight’s translucent glow. In this invigorating air, spellbound in complete captivation, we inhale deeply, feeling a spark of euphoria.
Light changes instantaneously. We have flashes of insight because of our being in this sun’s movable feast. I’m grateful anytime I feel these fleeting moments of wide-eyed awareness. I choose to feel the preciousness of our environment’s effect on our health and happiness.
This love we feel for our good earth requires our conscious care to protect our earthly home from human destruction. In April 1970, we had our first of 53 Earth Days. Environmentalists of all disciplines helped open our eyes. How can each of us be useful to play our part to slow global warming? We can make simple, small intentional changes. In addition to individual actions, like recycling and reducing our waste, we also need to contact our elected officials in support of policies that are good for our planet, and make sure to vote those people into office. Just as last month I showed that the first day of spring should be every day, let’s all make Earth Day every day.
When we truly love our life now, in its wholeness, it’s vitally important to pay attention to our feelings. Because we have a conscience, we are inherently guided by our moral compass. We usually know right from wrong because of the character of our nature.
We know what our higher angels want for our well-being and what’s best for the planet. Because of our endangered environment, the globe is facing a climate crisis.
Our sacred environment stretches boundlessly into the sky and deep into the sea below. We earth dwellers enjoy the paradise that is this glorious terra firma. I can literally walk on earth with my own legs! Think how far the human race has come! I’m humbled to reflect on how long it has taken for us to have evolved to have such a high intelligence to be capable of extraordinary lifesaving, soul-elevating inventions and discoveries.
I think back to the Buddhist Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote so poignantly about our precious planet earth. He tenderly taught us that all the elements are necessary to coexist in order to have a healthy crop of rice or corn. The sun is as essential for our health and flourishing as it is to the farmer’s abundant harvest that sustains us.
Wise Thay—Thich Nhat Hanh—wrote so poignantly in his classic book, Peace Is Every Step—“peace is,” not “peace in.” The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, as the Chinese sage Lao Tzu understood, because beginning is half finished. The skill and sustainability of our enduring happiness is a journey, not a destination.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Let’s go on a walk, alone, together. You where you are, I where I am. We’ll take an “awe walk” with mindful reverence, in silent meditation, appreciating the great teachers who have come before, helping us on our uncharted path to a fresh vision.
Envision going on a walk with Thay: “I like to walk alone on country paths, the plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in the air, but to walk on earth.”
As I put one foot in front of the other, I think of his words from his book Walking Meditation. When I continue to train myself in the practice of mindful breathing, with the in-breath and out-breath, I am touching eternity. I meditate on ways we can collectively live more deeply when we help the earth restore her beauty. Thay helps us find immediate ways to be useful in his book Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet. Thay’s outlook of contemplative simplicity and humble grace is an antidote to an anxious world.
The German writer Goethe’s insight that nature is whole and yet never finished helps me stay centered in the moment. Shakespeare taught us that ripeness is all. There’s an ancient Chinese saying, “The ripe melon falls of itself.” However we learn the invaluable lessons of patience and timing, consider this truth a key grace note. Every one of our five senses can enjoy this extraordinary ripening.
Spring, May 2023, is our time to focus our heart, mind and spirit on this expansive spaciousness of the sublime gifts we have received. While we are uplifted, we inspire awe. When we rejoice in what we have, not what we seek, we liberate our soul from suffering. In moments of leisure from labor, we can contemplate a moment’s peace.
“Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don’t destroy your peace of mind looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present; enjoy the present. Simplify!”
—Henry David Thoreau
Love & Live Happy,
Notes from Elissa
Many of you kindly wrote to us to let us know that you couldn’t access Alexandra’s website for a few days last month. There were issues with our host server that have now been resolved, and you can read last month’s newsletter here if you missed it!
Also, there was a typo in the April newsletter that has since been corrected. The text originally said, "My 80 years of traveling internationally for pleasure as well as business flashed before me as I reviewed the art’s history through my own story." This has since been corrected to "60 years," but wouldn't it be amazing if Alexandra began traveling for business at one year old?
I’m letting go of another painting by Roger Mühl if anyone is interested in adding it to their art collection; please contact Pauline at Artioli Findlay (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Lyman Allyn Spring Soiree
My friends at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum are hosting their Spring Soiree on June 3 to support the museum’s education programs and daily operations. If you’re able to attend, it will be a wonderful night! You can find more information here.