AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
Since my last newsletter we have experienced unprecedented natural disasters around the globe. We can’t mention the catastrophic damage of the devastating hurricanes since Harvey without acknowledging earthquakes and other tragedies. We share the pain around the globe. We can help. We can pray. We can meditate. We can pause, reflect and allow our compassion and shared humanity to guide our actions on how to respond. We all have different resources. Let us use our unique gifts in whatever ways we can to reach out to all those survivors who are hurting. In their struggles to get back on their feet and start over, let us reach out in understanding, giving them hope and strength as they put their broken lives back together.
These natural phenomena do not discriminate. Everyone who was where these storms landed or earthquake erupted were vulnerable. As we “participate with joy in the sorrows of the world” we can do our part to ease their pain, give relief, and trust the golden rule to guide us in our generosity of spirit and brotherly love. Today we are not only a global community, we are not merely interconnected, we are interdependent, intertwined. We are all united in this precious, crowded planet earth. Let us pay attention, listen to what relief workers are telling us, and respond appropriately, feeling the powerful sense of joy that is inside us when we reach out to help and serve others in need. For our friends around the globe, we are in this life together and our happiness always comes from our profound love of life and our ability to find useful ways to be of service.
No matter how much we study, learn, and know, and how scientifically we are inclined, there are a great many mysteries and uncertainties. We try our best to shape our circumstances, but we have to work with the reality of the situation at hand. Whenever we are all confronted with such grave destruction of this magnitude, we realize how strong we are, and when we’re so profoundly challenged, we become stronger.
Human beings are astonishingly adaptable. We have this opportunity to think in a new way with a clearer vision of how we can live our lives being productive and more useful. How can we point to the light, beauty, and universal kindness in order to give our lives more meaning and live with greater appreciation and happiness.
I personally feel more committed to my decision to be a writer than ever before since I began writing my first book in 1967. Since I returned to the cottage on Labor Day weekend, having spent my peaceful days working on my new book, the stand-up desk in my writing room was installed. This is a revelation. Peter and I have owned two stand-up desks and enjoyed writing at them, but nothing has quite given me the same pleasure as having one the size and height that is ideal for me. My new stand-up desk is not for a computer. It consists of a rectangular piece of wood painted white, hung on a wall opposite the windows, next to the research cabinet. One thing always does lead to another. When we’re mindful and in a position of control, things can improve. Being able to edit “Joyful Living” and work on my new book, while standing, looking over the roof at the garden and sky as well as Peter’s and my writing rooms, changes the energy dynamics of the cottage. Suddenly, I envisioned having another bookcase built on a free wall to envelop Peter’s writing room with books.
I’m continuously adding books to our upstairs library, but I’d run out of space. I’d reverted to using chairs to stack them on, making the space look disorganized, chaotic, and messy. Having been away from home for a peaceful vacation, my mind felt expansive. Eureka. It dawned on me … more bookcases would be the ideal solution. When I told one of my daughters she further suggested an idea I’m taking to heart. Rather than merely placing all the books neatly on the new shelves, that I strictly review the books scattered around the room and see what ones I can donate to the library. I’m now donating short amounts of time to this project, and look forward to the winter months ahead when I can luxuriate in taking charge of Peter’s library-writing-room.
Our local renovated cinema had a special series of art documentary movies, each one for two performances only. Fortunately, I was able to go to all of them. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” about the artist Vermeer, “Rembrandt,” “The Impressionists,” and “Vincent Van Gogh: A new way of seeing.” I learned so much about these great artists’ lives, the times, the places and influences that shaped their art. All the scholars, historians and curators whose wealth of knowledge and whose reverence for the genius of the artists they’ve devoted their lives to study and keep alive to the public is beautiful. I also went to the theater to see “The Importance of Being Earnest,” the classic masterpiece comedy by Oscar Wilde. “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” I’ve never laughed so many times in a few hours in my memory, and it was exhilarating.
When reports about Irma were uncertain whether this hurricane would be dangerous in southeastern New England, I made a reservation to go to the Mystic Inn and Spa. What a blessing to be able to cancel, unpack, and continue with my normal rituals at the cottage. For all of you who have been directly affected by these devastating storms, I’m certain you feel the loss of these islands, places where you’ve visited on vacation or worked. Maria, coming with such powerful force right afterwards, is too sad to comprehend.
Living in a seaside coastal village is a privilege I treasure. I’m also aware of the surf’s danger. Cooper’s passion for surfing began last March in Hawaii. In Rhode Island in Narragansett, when I saw her having a surfing coach play in the waves with her, I cried with sheer emotion when she first stood up on the board. A few weeks later, on a public beach in Westerly, Rhode Island, she entered a surfing competition organized by our great science and sailing school, NESS. There were big waves from Irma, but it was the next days when there were warnings about the undertow. Nature reminds us we’re all connected, everything is. Cooper had a great experience and scored in the competition. She won the raffle and a surfing T shirt, excited to compete next summer, continuing her times with Sean, a coach she enjoys learning more about the water and her new passion, surfing, becoming one with the waves.
Early in the morning before Cooper went to shoot some waves, she woke up early and wanted to “go play” in my writing room. Weeks before she announced to me that she wanted cushions along the storage ledges requiring me to remove stacks and piles of random work that needed to be organized and filed for future use. The research dates back to 2010. It was time. She wanted “Cooper’s corner.” This mess is my past efforts and will or will not be useful to me in the future. But only I can decide. Because we never know what the future will bring, it is better to be safe and spend the time and effort to sort through this material and file it in the new bookcase shelves, weeded out to give my writing spaces a fresh beginning. By moving these massive amounts of paper stacks, the writing room has opened up. Together we moved my white lacquered desk to face the windows, in front of the high desk. We placed the white side chains side by side, rather than opposite each other as they were when the desk was parallel to Peter’s.
When one thing changes, we have to rethink everything. This is what Mrs. Brown taught her designers at her interior design firm. Removing the clutter inspired the thought to open up the white space. The two desks are now back to back, one will always be out of sight when I’m at the other. Cooper brought the ink bottles to the desk and I taught her how to fill old pens. There was ink art on white paper as well as our hands. She even wrote a letter to a character in a book she admires. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her play in my writing room because she knows everything is precious to me and always asks first.
Later in the day in a Lily Pulitzer shop in Watch Hill, Rhode Island we found some blue and pink pillows for her secret space in her grandmother’s Zen writing room. Sunday morning when I arrived with a cup of coffee, she instructed me to go lounge, “relax,” seated by the open windows, comfortable in this sweet end of the room. These experiences bring us our greatest joy. Cooper, who turns 9 on October 16th is seated at my desk while I’m relaxing at Cooper’s Corner. I had a vase with a yellow rose at the foot of the lounge space before she asked me to put it somewhere else to make her area “Cooper proof.” Do you imagine she envisioned her 5’ 8” tall grand-mommy resting there stretching out in the glorious sunlight and fresh garden breezes between working at one of her desks? The tall vase is on the research cabinet to gaze at, available for a one flower meditation.
The entire month of September is extremely significant, rich with meaning, memories and life’s markings, celebrations and joy. A friend gave me some Josh Groban CDs because Tom felt some of his songs reminded him of Peter and me. Every day I play his music, I pause when I hear “Try to Remember that Day in September.” Try, try, try September song is always in my heart. In addition to this month being the time we decided to turn our 20-year friendship into an everlasting commitment, Peter died September 25th, 2014. Brooke, my younger daughter, was born September 17th, and 35 years later, married in Stonington, and 13 years later, celebrated their anniversary and birthday. Peter’s older sister Bebe celebrated her 97th birthday. A good friend, Mary Ann, celebrates her birthday the same day in September that Alexandra married and is celebrating 20 years this month.
Our geraniums are flourishing, as are our late-blooming pink roses. We’ve experienced intensely strong peachy orange sunsets. One evening the entire sky became a fiery red. We now have a new moon. We’ve had some foggy, misty mornings that I find romantic and soulful, patiently awaiting the changing light when we’re able to see some perspective, the blue water and sky appear, the green trees on the other side of the harbor, the sailboats gliding through the shimmering water. The trees are turning into their orange palette, a favorite sight from our writing room windows.
To honor and celebrate Peter’s life and timeless, enduring contribution to ours, I had a gift given to me by dear friends of Peter’s and mine. Jamie, the master chef, offered to come to our cottage with a Provencal menu he prepared in Peter’s and my honor, joined by Amanda who was with Peter, as were their two children, Lily and Leo, his last earthly days. My role was to set a pretty table, and provide flowers and dessert. Leo, Peter’s painting buddy, sat at the head of the kitchen table. The theme was blue and white, Peter’s signature colors. We laughed, toasted the great man, savored our vegetable casserole arranged meticulously in rows of aubergine yellow, red and green. We felt Peter’s presence “at table,” and reminisced quoting his wisdom.
Breaking news. Here in Stonington Village, at the coffee shop where I have a perch at the window overlooking the town green, the library, the post office, and the white and gold steeple of St. Mary’s church, the ever-changing sky, I’m giving a talk: October 5th, Thursday, 7-9. “Choosing Happiness.” Indulge Coffee Shop. 17 High Street, Stonington Village (860-415-8575). Please come. Bring friends! This talk is to benefit our community center. To purchase tickets on-line, visit www.thecomo.org or telephone 860-535-2476. You will be given a personalized, autographed book, “Choosing Happiness,” wine, coffee, tea and desserts. If you need overnight reservations, call the Inn at Stonington, 860-535-2000.
Please also try to come to the Inn on Wednesday, November 8th and 9th for a Happiness Retreat, coming to the cottage Friday the 10th for a visit, and books will be available, thanks to my good friends at Bank Square Books (860-536-3795). Ask for John Fransisconi.
Happy October to my good, loyal friends. This month is equally rich with celebrations, including 3 grandchildren’s birthdays, family reunions, and writing.
Love & Live Happy
Save the Date!
Please come celebrate Alexandra's 76th birthday, Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at a Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington. This exciting event is for two nights, Wednesday and Thursday.
Please call Aubrey at the Inn at 860-535-2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations. So exciting!!
Imagine a grand old Parisian house full of Claude Monet's paintings!
Le Pont Japanais, a favorite of Peter's and mine
Nympheas by Claude Monet
Vincent Van Gogh
Claude Monet on Le Pont Japanais
A Roger Muhl painting in our kitchen. Also, on the cover of Peter's book Village.
Peter and Roger Muhl smiling in front of a painting of yellow tulips in our Roger Muhl collection.
The Impressionist Mary Cassatt I love.
Peter's beloved sister Bebe recently turned 97 years young!
The Lemonade Sale to raise funds for the Stonington Free Library
Leo, Cooper, Kate (Lily's best friend), Lily and Alexandra
Alexandra and her roses!
"Life is short. Art is long"
~~ Vincent Van Gogh