AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
Happy, happy New Year! Never before have I felt these words of hope and new beginning more deeply or more heartfelt. Since Peter died September 25th, I have tried to live in my breath, in the present, mindful of what’s going on, aware of the awesome beauty available to me in nature and in my loving relationships with family and friends. I’m also trying to be in close touch with my feelings. Last month I shared with you Claire’s letter about Sweet Pete being all about gratitude for the blessings of knowing and loving such a noble gentleman. As I begin a fresh new year with Peter’s spirit-energy guiding me, I am humble to accept all the love I feel coming toward me from every direction and dimension.
I hope your holidays were full of the message of peace, love and hope, and you and you loved ones were full of good cheer and enjoyed some festive celebrations together.
Sadly, on December 22nd, my daughters Alexandra and Brooke’s father died. This was only a few months after Peter’s death and it is a lot to accept in such a short time. I met both Brandon Stoddard and Peter Brown on the tennis court at a hunt club in the summer of 1954 in Southport, Connecticut when I was 13 years old. Brandon was a freshman at Yale and we played mixed tennis together. Six years later we married. Brandon, Peter and I were good friends and his death is a great loss to us.
There is a sweet lady in Stonington Village, who adores six-year-old Cooper. For Christmas this year she gave Cooper a photograph she’d taken at a sand castle building contest that she had put on canvas of a laughing Buddha. How could there be a better example of the inevitability of life’s impermanence than a sand castle?
All suffering comes from attachments. When we are under the false impression that anything remains the same, when we feel we can be in control of not only circumstances, but outcomes, we delude ourselves. Perhaps the greatest gift I’ve received has been the tenderness I feel for life’s sacredness and the fragile nature of everything. When we let our vulnerability be our strength, we live on a deeper, more meaningful level of consciousness. When we triumph over the sadness of loss, we are beautifully balanced by the joy of love, compassion, and the sharing of empathy for our caring and concerns for our family, our friends and community. We experience the inner peace and calm that envelops us when we feel genuine gratitude for all the countless blessings we have at hand and in our hearts.
As we enter this new year, I am not going to make any resolutions about specific goals for the future. I’ve always felt it was a recipe for failure. Rather, my firm intention is to aim at the Milky Way. I want as many hours a day as are in my mental powers, to be celebrated with loving-kindness, mindful awareness, and thoughtfulness towards the well-being and happiness of others.
I went to New York City to enjoy the holiday decorations and festive atmosphere. A friend of Peter’s and mine joined me for dinner Tuesday night before Christmas. We broke the “five-hour rule,” ending our evening with champagne talking about everything that’s really important to understand and live by. Charles’s mother had just died. He was devastated over Peter’s death. Some people are bigger than life and seem eternal lights to us. Peter was not just Charles’s friend, but also an active mentor, who guided his life. Our evening together was rare and a lasting treasure that we will both cherish.
Wednesday it poured. Cooper, Brooke and I went to Make Meaning, where Cooper made fun colorful soaps for her friends for Christmas, and Brooke and I made festive candles. We sang in the rain as we went to a French bistro for a fun lunch, including a Christmas log for dessert before going to see Annie. The sun will come out tomorrow! We had a good time. It was delightful being in their beautiful apartment. The first ornament I noticed on their tree was a framed photograph of Peter Rabbit. We lit candles, had some sparkling rosé champagne, toasted Peter and Brandon, and Cooper opened a few Christmas Eve presents before heading out to another French bistro for a banquet.
Christmas morning I went to Brooke’s apartment to experience an atmosphere of pure glee. Cooper expressed jubilant delight, especially with the microphone Santa Claus brought her. What a natural performer. We laughed until we burst as she entertained us during our elegant holiday brunch.
I took a noon train to Washington to be with Alexandra and her husband Peter and Nicholas and Anna (13) and Lily, (11). Their golden retriever, Homer, brought me close to Peter, who loved him so, and I felt Homer accepted my affection as a representative, an agent for Peter. He was most affectionate and I hope it wasn’t just because he remembered all the turkey nibbles I gave him at Thanksgiving! But I’m really not concerned. We had our warm moments together and genuine caring eye contact. I felt Peter’s gentle presence.
The weather was sunny and in the mid fifties. The children ice skated and Nicholas played golf, perfectly content to be by himself, perfecting his game. Lily beat me in every card game and board game, but taught me a few of her clues and tricks for the next time.
I luxuriated in the long train ride from Washington to Mystic, and was grateful for the half-hour delay to give me more time to read. Brooke, Cooper and Tony came to Stonington for the weekend. What a treat to quietly kiss Cooper goodnight and turn off her light. As I sunk into the bed, I turned on the classical music station, said a prayer, and felt happy to be back in my own bed after a magical family Christmas, in spite of the circumstances.
Alexandra, Brooke and I went to make a clean break and use the marking of 2015 as a natural opportunity to begin again, have a fresh start, clean the slate and start an exciting year. Having Brooke at the cottage inspired me to re-organize and re-arrange the cottage spaces and arrange them so they are more useful to the ways I intend to use the spaces. My wise mentor and former boss, Eleanor McMillen Brown, who was born in 1890, told her interior design staff, “When you change one thing, you have to re-think everything.”
Whew! For the first time in my adult life I am living alone. Brooke left Monday morning at 5:30 AM and I was alone. The cottage we bought with the money from a five-book contract with Doubleday in 1988 for Peter and me to go to for the weekends and leisurely quiet hours to read and write, is suddenly mine to enjoy and appreciate.
After Peter died, a sensitive friend, who became a widower when he was still a young man, wrote me a most prescient letter, wishing me happy acceptance. He advised me not to make any major decisions for a year, and that life is for the living.
I’m organizing Peter’s library-writing room, putting books back in the bookcase that we have all over the place. Now is not the time to edit because before Peter died I was helping him with his memoirs, “Keep Figuring It Out.” I’ve moved all of his writing into my writing room, something completely foreign to our lifestyle because we were always in connecting writing rooms, but separate. I’m comforted pouring over all of his paintings and putting them in binders; imagining what joy he was experiencing as he painted. His lasting legacy of happiness will sustain me as I adapt, adjust, and accept this new and exhilarating chapter in my life. Peter would want nothing else, and neither do I!
I want to extend a deep sense of appreciation to you and your communities of friends for the outstanding outpouring of love and devotion you have so generously showered on me. I feel lifted up on angel’s wings. I feel comforted in solitude as I am guided by Peter’s enduring wisdom and devotion; carrying all of us devotees to our rightful places on our paths toward greater illumination.
Great love to you. Happy New Year!
Love & Live Happy
A seascape Peter painted just weeks before he died.
A favorite picture of Alexandra and Brooke at the point in Stonington.
Alexandra and Brooke in Florence, Italy with Peter's feet at the watch!
My mentor, Mrs. Brown, (age 90) loved Peter.
John Bowen Coburn married Peter and Alexandra, May 18, 1974
Peter's smile always makes me smile.
If the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step (Lao Tzu), let's walk together.