November 2020

Enjoying the sunshine before the winter sets in. Photo by my granddaughter Cooper.

Dear Friends,

I’m writing this letter to you before the presidential election. I have no knowledge of the results from voters. We might be in for an “election season.” My heart is open wider now than it has been throughout these trying times. Our souls are in need of healing. All that is ever expected of us is to do the right thing at the right time for the season.

As a citizen of a democracy, voting is a sacred privilege and should be an obligation. I voted by mail and hand-delivered my ballot to the box in front of Town Hall. Having voted, I’m taking care of my overall well-being the best I can. I’m wearing a mask, drinking lots of sparkling water, lighting candles day and night and praying for the greatest good for all citizens of our fragile democracy. After we have voted, the result of this election is no longer in our hands. What is in our control is to cast our vote, our voice, our conscience, for the soul of America. I long for a sense of decency and honor. We can do our part to be sure all people we know and are in touch with have voted or intend to. Dr. Eric Butterworth’s words ring in my soul: “Do your best and leave the rest.”

My dear friends, please take extra tender care of yourselves this month. It gives me no pleasure to anticipate the darkest winter of our lives. All over the world, this deadly airborne coronavirus is raging. Some areas are out of control. We—you and I, your family and friends, our neighbors and community—are all going to feel pain. Please don’t let your guard down or turn your back. Being brave is being safe. This pandemic is real. It will require each of us to be personally responsible for selfless sacrifice for the greater good. This is our time to shine. We can be light bearers to people near and far. Doing our best is being resilient.

We are all vulnerable. This epidemic is widespread, general and deadly. Don’t take unnecessary risks. A clear conscience these next weeks and months will bring us peace of mind. We will sleep better with the knowledge that we haven’t caused harm to another human soul.

I sent a gift of flowers and scones to a friend of a friend whose husband recently died. She responded with a photo of the flowers and a lovely note: "I was so touched by your kind, compassionate gestures to a total stranger. We need more random acts of kindness in this world and you have inspired me with yours."

I am writing to you out of deep concern and love. We are living at a time in history when more than 2.5 million years of life have been lost to this virus in the United States, if you consider the average lifespan of a person. Please don’t think of any death as a mathematical number. Each unnecessary death is a life prematurely snuffed out. A death represents all the years of lost living opportunities.

We alone cannot eliminate Covid-19. We can contain it by our own behaviors and set an example to everyone we know. Because we are social animals, we naturally want to be together. I’m a hugger. I love to kiss, hold hands. I love human touch. Now is not the time. Now, even though I can’t touch another person, I thrill at the sight of a loving child or friend’s smile. A friend wrote me that we can learn to smile with our eyes.

Now is our time alive. We want to have all our life-years to look forward to. I urge you to practice patience and courage with me. As we do what we can to remain positive and compassionate, we will be in a position to help lift up others who have fewer inner resources.

We cannot risk being numb to these staggering, tragic deaths. I read the Covid-19 obituaries. I watch reporters on television ending their programs with “lives well lived.” The mere good fortune and sheer luck that we are alive now is humanizing. Being alive during this crisis gives us a great opportunity to find greater purpose and meaning in everything we choose to do, how we choose to live.

I am calling on all the higher angels in heaven and earth. We are indeed living in unprecedentedly uncertain times.

This month, I'm thinking about Peter and remembering my happiest travels, like this trip to Venice.

What are your daily meditation practices that keep you grounded and uplifted? Our everyday habits cultivate our ideals as they shape our character.

How well do you manage to live with disappointment? What do you do to lift your spirits?

What are some of the aesthetic rituals you create to bring dignity, self-respect, grace and beauty to the present experiences in your daily life? Thoughtfully, we can work on self-care. We want to do things that invigorate us as we are inspired to “love up” our immediate surroundings.

The first person I call on for guidance and encouragement is Peter. The Yale University Class of 1944 was asked to write 300 words about their lives for their fiftieth reunion. I was present when Peter did some soul searching. His summary: the Sanskrit wisdom, “Participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.” Then Peter wrote about the joys that made him extremely grateful. “My family, especially Alexandra, she brings flowers to winter days; pure water to a desert place; cheer and happiness in the morning sunlight.”

One of my greatest blessings is that Peter openly showered me with affection and love. The tender, endearing words of appreciation that he openly expressed to all his classmates are a gift that so many of us cherish. He deeply loved me. I always knew and felt his devotion. When we’re openly able to expose our emotions, we’re able to help others express their tender feelings of connection.

We are all facing difficult challenges. It’s sure nice to be reminded that we’re being watched over from a higher spiritual realm. When we’re largely isolated from family and friends, the people who have died who loved us in their lives are still loving us.

Remember, when writing down ten defining words, Peter needed two for friends: “Old friends.” Half-century friends. The friends he made his freshman year at Yale when World War II broke out remained his best friends throughout his life—“in quality of spirit and loyal continuity.”

At the end of Peter’s essay were two words he asked to be engraved on his gravestone: “Still Learning.” They ended up being printed on cocktail napkins at his celebration of life, instead of on a gravestone, because his ashes went out to sea, where his spirit is free. We are all still learning about how to do our best as we move into uncharted terrain.

Independent bookstores are crucial, and as we head into the winter months, I'm reminded of the books I love, like this one, given to me by Jackie. (Dahlias make me smile!)

One of the most important aspects of my life is reading. Books are central to my well-being. One of the main reasons I am so keen on the concept of the book exchange is that I can regift books. Peter’s great advice was “When you find something you love, stock up.” When I read a book that teaches me how to expand my horizons, that opens me up to new exciting possibilities, I’m excited to share the name of the book with friends. I read to grow, to learn, to be enchanted by the author’s “writer’s capital.” What writers read and what they’re enthusiastic about is contagious. Dr. Samuel Johnson suggested that a writer has to read an entire library to write a book. That’s a tall order indeed.

A few weeks ago in The New York Times Economy section, there was a lead article that made me pause: “Your Local Bookstore Wants You to Know that It’s Struggling.” The message from the American Booksellers Association is clear. If you and I don’t buy from our local independent bookstores, they won’t be around much longer.

This 2020-2021 winter, we’re going to spend more time in our homes than ever before. As we hunker down in the comfort of our “private world of retreat,” we will be wise to have a home library of books we’re inspired to read. To help support our local bookstores, we can “stock up” on extra copies to give to family and friends for the holidays. Imagine someone’s delight to receive a book you send out of the blue that you know they will want to read? Magic.

During the lockdown, Bank Square Books in Mystic and Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly delivered book orders to their local customers in their Bookmobile. It was their “horseback librarian moment.” They saw a lot of dogs!

These personal gestures of caring, of making an extra effort at a human connection, can be a lifeline for many. Especially now.

Book lovers are passionate about words. Working in a bookstore is a remarkable calling. When I was having a visit in the garden with the bookstore’s event manager Ani—who took over for Elissa—she told me her job is not for everyone. When you’re fortunate to be able to do what you love, you make deliberate choices. You simplify your life. You realign your priorities.

I can’t imagine my life without my good friends at Bank Square Books and Savoy. For all of you who don’t have a personal relationship with a local bookstore, adopt ours. Call 860-536-3795 or 401-213-3901, or shop online at www.banksquarebooks.com.

In addition to buying current books you want to read, as well as ones you want to give as gifts, consider investing in adding great books to your home library or buying a book or two for your local library. I can think of few greater investments than sharing good books. Keep reminding yourself that learning is like breathing. Just as our bodies need nourishing, fresh food, our souls require inspiration. Reading will extend our lives and deeply enrich our most challenging days ahead.

I loved this letter that I received from a fifth-grader in New Orleans. Look at his art!


Thank you, dear friends. Because of your generosity of spirit, my mail deliveries are full of wondrous surprises. Each one of you is an amazing grace to me. Thank you for accepting my invitation to send postcards with your ten words, as I discussed in my October newsletter. Continuing our theme of still learning, I want to know about all of you. The words that best speak for you and about you bring us closer. The more we understand each other, the greater our love for one another. Please keep sending me your words, in whatever form you prefer, and I will continue to share them.

I will respond to you with a postcard. Soon. Love and deep appreciation to the fifth-grade writing class in New Orleans. Your teacher Miss Gambino and I are friends. I loved your words, your drawings and your questions. You’re all writers! You wrote me beautifully. Writers unite!

Your pandemic words are so moving to me. We have all been put in our place. As a result of how we accept something that is not in the power of our will to control, we seem to be finding great beauty inside us. This is where our power lies. This is the silver lining. We are being called to do better. We are doing better. We must all do our best. We’re moving forward, headed in the right direction, together. Stronger, more loving, more understanding.

Diane sent me this postcard. She sends and receives thousands of postcards from around the world.

Collectively, the words that are most striking to me are:


Angelika sent me this lovely postcard featuring a truckload of freshly harvested dahlias. Thank you, Angelika, for sending me your ten words.

During the pandemic, I’ve called on the wisdom of my good friend and mentor, Mrs. Brown, who helped me use my God-given gifts. I often ponder, “What would Mrs. Brown think? What would Mrs. Brown do?”

Each one of us has unique qualities we bring to our lives. We are the luckiest of all when our God-given genetic inheritance can be developed. Through hard work, focus and determination, inherent gifts can morph into skilled talent.

Mrs. Brown and I went to the ballet together at Lincoln Center. At several performances we observed the great dancer Rudolf Nureyev. He would gracefully leap on the stage. Hold your breath. For several seconds, it was as though he defied gravity as he was suspended in air. Nureyev knew what God gave him and he never let it go.

Mrs. Brown’s example of creating beauty for ourselves and others in order to live a long, healthy, happy life resonates with me more now than ever. She never let her talent go, inspiring hundreds of designers to go out and add beauty to people’s intimate dwellings. Mrs. Brown once said, “Sandie, I will die when my usefulness is up.” In 1990, Mrs. Brown died five days before her 101st birthday.

Through her elegance, dignity and grace, I’ve tried to emulate being a lady. Mrs. Brown was born in another century. We’re 52 years apart in age. Naturally, our style for living our lives is vastly different.

Basic principles apply to all our lives. She taught her younger designers a vitally relevant life lesson: “When one thing changes, rethink everything.”

I am approaching my birthday—November 8—in this extraordinary, serious, soul-searching year. I’m embracing the grand dame of American interior design’s sage and timely advice. I’m rethinking everything. I’m reimagining how I can be more useful.

Our first snowfall on October 30! Photo by Elissa.

You’ve been on my mind and in my heart. I’ve read your letters, delighted in your photographs. I know how important it is for you to love being at home. I want you to feel comfortable, relaxed, confident, cozy, safe, energetic and happy.

On that note, I have good news! I’m going to do some interior design consultation during this winter and spring. We’ll work out the details individually; just send me a letter describing how I can be useful to you now in your home. If I can help guide your creativity, help you head in the right direction, we will be watched over by Mrs. Brown. We will become her earth angels, creating beauty.

Together, we can completely rethink how we want to use our limited spaces. When we approach our intimate environment with a sense of sacredness, this reverence will affect how well we treat ourselves and others. When we tenderly care for the aesthetics in all areas of our private sanctuary, this beauty is absorbed into the essence of our being. There should be no labels that make one space more divine than another. They are all one gloriously beautiful expression of you.

My dear friend is coming over to plant akebono tulips in my yard for her birthday. Akebono means dawn or daybreak in Japanese.

This will be the first year I won’t celebrate a traditional Thanksgiving with family and friends. The Happiness Retreat at the Inn to celebrate my 79th birthday has been postponed. By taking every precaution we can to be healthy and safe, we can count our blessings differently this year. In the spirit of compassion and empathy, unconditional love and grace, together we can sing the old hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

Grace is, indeed, amazing!

Because we won’t be mask-to-mask with many of our loved ones this Thanksgiving, I have an idea. Reach out to someone you know and love and write a love letter. Think of one of their friends or their child or parent who would be so touched to hear from you. A friend in Canada sent me her ten words on Thanksgiving Day, October 12.

We can use this day of gratitude to share our abundance.

The grace note for today, October 30 (my friend Sandy’s birthday), was written by Emily Dickinson: “A letter always seemed to me like Immortality.”

Stay safe. Stay well. Write soon.

Great love to you.

Love & Live Happy,

This year, I voted by mail and hand-delivered my ballot to the box outside Town Hall. 

Quotes of the Month

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow, but learn as if you will live forever.” —Mahatma Gandhi


“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” —Albert Schweitzer


“There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” —Epictetus

Book of the Month

Gift from the Sea

Gift from the Sea
Anne Morrow Lindbergh