March 2010

Dear Friend

February was an extraordinarily happy month for Peter and I and I hope this was true for your family and friends. We were fortunate to go on a magical trip to Italy. We hadn’t been in this beautiful country for many, many years, and this experience awakened so many hidden dimensions of joy and pleasure. Many friends have inquired about our Italian journey. In one word it was magical.

We flew to Rome and stayed in our favorite part of this ancient town, the top of the Spanish Steps. After checking into our hotel, we walked down the hundreds of steps to the main shopping area and walked and walked (until we almost dropped) to look around and experience the color and flavors of Rome. We felt the intense excitement in every cell of our bodies.

After a gloriously luxurious sleep in our hotel bedroom, we awoke to a sunny warm Sunday and were advised we could have lunch at a hotel one minute from ours, where there was a terrace overlooking the Spanish Steps. Church bells clanging, we walked to our destination with a sense of awe, reverence, wonder and appreciation for the cherished memories. For me, that dates back to my trip around the world in 1959. We walked about and breathed in the deep history and significance of this ancient city.

From Rome we took a fast train to Florence. As Peter likes to describe this experience, the ride was as smooth as glass. When the train took off, we were hardly conscious that we were already on our way to another favorite destination, Florence. The entire train ride (1 hour 20 minutes) was taken up pleasantly in an Italian banquet in an elegant dining car with white table cloths and large dinner napkins with a sip of wine, some bread sticks and perhaps the best lemon cream pasta we’d ever experienced. After our espresso we arrived in Florence, a favorite place where our daughter Brooke studied her junior year of college. It seemed seamless to know where we were and walk around to our favorite places in this equally historic and also favorite city. Everything was new and old, refreshing and ancient, serious and frivolous. We felt young as we cleverly navigated the century-old narrow streets that led us to the Grand Piazzas. We hung out in these extraordinary, century-old squares, observing the churches as well as the lively celebrations of children enjoying the carousel in its exciting merry-go-round.

Another glorious train ride to Venice, where we experienced the most beautiful scenery of Tuscany, the region of west-central Italy, where we saw snow in the mountains and villages. All our intentions to read and write on these unbelievable journeys made us humble to know we were meant to pay attention, to observe what was right there outside our train window and to soak in the country.

When the train stopped in Venice (three plus hours later), we felt a sense of peace, a serenity we hadn’t expected. There were no cars. There was no noise. We felt a calm envelop us. Now that we are home, when I hear Peter talk about his Italian experience, he always praises the Chris-Craft speed boats that took us from the train station to our hotel. Seamlessly gliding through the ribbon-like canals, we were enchanted by every bridge and the amazement of this city on the water. Looking out at the Grand Canal from our hotel window as the San Maria church’s gleaming white marble brilliantly lit by a full moon, was a moment as big as years we will forever cherish remembering. We didn’t want to shut our eyes when we finally went to bed because there were gondolas up and down the canal creating romantic memories for delighted passengers.

When asked what our favorite city was, it felt as though we would be disloyal to the other ones we so dearly love. For now we say, Rome, Florence and Venice are equally delightful. Walking around being enveloped in the historic architecture is so stimulating it adds a dimension to our happiness that our soul urges us to keep alive. It had been too long since we’d revisited Italy, and this was a most magical vacation. In one word: perfecto!

A large part of the experience of travel is the anticipation, and equally important, is the joy of returning home to your familiar things, and being able to see your personal environment in a new perspective. There was something about our cottage that was unresolved and it wasn’t until we were in Rome that I could see the solution with absolute clarity. We’ve lived in the cottage for almost a year since the renovation and I knew I wasn’t ready to put books in the three bookcases in the two living rooms. I first had cabinet doors put on the lower portion. I loved the way it looked and felt. One section is full of grandchildren’s books, games, puzzles, stuffed animals and toys. When they come to visit, they love to open the doors and spread everything out in all direction. I have fun adding surprises they look forward to discovering. This was a huge success, but I knew I didn’t want to see everything on these shelves on a daily basis. Our first night in Rome, Peter and I sat in our sitting area in our pretty hotel room and the conversation unfolded. I didn’t want to fill these shelves with books and objects. We have a library upstairs with floor-to-ceiling books. I have a research cablinet in my writing room. I knew the solution: close in the upper shelves with cabinet doors. How clean, white, simple, and practical. I’m now free to unpack the 150 boxes in the attic (the silver room) and have a place for the objects we still love.

We’ve opened about a third of the boxes and it is a delicious treat to rediscover buried treasures, many objects we’ve gathered over the years on trips to Rome, Florence, and Venice! Being able to have a place for everything and be delighted by the beauty of Florentine marbleized paper covered boxes and Venetian glass paperweights is a thrill.

Upon our return from Italy, I had a strong urge to organize my extensive stamp collection. I’m passionate about stamps and have been for nearly fifty years. I’m a philatelist; I collect postage stamps. The hours I spend sorting the, looking at each one, and putting them together in proper order in an antique box of drawers brings me solace and great happiness. Some of my favorite Love stamps and flower stamps I select for friends I write. I’ve gathered a selection for the grandchildren to put in an album – another addition to their cabinet in the living room. There is a lot of powerfully good energy behind those closed doors!

Our cottage is now completely childproof. Cooper runs around freely. She came with her parents for a long weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Our kitchen is ideal for theme parties. When cooper walked in and saw everything red and white, hearts, cookies and balloons, she smiled as she began to string words together, “De ga, de ga, de ga, gorilla, ball, thank you.” Pure glee.

Happy March. Spring is working its miracle. We’re celebrating the whole month because it is Peter’s and Alexandra’s birth month, and soon Figure It Out will be published.

Great love and happiness.

Love & Live Happy

Have you taken photos at one of Alexandra's events that you'd like to share? If so, you can email them to AStoddardInc@aol.com. Please be sure to include the names of those in the photo and where and when it was taken! We will try to include them on the website in the future.

Favorite Love Stamps

Peter Megargee Brown

This is a favorite photo that Alexandra took of Peter at Claude Monet's beloved house and garden in Giverny. This is the photograph selected for Peter's new book Figure It Out.

Ginny, from Florida, when we first met, October 2002. She's been to 7 Happiness Weekends!

If you would like to get an autographed copy of Alexandra's book, please send your order (including inscription information) to:
Jane Hannon
Bank Square Books
53 West Main Street
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 536-3795

Grace Note

Do things to make your day precious.
~Bernie Siegel