November 2021

I'm savoring the pink roses and geraniums that are still blooming in October!

Dear Friends,

I love you!

Happy November.

As I wrote in Gift of a Letter, a letter is a gift we give to ourselves. I’m giving myself a wonderful present by regifting some of your beautiful communications to me. Your words, your personal stories, your photographs touch my heart.

Collectively, over nearly half a century, so many of us have made loving, open, heartfelt connections. We’ve grown to be kindred spirits. Thank you for the joy you have brought to my daily life by your loving-kindness. Often, I treat myself to rereading many of your beautiful words.

If I have brought you joy in equal measure to what you have contributed to my sense of fulfillment and happiness, I am forever grateful. As a prayer, the only two words we need to be heard are “thank you.” It’s you I have in my mind and heart when I dream, meditate and feel uplifted. Your light brightens my vision, expanding my own possibilities, increasing my awareness of just how alike we are in our consciousness.

Peter always gave me Chanel No. 5 on my birthday, and he never lets me down!

As I reflect on all the years leading up to my 80th birthday, my heart is bursting with joy. Remembering and reminiscing on all the good experiences I’ve been blessed to have had in the past, I’m in awe of the vivid possibilities that lie ahead.

The happiest birthday I’ll ever have is the one with another candle to blow out. The romantic poet Robert Browning was right on when he invited us all to “grow old along with me! The best is yet to be.”

The older we grow, the greater our potential to thrive. More and more, when we’re lucky to live into old age, we become the grown-up in the room. This gives us the ability to demonstrate what a well-lived life looks like from the wider perspective of accumulated experiences of love, loss and joy.

The best is always in the growing, the becoming—in the opportunity to improve our skills as good human beings. Excellence is the result of virtue, ethics, integrity, focus, compassion and hard work. I’m contemplating all the exciting challenges and triumphs that lie ahead for each of us as I reflect on the invaluable lessons I’ve learned in my 80th year. Hats off to us for the past struggles we’ve handled with patience, courage and determination.

Cooper's traditional gift of white pumpkins decorates my fence.

Mark Twain’s sense of humor and wisdom gave us the insight that “life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.” What’s remarkably prescient about Twain’s wise knowledge of the human condition is that by the time we’re blessed to become 80 years old, we loosen up and become more playful, mischievous and fun loving. We don’t take ourselves as seriously as we did in our youth, but miraculously, we have the potential to cultivate more empathy that leads to greater compassion.

Experience is always better than theory. We don’t know what we don’t know. Because Peter Brown was 20 years older than me, I was able to intimately observe his ageless spirits soaring as his body showed signs of his advancing age. Looking back, I’m certain that my being so much younger inspired him to remain vibrant, not giving into his aches and pains. Peter’s natural happiness was 13 on a scale of 1 to 10. One of his favorite answers to an invitation to do something was “I’m in favor.” His grin and double thumbs-up demonstrated his enthusiasm. Peter, in his 92nd year, was well aware that he was living on borrowed time; toward the end of his earthly journey he savored each present moment.

I love the new sign that the historical society had painted for the cottage!

Life’s only certainty is death. Philosophers believe that you can’t consider if a person has lived a happy life until after they have died. While it is true that basic temperament and personalities tend to remain stable over a lifetime, extenuating circumstances can change someone’s coping skills, weakening their will to live. Peter’s character shined through, illuminating his love of life.

The greatest gift we have to give ourselves and the universe is a genuine, disciplined love of life. As the clock ticks and gongs, moving me into this fresh new decade, I’m pleased to report that I have never appreciated being alive more than I do now. Because of our intimacy and devotion, Peter’s example of savoring each precious moment with childlike wonder and delight inspires my more mindful observations.

Peter is smiling at you, Colleen, as you marry your soulmate, your other half.

My dear friend Kerri’s younger daughter Colleen and Peter had a special rapport. When young adults respect their elders, doors fling wide open. “Hurry never” was one of Peter’s mantras. Peter loved corn, and popcorn was his favorite snack. He’d purr if he was handed a bowl of popcorn. Colleen vividly remembers a moment with Peter as they both nibbled on each kernel. The deliberate, slow motion, examining each individual piece as unique to his eye as a snowflake. “Isn’t this exquisite.” “Magnifique.” Recently Colleen recalled Peter’s concentration on the art of popcorn appreciation to her mother when enjoying a popcorn break that they turned into a banquet in his honor, laughing in the remembering.

Out of habit and ritual, I treat myself to a small bag of popcorn daily. When I’m mindful, I emulate Peter’s reverence, triggering wonderful memories of his enthusiasm. Pausing, I can envision his delight, making my experience a rich inner satisfaction as well as a taste treat.

Because I don’t bounce around the way I did before I was diagnosed with RA, I find a silver lining in my transforming interest in the most subtle, delicate nuances of beauty. Seeing well takes time. By a slower pace, “be here now” is where I am. I’m able to discover a new flowering bud on my rose tree or spend a meditative moment breathing in the sea air while watching the ripples and whitecaps in a strong wind, without the least compunction to be distracted. I’m more in awe at my enjoyment of what’s in front of me.

I love Steve Freeburg's illustration of our cottage.

I feel I’m on the tip of the highest mountain. At the exact same breath, I feel deeply grounded, soaking in all the positive energy from the good earth. I’m delighted to arrive at this milestone birthday feeling happy, grateful, passionate and peaceful. I hope you find everyday “birth days.” Age is a beautiful reality when it sharpens our perspective, allowing more light to lift us up higher, more courageously, more lovingly.

As my favorite American president, Abraham Lincoln, understood, all that is expected of us is to do the very best we know how, the very best we can. Whenever we can ease someone’s physical or emotional pain, we are boosting our own healing and happiness as we work through our own situations knowing we are heard, understood and loved. When we care, we can console, comfort and celebrate life’s preciousness in the same breath. Intuitively we will be guided by our compassionate spirit.

Thank you for your words and pictures. You inspire me to keep writing. Thank you!

CheriƩ sends the most beautiful letters and notes.

October Leaves, November Thanks

I’m sharing the poetic words from Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell, sent to me from Cherié: “October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”

Cherié sent me several letters this month featuring beautiful quotations about autumn.

October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths.

Anne reveled in the world of color about her. … ‘I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?”

—Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

–Albert Camus

I admire your lovely handwriting, Cherié. Your love of October burst forth with your letters throughout the month. Each color, the engraved, tissue-lined envelopes and hand-tipped borders renew my love of beautiful stationery. You won’t let letter writing become a lost art! Thank you for all my smiles and pleasure at the falling leaves!

Thank you, Susan, for your "Fall Mums" photograph bursting with color and love!

Wonderful Words You've Written

“Your newsletters are always an inspiration with your wisdom and positive outlooks in all situations. I pray the significant good you give to others returns to you abundantly.” —Susan

“Blue is definitely your color! Your cottage is charming. Thank you for all your wonderful books and writings.” —Lynn

“Many years ago, a casual acquaintance mentioned your book Living a Beautiful Life at a party I attended. (Good lesson here!) I located a copy and it has lived in my bedside table all these many years. It is worn, tired and has a few coffee stains. I have adored it. Puts me in mind of the Velveteen Rabbit…” —Cynthia

“It always gives me great pleasure and a lot of FUN to be in your company! Thank you for sharing yourself and your TIME with me.” —Carolyn

“I am writing today to say thank you. I fell in love with your books and you and Peter in the early 1990s after I graduated college and moved into my first apartment. Your simple style and peaceful way of living has carried me through marriage and raising my family. I treasure your books and reread them all the time. They are my best friends.” —Rochelle

Sherry, thanks for sending me your little greenhouse. How magnificent!

“After raising my two college-age sons, and after serving as an Army wife to their father for 22-plus years, I finally have time for me. However, that is the problem. I lost me somewhere in the rush of life. Your books have provided me not only a safe haven in which to find myself again, they have also shown me that a beautiful life is within reach. I cannot thank you enough for what you, and your writings, have done for me.” —Adrienne

“I just want to say 'thank you' for so many years of reminding people about beauty and happiness. Today, especially, I have rediscovered your teachings and feel so hopeful for the days ahead to be nothing but extraordinary. My 'vintage' copy of Living a Beautiful Life is currently at my bedside and I have recently discovered your website. I’m instilling all of your wisdom and grace into every moment of my life. You are a true mentor!” —Christine

“Thank you again for your wonderful words. They have made such a difference in my life. I think if your books were used in the high school or college curriculum the world would change in the most positive way!” —Susan

Kathy's magical autumn walk.

“I got to meet you and Peter years ago in Sacramento, Calif. I named my son Peter. You taught me to celebrate every day. I live it (life) as if my last day. You have showed me happiness and “the art of living.” You are a rainbow.” —Marcia

“Speaking with you is always like a deep breath of fresh air. You inspire, invigorate and impart wisdom like no one else. What a gift you share, so lovingly.” —Claire

“I met you many years ago when I was a graduate student at Emory University, when you did a signing of your beautiful book on living beautifully. You have been such a blessing in my life since that day, probably about 30 years ago, with your presence affecting my interior design and approach to living. My home now in Bath, England, has been inspired in many ways by your books and inspiration.” —Nicola

“You have influenced how I have desired to create a beautiful and loving home for our family many years ago. Thank you for inspiring so many of us!!” —Jennifer

Thank you again to everyone who has written to me recently. I respond to as many as I can, so if you’ve sent me a note, stay tuned! (To those I’ve quoted above, a response is coming your way!)

Thank you, Jean, for your birthday letter and this adorable picture of Peter, you and me at an event in Nashville.

November brings us Thanksgiving. Thank you for making this month so meaningful and tender. My family will gather to celebrate my birthday. We have fun plans. I’m anticipating laughing during their whole visit as we’re nostalgic about how quickly time marches on. Friends are also making a big fuss over me. I’m sure there will be many surprises. Savor a slower pace before next month. I’ll meet you there!

Great love to you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Love & Live Happy,

Kerri—I notice every detail. Your latte card, your latte stamps! Your happiness boosters light me up! 

“I delight in attending to my own improvement day by day.”
—Epictetus, Discourses

“The regenerative and restorative force in human beings is at the core of human uniqueness.”
—Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness

Thank you, Kathy, for this peaceful, beautiful photograph you sent me. You know how much water restores me!