AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
I love you!
Please vote! The midterms are held this year on my 81st birthday, November 8. Please don’t assume your vote doesn’t matter. Every vote is equally important in our shared value of equal rights. People tend to focus on national elections, but we must vote for local leaders who believe in the democratic principles of freedom and liberty for all. We live and vote locally. Our members of Congress and governors are our representatives and speak up for our values in the House and Senate in Washington. By choosing decent, honorable leaders who believe in what’s good and right for all of us, we lift up and support the dignity and integrity of our democratic experiment.
I keep thinking of Jon Meacham, the presidential historian I deeply admire. Jon believes we are all on the line. We show our true character in the voting booth. We are in the battle of our lives for our better angels to come to save our souls, to save the soul of America, the preservation of democracy.
I feel Peter watching over me. He believed so powerfully in the importance of each American citizen taking responsibility to help create a more perfect union. Each of us participates in the governing of our country. We express the ethical values we hold dear with our one vote. Our integrity depends on having our choices be in harmony with the essence of our soul, always standing up for truth. Marcus Aurelius understood that “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not a truth.”
When we are true to our highest purpose and good, our choices were be for the greater good, the universal energy, that requires each one of us to fulfill our purpose. Humanity depends on you and me. I am so grateful for the freedom and liberty our democracy has provided for us. God bless America and may we honor truth as our North Star. Whatever the results of this election, we must accept what is not in the power of our will to change. We do our best, with our good intentions. We can’t control the results.
The celebration event at the Maritime Society in New London was a love-fest. I was surprised by joy when Kelly and Kim walked into the Custom House, beaming. They’d driven 820 miles from Indiana to hear me talk, spending the night. Kelly and her daughter Alyssa (age 14) came from Massachusetts. Friends came from New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. I loved seeing my Stonington friends and neighbors. I felt so happy to be in a room with such loving, kind people. Susan, who runs the Maritime Society, cut flowers from their garden and made sweet bouquets for the café tables. Guests were invited to take them home, along with yummy cookies and pastries. This was a party, a gathering where we all paused in appreciation for our connectedness after being isolated for several years.
We shared intimate conversations and enjoyed talking about the energy of happiness. Kim understands happiness to be highly contagious. Alyssa told us happiness is an opening of our heart; we’ve been corresponding since she was 10. She writes presciently about the true essence of happiness. There were moments of laughter. I was moved to happy tears at the outpouring of affection and love that perfumed the room. Covid is still with us, so we restricted the seating to 30, making it all the more comfortable for us to interact easily and in such a gracious, warm atmosphere.
New England’s Autumn Gifts
The entire month of October unfolded in lovely, loving ways. The foliage this October was spectacular. On some of my favorite roads, the tree branches are arched to create the most sacred cathedral effect in all of creation. My good friend Anthony (Anky) from Mississippi believes no man-made church, with the artistry of decorative stained-glass windows, could ever be as beautiful and inspiring as a tree. The sparkling autumn light reminds me of Greece. Everywhere we look, we become stimulated by the undulating, flickering movements of the trees and flowering plants. Taking car trips around any New England countryside road is a feast for the eye and a boost to the spirit. The awe I feel by this great beauty is utterly jaw-dropping and inspiring and creates a powerful reverence.
In these “Awe” road trips, we’re constantly in view of rivers, lakes and ocean along the New England shoreline. Our eyes are dazzled by the reflection of the brilliantly colored trees in the water. Depending on the wind and the water currents, we often experience some glass-like reflections, and often the water creates complex patterns and impressions. Every day, from sunrise to sunset, when it is not raining or cloudy, the luminous light amazes my senses with her intoxicating brilliance. When we are awake, fully aware and present, we absorb this magnificence. We become transfixed and spiritually transformed by the sheer majesty of the ever changing panorama. We are all mysteriously drawn to live here. In Peter’s book Village: Where to Live and How to Live, he makes us aware of the powerful pull our environment has on our soul. This area is truly an enchanted corner of the universe. People travel from all corners of the world to see the splendor of New England’s foliage when it is at its peak.
Even when the tree branches lose their leaves and the trunks are laid bare, they are more beautiful. Every tree shows her form and becomes nature’s sculpture garden. We see divine light filtering through to expose more old stones and walls. While the leaves—with all the distraction of their color and pattern—are still on the branches, we tend not to notice the beauty of the different forms beneath.
A Serendipitous Moment
A few days ago, I was sitting at my desk in the kitchen in deep reverie. I’d been out and about all afternoon, basking in the sun-soaked village. Delighted to be home, to put my feet up and let my hair down, I was calm, content, feeling a deep sense of belonging. All the necessary elements were in place. Candles were lit, and everything seemed to be in harmony, including “a touch of yellow.” My friend Mike had dropped off two seven-inch diameter dahlias he grew in his garden in Easton. Their intense lemon-yellow color with orange centers reminded me of a sunflower, but a brighter, more pure tone. I was completely aware of how relaxed I felt, listening to classical music. The only other sound was the soothing tick-tock of my kitchen timer to make sure I got up and moved around every 20 minutes.
When the timer went off, I went to the study to get a book. I turned on some lights and looked out a living room window at a blast of peachy hot pink in the sky. Walking closer, I noticed the entire expanse of pink was tinting the houses, boats and harbor. I walked out the front door, crossed Water Street and headed south toward the Inn at Stonington, where the view of the harbor is unobstructed. I walked in and went to the living room, where a fire was glowing in the hearth. My body tingled as I felt a deep pang of nostalgia. The Inn is an intimate extension of my home. Because Peter and I lived there for a year, after he had knee surgery and we had the cottage renovated, the Inn is a part of me. Friends and family stay there. I know and love all the people who work there. Speechless, I was mesmerized. My heart was bursting as I recollected flashes of memorable moments shared.
Twenty years ago, Bill, the innkeeper, suggested the Happiness Retreats. So often over the years, we’d all be together, and the sky would light up as the sun lowered toward the water. We’d all go out on the terrace to collectively share this wondrous, fleeting beauty. After the recent spectacle ended, I went to see who was at the front desk, discovering Annamaria. We both had soul-bumps, hugged and made a date to meet for coffee. Walking home, I smiled and felt I was purring, wagging my tail, giddy happy. I wanted to sing. I’d experienced a perfect moment of reverent love. I live in a place that nurtures my soul with sensuous beauty in a community of interesting people, neighbors and friends I deeply care about. In the future, I will be more deliberate to make a point of showing up at the sun’s setting in case there’s a spectacular light show. Lord knows I don’t want to live with any regrets!
Cesar's Magic Brush
I went out for a walk, and Cesar was having a lunch break across the street. When he was free, I asked him to look at a windowpane mirror I wanted to have painted or sprayed white. I keep moving paintings and mirrors around. I’m acutely aware now how much I want more light. White paint brings me more light in my heart. The old windowpane mirrors hanging on the back walls of the cottage reflect the garden. Cesar sprayed them white this summer. Once the house was pristine, I craved the same clarity of white. “Is the mirror for outside?” Cesar asked me. “If so, I’ll need to use an exterior paint.” I told him I'd just hung it in my writing room and it looks fantastic. Smiling, he said, “Why don’t you paint it, Alexandra?” I told him I’d love to, but I’ve worn out all my brushes. I needed a good thin brush because the mirror has a lot of wood frame. He was sitting on the back of his red truck and handed me a 1” thin brush. “This is a great brush. Take it.”
Having a “loaner” from the master painter we all revere, one he uses with great results, became a good-luck charm. After my walk, I got my white interior paint, some paper towel, a lemon La Croix and a straw. Brush in hand, I gently put the end of the bristles in a pint of pure white pigment. Immediately the white began to transform the mirror. I turned on the radio and heard Bach. I was in my element.
I love to refresh my eyes by moving my wall hangings around. “When you change one thing in a room, rethink everything.” I’d tried to hang a favorite still life of Roger Mühl’s over the television in my dressing room. It has a simple white frame, and while it looked fine, I found that I missed having a mirror in the room where I dress. The pretty painting has found its proper place in the kitchen. I put another windowpane mirror over the back hall refrigerator, reflecting light from the study window. One thing leads to another. I was in a timeless trance. The mirror in my writing room is now bright white. I realized while painting just how happy I was to spend some time in my writing room. Now that it is so clean, crisp and cleaned out, it’s ready for anything. The room has never felt or looked better. Empty and be full.
My writing room’s windows face east and south. The study faces west. The kitchen windows face north and south. I’m discovering now that “Three,” the third floor, is so cleared out of messy clutter, I have space to breathe. I like to go to experience the sunset. The 72” desk faces west, in front of the same size fan window. I can sit on a high swivel bar chair and admire the light show through the trees onto the harbor’s water. Once I settle down, I can experience undistracted, contemplative time. As I open up my inner world in meditation, I’m not affected by the diminishing light earlier and earlier in the evenings. I feel I’m in a treehouse, high up, giving me an expansive sense of calm, stillness and gratitude.
When the spirit moves me, I use Cesar’s magic brush on “Three” to whiten up areas that need lightening! Ironically, the best view is on “Three.” I often feel beckoned to go there to feel this inner tranquility and gratitude for the expansive feelings I have for all of humanity. As I whiten the walls and frames, I lighten. I feel an exciting spirit-energy that is enticing. I plan to have “Three” be a part of my daily rituals in the days ahead. All the heavy lifting and moving things out opened up this unfinished attic to become a private sanctuary. I’m developing uncritical devotion to my retreat up high and far away from any distractions. “Three” has become alive with great spirit of place.
Starved for Romantic Comedy
Recently Julia Roberts and George Clooney were on Turner Classic Movies talking about their new movie, Ticket to Paradise. After their interview, Cary Grant and Gregory Peck were in three different romantic comedies about reluctant divorce. In The Awful Truth, Cary Grant announces at a table at a restaurant, champagne in hand, “I’m in love with love.” I continue to have a crush on Cary Grant and Gregory Peck. They’re both dead, but they live through us because of their talent and technology. I wrote a book called Living in Love. The older I get, the greater my appreciation for every beautiful moment I’ve experienced. As I turn 81, I’m more dedicated to human flourishing now than when I began my focus on happiness over 60 years ago.
I loved Ticket to Paradise. Pure fantasy, beautiful scenery set in Bali. I cried happy tears, loved being transported into a story with a happy ending. For a few hours I felt pure love without the current global unrest and misery. What can be better on a raw, rainy, dark afternoon? I left the theater on a high.
The Ultimate Letting Go
I’ve been exploring two book projects. My literary agent and friend, Jane, was rejected by the two publishers she approached. After deep contemplation, I came to the realistic conclusion that I will no longer seek publication. Technology has advanced so rapidly, it has changed how books are bought and sold. Publishers now demand the author have a “high social media platform.” Other than my letter to you, I have none. This is my choice. I will not sell my soul to accept the legal demands on authors, being coerced into doing something that I have avoided all my life. I know what makes me happy. I have to say no a lot in order to live according to my individual lifestyle.
I informed Jane and Elissa, my literary assistant, about my decision. As you know, I loved writing books, being happily published and meeting great readers, many who have become friends. I want you to share my happiness with me by supporting my decision. Once I made it clear to both Elissa and Jane that I have no interest in moving forward, I felt a weight lifted from my soul. I now feel a lightness of being. I couldn’t be happier. I know what feeds my soul. I also know what would drain my spirits.
I have no regrets. I have achieved a high level of well-being that seems to build up as I “empty and be full.”
By letting go of everything that I don’t need or want, at this mature stage in my life, I’m opening myself up. I’m now free to explore every interesting possibility for moving forward into the unknown. I plan to continue to write this letter to you each month. As long as I can still hold a pen in my hand, and my brain is conscious, I will write! By my letting go of unrealistic expectations, I am letting the universe enter into my heart. I will be guided and informed how best to express my passion for living. The good life I’m enjoying now will change according to what is appropriate as I move forward. I’m stimulated to embrace the unknown.
I’m thanking you in advance for your understanding. I know you want me to be happy. There’s no reason to feel disappointed. There will be lots of surprises ahead. I’m simply opening all the doors and windows of my soul to let in more light and love.
My Birthday Month
I’m celebrating the entire month of November. Every time this year, I pause, take a deep breath and focus on enjoying each precious moment I am alive. By stripping my exterior life of excesses—all extraneous, unnecessary things—I’m able to focus more completely on learning, growing more understanding. I’m appreciating the simplest, most modest pleasures. I feel my senses are more discerning.
Rather than being busy, I feel I am living more deeply. I’m in a gentle harmony, in touch with my true feelings. Perhaps this state of grace is a gift of longevity. I take more time to do everything. With my voluntary simplicity, I am cleaning out the clutter of all the details that distract and cause tension.
After Election Day, I will have a family reunion with the girls. Alexandra, Anna and Lily will stay with me for the weekend. I have plans with friends to go to the theater, to favorite restaurants and to be together for stimulating conversation. Rather than getting caught up in the rush of the holiday season, I’m embracing stillness. I’m humbled to feel such joy in my daily life here in Stonington. Perhaps I’m tasting what the romantic poet Robert Browning believed: that the best is yet to be.
Love & Live Happy,
“This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hope and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sip & Sign Event
I will be participating with five other authors in a Sip & Sign event to benefit Operation Fresh Start. The details are below; click here for more information!
Monday, November 14
113 Water St., Stonington Borough
$30 per person