March 2016

Dear Friends,

The entire month of February continued to surprise me with joy. Preparing for the Happiness Weekend Retreat at the Inn at Stonington the first weekend of February brought me enormous enjoyment as I concentrated on the month of love and the intimate connection between a love of life and our love for each other and happiness.

Because “Love & Live Happy” was and is a continuous theme in Peter’s and my love for each other, I found my work especially richly textured with the most marvelous, poignant, and beautiful memories. Because Peter is happiness and believed so strongly in my work, I take pleasure in strolling down memory lane, looking at boxfuls of photographs, binders of his unpublished writings, a sacred stash of love letters, notes and Valentines, including letters I’ve sent to him. Because neither one of us used a computer or e-mail, we often could be sitting together, and for our personal pleasure, we’d write down sweet little notes of affection for each other, and most often we’d date them. Occasionally, Peter would also note the time (2:09 PM) and the place where we were. Beyond touching. Obviously, these are treasures. My inner wealth is breaking my emotional bank now as we head into his birthday month. Because it was our tradition to celebrate every magical day in the month of March the last several years of his life, I’m carrying out that wonderful idea because it increases my happiness to dwell on Peter’s beautiful qualities of character as I re-read his writings and dwell on his awesome love of life every day, sharing memories with friends who also keep his words close to their hearts as all his joyous spirit emanates from his soul. Every day in March, I’m going to select one short piece of his unpublished work and write it down in a notebook for me to meditate on. Some of his prose is so ethereal; I need to think of it often in order to grasp the delicate sweetness, and because so much of his musings are about us and his love and appreciation of me, this is a most enjoyable romantic feast for my heart.

A few years before he died, Peter wrote on his pad, “to visualize both the future of the days ahead, as well as a consistent energetic process to recognize and evaluate our sublime dreams of the past… In this way you can best encourage as well as affirm your current blessing of being happily alive.” His words are profound. Our past may be history, relating to the particulars of what has happened, and is no longer alive, but as Peter encourages us, we can recall by recognizing and evaluating our “sublime dreams.” When our personal history is rich, deeply meaningful, and beautiful, bringing it to mind is joyfully delightful. When we celebrate love and life wholeheartedly, smiling, appreciating and concentrating on just how precious each moment truly is, we’re creating these unrepeatable moments that become happy memories, “big as years;” in this way we “encourage as well as affirm” our “current blessings of being happily alive.” Poetry expresses the universal. Peter lived life poetically in his appreciation of being happily alive, having outlived his wildest dream of living to experience advanced old age with all the benefits of savoring the smallest, simplest joy.

I’m continuously being reminded of Peter’s thoughtful, generous spirit by friends, acquaintances, and strangers. A few days ago a woman stopped me to tell me her son, Raymond, when he was two and a half, was walking down Water Street with her when they both spotted Peter and me walking toward them. Peter did a bird call, and told the little toddler, “You’d adorable.” He handed Raymond a two dollar bill. “Hi, my name is Peter Rabbit. Please put this in a safe place and save it. Never give it away. It is yours.” This has become a treasured object for Raymond, now six, and he has Peter’s gift on a shelf where he keeps Peter Rabbit’s memory alive by having this reminder of their special spontaneous exchange. For Peter, every moment was an opportunity to have some fun, be playful, and make someone smile or giggle with glee in a sweet act of kindness that shines in all directions.

The Friday of the Happiness retreat we had a surprise snowstorm that caused delays in several arrivals, but no cancellations. Beginning that evening with the Inn’s welcome reception at their fun “Wine & Cheese” ritual, we all met and greeted and renewed friendships. Linda and her daughter Carly drove from North Carolina and upon arrival Linda showed me a picture of us “when we were young and beautiful” taken at one of my events in Richmond, Virginia many years ago. Another mother-daughter pair from North Carolina, hearing of the storm, drove all night, arriving at breakfast time when the snow started accumulating. I was quite sentimental about this happiness event because it was the first we’ve had in many years, and the first since Peter died. The memories of how much he always added to the Happiness Weekends brought him right there with us. Not only was he with us in spirit, but you had to just imagine how delighted he would have been to participate in the exuberance. Peter’s supreme capacity for happiness lifted us all up to a more elevated awareness of life’s wondrous beauty, majesty and opportunity for great creative enjoyment and accomplishment.

About ten years ago we were at Omega, a spiritual center in Rhinebeck, New York, where I was teaching some classes and giving talks. We went to the chapel to participate with the co-founder in a guided visualization of our own death. In the three hours of the seminar time I allocated ten minutes for us all to have a brief dress rehearsal at our own death. As I suspected, this was a powerful exercise because as we’re all learning, when we have no fear about our own life, we greatly increase our capacity and commitment to our understanding of happiness. Because death is not only not to be feared, when we think about it intelligently and soulfully, we are learning how to live. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke teaches, “Whoever rightly understands and celebrates death, at the same time magnifies life.”

The snow stopped Friday night just before the sun set in a blue sky with bands of pink. When the weather is nice, it is very nice, and at the seminar Saturday we were in awe of nature’s feast, watching the sound of silence as the lobster pinkish-red sky painted her magic for us to learn the lesson of fleetingness. We watched the fiery sky until the sun disappeared and darkness fell upon us. Soon, we’d gather for another party – “wine and cheese” at the Inn and a dinner celebration at the restaurant Breakwater on the dock behind the Inn, a few hundred feet away. Will, my favorite waiter, had also served Peter and me on the terrace of this same site when it was another restaurant, Swooner. He served Peter his last bit of food, the tip of a French fry, a memory I re-live regularly because I’m a French fry monster, thinking that the enjoyment of this indulgence is a pleasant form of transmutation. The dinner was specially prepared for our happiness celebration and we all went home well nourished in all the causes for happiness. Sunday, when everyone checked out of the Inn, we all gathered at the cottage to watch my daughter A.B. Stoddard on our 19” television screen, giving her a standing ovation!

I picked Brooke and Cooper up at the train station in a taxi and we were whisked to the Red Door Inn and Spa at the Mystic Marriott for a cozy Valentine’s weekend in below zero, windy weather. Our pipes froze, our tulips froze, but we were warm and snuggly. Cooper swam, we had spa treatments and were girly while Tony was in St. Bart’s at a best friend’s 50th birthday celebration.

Cooper has discovered Peter’s chi sitting at his desk in the downstairs study. She wrote about him and “happiness stations,” writing about happiness in a flower, and happiness in a bell. “Ring a bell and be happy.” I think I’ll bring Cooper into my happiness events because she clearly has captured what Peter loved most, the joy of living, savoring life’s precious moments. Cooper and Peter intuitively know nature is enough. “The chirp heard across the universe” proves Einstein right about gravitational waves as he predicted a century ago – our curiosity and awe make every moment an exciting possibility, loving the flow from one celebration to another, sprinkling sparkling, twinkling and winking light every step as they skip along the way, forging new paths that make them and us oh so happy indeed.

March is a favorite month because of Peter’s birthday. Please join our family and friends as we celebrate and toast Peter’s 94th birthday on March 15th

Happy Easter! Great love to you!

Love & Live Happy

On Peter's 92nd birthday celebration!

Peter Rabbit's gift to us to never give away! Good luck!

Our terrace in Provence where we both read, wrote and flourished. Happy memories!

Such a fun Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington!

When we were young and beautiful!

A lovely and fun dinner at Breakwater!

AB Stoddard's fans. I'm AB's Mom!

Until next time!

Grace Note

"Frankly, time does run out, often against our will!"

~~ Peter Megargee Brown
at the end of his earthly journey