AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
Happy May! The merry month of May is one of my most happy times of year because it is flooded with nostalgia and beautifully rich, poignant memories, and the bursting forth of spring’s abundant beauty in all forms. We feel a sense of re-birth, renewal, fresh beginnings, and a yearning to brighten up, lighten up, and embrace this colorful season of nature’s transformation and renewed love of life. It’s hard to believe we had two snowfalls during the first few days of April.
To celebrate Mother’s Day I’m blessed to be returning to Terrain in Westport, Connecticut, the town where I lived since I was five, when my father moved our family from Weston, Massachusetts to Westport when he became Elizabeth Arden’s Vice President in 1946. Terrain is my favorite environment for a talk the day before Mother’s Day. We will be together in a dreamily beautiful place where we can experience the art of living to its fullest. Terrain espouses everything life enhancing, offering us objects of our desire to bring the quiet moments in our lives more beauty, more sensuality and happiness. The manager has made this visit a tradition for me to come celebrate Mother’s Day, and I look forward to this Saturday’s events throughout the year.
Please come if you live near, or, come from far away and make it a destination. A mother and daughter flew in from Canada one year while others made the trip from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York. I long to share the intimate, sensuously stimulating, space Terrain provides, and have us enjoy these precious hours of meaningful conversation that is stimulating and so richly textured with gratitude for our loved ones and the grace and joy they bring to us, no matter whether they’re young, old, alive or dead. Love never dies. If you can’t attend, please tell friends because this always ends up being a dream day in a dream space. There’s a garden café, a terrace, and everything you’d ever want to give as a gift to your mother for Mother’s Day. If you can come, you won’t be disappointed, and if you can bring your mother or children, they’ll be in good company. I’ll be there most of the day and will greet you with open arms and heart. I’m taking a train on Friday, May 6th, and staying at a lovely inn in Southport, where I’ll meet a good friend Claire for lunch. That night, I’ll celebrate Nancy’s – the manager of Terrain – birthday at the wonderful restaurant that is part of the inn. This brief sojourn is bringing me so much enthusiasm as I anticipate the pure pleasure of our being together at such a happy event.
While mothers celebrate their children every day of the year, I find it touching to have this one day we set aside in appreciation and thanks remembering our mothers and honoring them. The mother-child bond never leaves us. Our children are a part of us and we are a part of them. We’re intertwined, interconnected, and our souls are inseparable.
The second week of April, my daughter Brooke came for a quick visit. I picked her up in a taxi at the train that was on time within a minute or two, and we went around the corner to a favorite restaurant, Red 36, at a marina in Mystic. We had an early delicious lunch and then went outside on the deck, sat in the sun in white Adirondack chairs, and soaked in the warmth of being alone, together – we were all going to be together the next weekend in Chevy Chase, but Brooke had an exciting business commitment and had to postpone the family visit. She loves coming to Stonington to be still and go to the library – her “to go” place – to be productive and think through her work in this charming, peaceful seaside village. Timed perfectly, she went there after an early dinner at another favorite restaurant, Water Street Café, where we shared Happy Hour appetizers. Being Wednesday night, we stayed until closing time at 8 PM. When she returned to the cottage, with a “hey ho” as she opened the front door, she found me sitting comfortably in bed with my feet up reading. Early to rise, early to bed. What a gift.
Angela, a good friend who owns Red 36 with her mother Carol, also a dear friend, insisted she drive us home when she heard me ordering a taxi. Angela lives down the street in Stonington, and after Brooke and I spent a leisurely relaxed time at her restaurant (that reminds me of being in the south of France with all the yachts), she whisked us off to Breakwater, our local spot where we can can sit on the deck at the water’s edge at their dock at the Stonington harbor, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine, sipping coffee, luxuriating in the gift of time. Brooke and I almost broke the “five hour rule.” Never be with anyone for more than 5 hours. Give them a break! Everyone is busy. But, when we can have these rare, precious one-on-one encounters, with no technology, no other connections except our natural love for each other and a chance to share our wisdom, expect a miracle. One of my mottos is “show up.” I’ve always gained so many benefits and pleasant surprises from making the extra effort to spend precious time with a person to listen without interrupting; these are encounters I dearly love – the best kinds of encounters.
Breakwater has a sweeping panoramic view of the ocean and the breakwater, and we were seated in front of where we chartered a sailboat when we sprinkled Peter’s ashes in the ocean, along with some of his favorite flowers – blue hydrangea, roses, tulips, sweet pea, lilies, and delphiniums. This restaurant view is a big part of our happiness and treasured memories that go back to the fall of 1988 when we bought our cottage a few blocks away.
It’s fun this time of year to see the sail boats come into the harbor, one at a time, and to be gently reminded the summer season at our coastal village is approaching, and the boats are being put in the water, not coming out of the water. We have several months of carefree outdoor living to embrace. Friends are returning from Florida, I’m looking forward to all four grandchildren marching in the July 4th parades and going to sailing and science camps in July and renewing their Stonington friendships. All four seasons are intertwined to enrich our appreciation of nature’s wonders and awe inspiring beauty as well as our love of life.
April is an in-between month. The evergreens get tired and dried up in the window boxes surrounding the cottage, but it’s too early to plant the hot pink geraniums. We await the final full moon in May to plant them. The roses hugging the picket fence are pruned but not blossoming, and the lush blue hydrangea forest in our tiny back yard is still bleak and beige, just beginning to show signs of new life.
In January, I shared about my friend Genine receiving a new heart, and we were all celebrating, but sadly, her fragile body rejected the transplant. After months of struggling, with the best possible medical care, this forty-six year old angel died in mid-April. I went to see Genine on Thursday the 14th, and was blessed she was awake and we had a most beautiful, poignant visit. Her husband Martin was at her side, holding her hand when I arrived, and after a while he left the room and joined his family and told me to stay as long as I wished. I promised Genine I would try to live up to her example of purity, authenticity, kindness and love. I told her I would never say goodbye. We would always be together. I look back on that intimate time shared as one of the most powerfully moving experiences I’ve had in my 74 years. We connected intimately and lovingly, and because she was on oxygen, we locked eye contact, held hands, and through squeezes, thumbs up, nods and smiles, her sense of appreciation for the outpouring of love she felt in her last hours was inspiring. On her deathbed, Genine was teaching us how to live, how to be strong, humble, and grateful. Her congenital heart condition was rare, and while she was so very young to die, she outlived everyone else with this condition. Her mother Jan and “Auntie Margaret,” her mother’s sister, have befriended me. Jan said Genine’s death will leave a huge hole in her heart, which I can help to fill. When I learned Genine died Saturday night, with her 12-year old son Ramiro, her husband Martin, her mother Jan and other close family members at her side, I felt relieved that she had made her peace, was ready to let go. She was free, and as my minister and mentor John Bowen Coburn told me when my favorite aunt Betty died young, “she fulfilled her usefulness on earth.” Genine will forever shine brightly in our hearts and make us far better people because of her sheer grace and goodness as a living example of the possibilities awaiting our human potential. My youngest daughter Brooke is Genine’s age. Death of a close loved one, especially someone so young, amplifies our sense of purpose and puts a strong spotlight on our values, our principles, and our character. Genine will be my hero, a smiling soul of radiant excellence and virtue, who will continue to teach us right from wrong, good from bad, and help us to strive to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. I love you, Genine.
I took a train from New York to Washington, where I spent the weekend with Anna, Nicholas, and Lily, going to basketball tournaments, and being a soccer grandmother. The warm, sunny weather and peak spring foliage was a tonic, and joyful to experience everything in full bloom, fragrance, and color. I returned to New York City to see Brooke and Cooper. The weather was glorious and I walked up and down town, ate outside in cafés, and felt refreshed and renewed, invigorated and at peace.
I have so much more to share with you, but it will have to wait until my June newsletter. I went with Jan and her sister to the Lighthouse Museum to walk about, surrounded by water at the Point, and envisioning the chairs for the service, all facing Narragansett Bay in dazzling sunlight in the last day of April. I leave you with a heart full of love, and please know that all your notes and messages, your kindness toward me, and appreciation for my writing deeply touches me and stenthens my desire to share all that is true, beautiful, and good in this world.
Please toast Peter and me on May 18th, to celebrate our marriage in 1974. I’m excited about Saturday, May 7th. Happy Mother’s Day!
Love & Live Happy
Alexandra is heading to Westport, CT!!
Mother’s Day Wisdom with Alexandra Stoddard
Saturday, May 7, 11A-3P
561 Post Road East
Westport, CT 06880
Invite Mom for an early Mother’s Day celebration as you join author Alexandra Stoddard for a discussion and book signing. Stoddard will share thoughts and ideas from her book, Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters. Afterward, stop by for a signing and take home a keepsake volume.
The Frick Collection
Anthony van Dyck
The Garden Court at the Frick Collection, New York
Alexandra, Brooke and me!
La Promenade 1875-76
The Frick Collection, New York
Detail of a peony by the master Pierre-Joseph Redonté
The beauty of spring tulips!
Time to revisit my book, The Art of the Possible!
"What is essential to the heart is invisible to the eyes."
~~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince