October 2021

Enjoying the fresh-cut zinnias and dahlias at my kitchen writing desk.

Dear Friends,

I love you! I exuberantly anticipated this September because of my brilliant new vision. Aside from all the sentimental nostalgia associated with my favorite summer month, the magically low humidity and sunny days were exhilarating. Cool mornings, warm days, cool evenings. I always sigh when these glorious days unfold, fully appreciating each precious moment.

The full moon on the last official day of summer lit up the harbor, pre-dawn, in dazzling, sparkling ripples on the water. What a joyful way to greet the sun, with the light of the moon.

I will long remember the entire month of September 2021 as days as “big as years.” My new clear eyesight made every walk full of awe. Every domestic detail became a meditation. Seeing clearly, with vibrant colors, exaggerated my sense of wonder at the pleasure I feel at simple beauty. Doing the dishes in the kitchen sink, looking out at the garden, in the sunshine, I felt light and airy. The running water on the blue Dawn dishwashing liquid creates a heap of rainbows in the bubbles. Timing is everything. “Be here now.” I felt the joy of being just where I was; as my kitchen timer ticked away, along with my heart and breath, I was giggly, content as I watched the bubbles burst.

The pink roses glistened after the heavy rain last week.

Knowing that nothing ever lasts, good or bad; when I am untethered, free, calm and grounded, everything becomes more beautiful, more meaningful. Because I am ritualizing the process of my daily activities, I feel touched by grace—amazing grace.

I shared with you last month that I have rheumatoid arthritis. By necessity, I have slowed down. Deliberately, I am paying closer attention to my attitude, feeling my way as I move through pain.

Nothing can take our sense of joy away from us when our heart has the right perspective.

I keep The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (with Douglas Abrams) near me. The love these two spiritual giants shared in their week together is inspiring. I want to be reminded of the transcendent, effervescent qualities of love, friendship and hope.

The new bluestone garden path in front of the cottage fills me with joy!

I recommended this wise, tender and practical book to you when it came out in 2016. I enjoy reading it regularly, having quick affirmations to put some pep in my step, and more understanding and kindness in my thoughts and actions. All of us are accepting challenges that require us to remember how precious our lives are. We are all in the same boat. We’re born, we live, we die. Beginning, middle, end. Full circle of life. Love will mysteriously help us find our way to joy as a way of being. Their hard-won wisdom is ours to absorb, as we enlighten our learning about the values that cultivate happiness. The Dalai Lama concluded they must teach the next generations “that the ultimate source of happiness is within themselves. Not machine. Not technology. Not power.” His Holiness laughed when he continued: “So our book is part of this process to help spread the message that love, kindness, and affection are the source of joy and happiness.”

When my fingers got puffy because of my arthritis, my dear friend Saddia helped me twist the wedding ring off my finger, saving me from having it cut off. I now wear it on a bracelet around my wrist.

Douglas Abrams concluded that the two leaders taught us that “in fact it is the pain, the suffering that allows us to experience and appreciate the joy. … What they had cultivated in their long lives was that enduring trait of joyfulness.” Whatever we think, feel and do to spread love and joy to others is the bedrock of our lasting happiness. Because of our common humanity, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to love one another as ourselves.

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that pain is inevitable, but it never needs to define us. Looking back, I always found fresh opportunities to reach out on a deeper level with others after going through difficulties. I’ve learned to be patient in the healing process as I become leaf-like fragile, appreciating all the beauty in front of my nose wherever I am. The Dalai Lama teaches us that inner calm and peace take time to cultivate, requiring minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour awareness and learning. When we think in the right way, we grow in inner strength. This is especially helpful when we are “passing though difficulties."

Growing your own gardenia, smelling the fragrance, is intoxicating.

The Book of Joy has eight pillars of joy. Qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor and acceptance; and qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity. These words, with practice, can light our path in the unknown challenges ahead.

Eleven days after Hurricane Henri was headed toward Stonington, when I went to a hotel for that “one-night stand,” we were expecting Ida to cause heavy rain, wind, flooding and power outages. On September first, I woke up at the Inn at Stonington in Room Four, the room where Peter and I lived for a year while our cottage was being renovated after his second knee surgery. The rain the night before was so heavy that it looked like waterfalls pounding down from the two windows. I’d turned off the classical music I was listening to in order to hear the rain splashing and flooding the street.

Alexandra and Kate moved my ficus trees from my bedroom and kitchen outdoors to the patio.

I went to the inn for a situation that needed to be addressed in the cottage. With my X-ray vision, I saw mold I never would have noticed before my cataract surgery. To put it mildly, it was creepy, crawly. Elissa researched local mold removers and they came Wednesday, September first! They were to wipe every surface and spray all-natural products. I was instructed to leave for 24 hours until the “fogging” was no longer airborne.

I was told every plant and flower had to be removed. Kate, an angel friend who has helped me with weeding and pruning, cheerfully whisked all the growing greenery out-of-doors.

From greenhouse to living room to garden, echoing the window boxes above.

In the broad light of day we both noticed mold on the older leaves of the ficus tree that lived in the kitchen. “Plants have mold,” I was admonished. There was mold on my blazers, inside the drawer where I kept Peter’s black leather wallet and passport. I laugh when I think of the unexpected inconvenience, humbled to know I had no choice but to have professionals who specialize in mold removal tell me what to do, and what not to do.

For years I’ve created a garden inside the cottage, bringing fragrance and blossoms to create a greenhouse mood and feeling—upstairs and down. Overnight I had to accept the truth that my lungs will be happier when I am not breathing in mold. Fresh zinnias and dahlias always put a smile on my lips. Roses and lilies, hydrangea and tulips, in turn, will keep my rooms inviting, reminding me of nature’s generosity and wondrous, colorful beauty.

Don't let the serious look on his face fool you—Jonathan is all smiles!

Blessings are everywhere when we’re receptive to necessary adjustments that change our daily habits. I loved the ritual of misting my plants, braiding the long fernlike leaves of my jasmine plants on the café curtain rods in my bedroom. Last winter a geranium plant from one tiny growth grew to become five feet wide, dominating the conversations in the living room. It now sits on a bed of mulch on the side of the cottage where I intend to plant a few blue hydrangea bushes. When it rains, the garden I once watered is watered by the rain gods. All the early morning fog is misting my plants. My wrists are most grateful.

Elissa brought Jonathan over to meet me. We went to pick up my new prescription eyeglasses. My distance frames are purple! We landed at Macondo, a favorite coffee shop where I could bounce Jonathan on my knees. I fell in love. He smiles easily and his sounds will soon be words. What a treasure.

Gazing at flowers is always a happiness booster.

Alexandra and her husband Peter came for an overnight with their seven-month-old golden retriever, Chief. We had a delightful family reunion at Breakwater restaurant, on a dock overlooking the harbor at sunset. We celebrated Brooke’s birthday. The next day, Alexandra drove me to see my specialist before leaving on the ferry to Nantucket, where they would vacation for a week.

When their car left and I walked into the quiet cottage, the new look without plants on all the surfaces seemed serene. I sat in a comfortable upholstered chair and gazed at a bunch of white roses in a blue vase on the round wine-tasting table. Peter and I bought it at an antique store in San Francisco after we’d spent a week in Napa Valley indulging our taste buds in wine country. I swiveled the chair to look out at the harbor, admiring the hot pink geraniums. 

With my new purple glasses, I can see forever!

Thich Nhat Hanh’s words came to mind: “Life is precious as it is. All the elements for your happiness are already here. There is no need to run, strive, search, or struggle. Just be.” I sat still and soaked in my happiness.

Thank each of you for our friendship. When you write to me and fill me in on your life, it expands my joy. When I receive photographs of Peter, I melt. My cup runneth over. As you know, the glass is half full. It will never be half empty when we love each other as we do. “Just be.” Let October bring crisp sweater weather and many happy surprises.

I’m excited about all the discoveries we’ll unfold as we count our blessings as often as our heart beats. I close with the wise words of Thornton Wilder:

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Be Safe. 

Love & Live Happy,

Celebrating Peter

The seventh anniversary of Peter’s soul leaving his body was a wonderful day. I was in Mary Ellen’s convertible after a fabulous lunch on the patio overlooking the Mystic River. We hooted and hollered in joy and celebrated his life at exactly 2:57. I was showered with love by family and friends and ended up having a mother-daughter dinner with Brooke that night.  

My newly improved vision makes everything in my house, including the tiny vases in the window, so much more beautiful!