AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
All our rain is bearing fruit. We are all going to have a great hydrangea season. Last year, because gardens were lush with large green leaves and zero blossoms, we’ve been given more than a generous amount of healthy blossoms. I’m fascinated to remember back when last June it became clearly obvious this lack of colorful blossoms was across the board, covering a wide swath of gardens. As I confessed to you when reality struck, I couldn’t accept that I would have a “just leaves” summer garden. I’d put all my eggs in one basket and loved watching the blue hydrangea forest become an enchanted jungle. I had a friend buy some potted “Endless Summer” hydrangea we were able to plunk around for the illusion of this paradise I look forward to all year.
The buds are now robust, and every day the color is popping in every direction. Rather than being deep cobalt blue, the blooms are paler blue purple, lavender and pink. I’m now looking through a different lens filter, but the spectacle is magnificent.
The hot pink geraniums in the window boxes surrounding the cottage are from last year, making watering and deadheading sentimental that they are thriving, giving back their energetic beauty. We lost five rose bushes, but the ones we planted are blooming generously, reaching out from the white picket fence and stretching their branches toward the sun and sea air. The purple iris was the first to bloom, then the pink peonies, roses and geraniums. Now, I treasure these days of discovery as I appreciate the unfolding of this backyard hydrangea splendor.
My May vacation to Paris proved to be an inspiration, awakening all the specific places Peter and I loved to return to, as well as the precious, sacred memories of all the grandeur that awaits anyone who visits their favorite city of light—illuminating minds. Staying at a small 200-year-old hotel where we treated it as our Paris house, I felt I had returned home in all the meanings of the metaphor. I wrote a rough draft of the final essay of “Joyful Living In the Real World” in this adorable little hotel room overlooking the garden. I re-arranged the room in order for the small antique desk to face the garden, using the bed for my notes and papers, as well as the silver tray with the coffee pot and green and white striped porcelain cup and saucer. The only objects on “my” Paris writing desk were the bare essentials: the classic photograph I took of Peter in Giverny on a former anniversary May eighteenth in a cobalt blue and silver octagonal frame, my “serious” black pen, a pot of midnight blue ink, a honeysuckle and jasmine candle, three giant pink and peach peonies, and a rainbow of different sheets of pastel paper. My friends at the front desk brought up a brass standing lamp for me to use for the duration of my stay that beamed intense light on “my” desk. When the porter arrived with the International New York Times and the silver coffee tray, placing both on the foot of the bed next to the desk, Daniel picked up the picture of Peter, “Ah, Monsieur Brown, Peter Brown, we love you. Je t’aime.”
When I was decorating a 34 room Hotel Particulaire in the heart of Paris in the early eighties, during the massive renovation, my French family lived in Gertrude Stein’s atelier; I lived in a small private upstairs suite with a dormer window overlooking rooftops on the Rue de Fleuris on the Left Bank. So thrilled to “be” in Paris, an American decorating in this great city of culture, the taste and style my former boss, Mrs. Archibald Manning Brown, emulated, I then was also inspired to write. As some of you may remember, I dedicated my first book to Mrs. Brown. Doubleday published in 1974, “Style For Living.” Luckily there was a small desk in front of the window. I’m amused Gertrude Stein once said, “I love a view but put my back to it when I write.” I, too, in the moment excited gaped out at the cityscape, imagining, wondering, dreaming and, writing stream of unconsciousness the way Gertrude Stein wrote at Harvard under the professorship of William James.
As a result of my Paris inspiration in May, I’m glad to announce I am making good progress on my book. Polishing off a few essays, editing others, trying to gain some perspective of seeing my elegant cursive on reams of fine sheets of energetic colors—blue, symbolizing sky, yellow, sun, green, spring, pink sunset, lavender, lilac—and transcribed into 8x11, type-set. Seeing essays the typist has meticulously converted into a manuscript that I will edit before it is electronically sent to my new literary agent, Henry Thayer, is more thrilling than ever.
My typist is leaving for good the third week of July; our commitment to each other is to work diligently under a self-inflicted, most appropriate deadline to send the rough first draft to Henry before she flies to Berkley to study linguistics for five years on a full scholarship. If all goes according to our best laid out plan, we will have a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend before they drive across the country. He will help her get settled in an apartment in San Francisco, leave her the car, then fly to Montreal where he will do graduate work at the university.
There is no guarantee that I will sign off on this most meaningful book of all, book number twenty-nine, as scheduled. Purposefully, I didn’t want any pressure, therefore I had no contract. Once before, when I chose to work under contract, was with another significant book, “Choosing Happiness.” It was a gloriously sunny September 1st morning, 1998, the Federal Express truck arrived, the driver, Tim, ran up the stairs to my Zen writing room to pick up the manuscript. I had a premonition that manifested in a huge lump in my throat. I knew then this second attempt to completely re-write the book after my editor came to spend a day in the country to flatly turn the original attempt down, was not right either. Because both my agent and Harper-Collins editor conspired against the book, put me in an exceedingly vulnerable position.
Carl took me to lunch when I was in the thick of writing about happiness, pleading with me to give up the idea—“happiness is too elusive.” In order for me to try to soldier on, I read a scientific text book I’d read a review of in the Tuesday Science section of the New York Time: Well-Being: The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, edited by three well-regarded psychologists, published by the Russell Sage Foundation. Having the biggest setback of my publishing life, I was more cautious than caution to the wind. I put on my emotional lab coat and became doctor Stoddard trying to explain a nearly inexplicable subject human beings have been inquiring about and puzzled about since earliest days. By being once burned, I erred on the scientific side of happiness … to my great mistake. When I came to my senses and realized that I am not a typical psychiatrist, that, in fact, I loath Sigmund Freud’s attitude about why women are so “hypocritically miserable,” as well as a good deal of the psychiatrists and psychologists, my intention was contrary to what I ended up doing with my second attempt. I did not give the manuscript to the driver. It was a four-year struggle to get “Choosing Happiness,” version three happily published in 2002.
I will try my darndest to work diligently to follow through according to my exciting, long-awaited plan to let Henry read “Joyful Living In the Real World.” I will also listen to my heart and try to “do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason” as Aristotle instructed me. Fingers crossed. Please send your loving support as I work. I will keep you informed from now on.
All I expect of myself is that I do my level best, and, as a Unity spiritual leader Eric Butterworth instructed his followers, “leave the rest.” I’m happiest writing. I’m delighted to think that I may have come close to being able to complete this favorite book of mine. I leave the outcome to fate, with all good feelings about joyful living and Peter and Carl rooting for me all the way.
Thank you for being such important people in my life. Please come to the Inn for my birthday celebration, November 8th & 9th, 2017.
Happy July 4th. Happy summer.
Love & Live Happy
Breaking Good News!
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!!
Peter and Alexandra a few years ago waiting for the 4th of July Parade to march past. This was one of Peter's favorite patriotic events!
The July roses are ready to celebrate Independence Day!
Last summer's vibrant cobalt blue hydrangea!
Who can resist the sublime beauty of July roses on a white picket fence.
The young sailors in the Stonington harbor
July afternoons spent enjoying lunch and each other's company at Ocean House
A "rosey" July day
Always smiling Peter out for a July walk
Erica and Peter amongst the blooms!
So dapper amongst the hydrangea!