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AUTHOR  |  SPEAKER  |  PHILOSOPHER  |  DESIGNER

September 2022

Photo by Elissa

Enjoying the sunlight in my kitchen as I sit at my writing desk. I’m still wearing blue and yellow every day in solidarity with Ukraine.

Dear Friends,

I love you!

I feel this September will continue to expand all the love we hold in our hearts. As we approach this most meaningful month of new beginnings, I’m focusing on my gratitude for all the loving-kindness that you, friends, have given me. Your gifts of love are my earthly treasures. I feel your heartfelt affection, grateful that you recognize mine.

Love’s transforming powers are so healing, I’m bursting with a sense of completeness. I feel whole, light, fulfilled and abundantly aware of all the inspired people whose higher angels so pointedly touch my life in a continuous flow of positive spirit-energy. We have a rare and lovely feeling of connection, without strings.

We are mysteriously drawn to each other’s invisible energy. The more openly we share our true, natural humanity, the greater the potential to be in a position to uplift and improve the lives that touch ours.

Photo by Elissa

Fresh tomatoes and flowers turn into art on my kitchen counter.

Time, distance and silence do not diminish genuine love. After Covid’s isolation, I’m now reuniting with friends I haven’t laid eyes on for several years. I’m meeting new friends who are helping me pass on my treasured collections to future generations of enthusiasts.

This summer shines in my heart as I’ve been spending leisurely, memorable moments in nature’s spectacular, wondrous beauty. The peaceful quiet times I spend alone outside, enveloped by flowers in my sweet garden or gazing out at the harbor’s ever changing boating parade, is always a moveable feast for the eye and soul.

Beauty awakens my consciousness to just how blessed I am to live in such a lovely corner of the universe. I feel so fortunate to live in an old house I dearly love, in a seaside walking village, with neighbors and friends I see regularly in a caring, thriving community. Life here just seems sweeter and genuinely better the longer I live.

I’m thriving, fully savoring being part of village life, having spent most of my life living in New York City. When a friendly tourist asks me where I live, I say, “In paradise.” I’m a townie; I live right down Water Street. Stonington village is a happy place to live and work. It’s easy to meet interesting, fun people as simply as walking about. Unlike city life, where everyone tends to be in a hurry, people who live here have a slower, more laid-back approach to life.

Photo by Elissa

My Wedgwood plates handpainted by Lady Anne Gordon decorate my dining room table rather than being hidden behind a closet door.

While it is true that there tends to be a lot of people who are retired and are older, the sailing and science camp down the street is humming with frisky, gleeful children. Our beach attracts families, and we have several good restaurants that people return to as regulars. People of all ages are drawn to the good feeling they have when they spend some time here.

Despite the flaws in his character, one of Albert Einstein’s endearing character traits is his acute awareness of all the different people throughout his entire life that helped his extraordinary contributions to humanity. While Einstein is clearly a genius, he worked extremely hard to use his God-given gifts to live up to his extraordinary potential. He used his innate inheritance, forging a new vision of reality that benefits us all. Einstein deeply appreciated all the people who touched his life.

In my meditations, I lift up my heart to all the caring helpers who add such pleasure to the process of my daily living. These talented, smart, reliable people touch a soft spot in my heart and soul. I consider each interaction a meaningful contribution, knowing how fortunate I am. Because of their competence and willingness to work for me, my life flows smoothly.

Photo by Cori

Cori sent me this beautiful rose photo via email last month.

My daily morning rituals include contemplating all the great souls who are now spirits. They inspire me by their excellent example of how to live well, influencing my priorities. In this quiet, contemplative time reading spiritual, philosophical teachings, I do some writing, fresh from sleep, before any outside interruptions or distractions come my way. For all the younger people with a partner and children to immediately tend to, I understand how pressed you are for time for yourself. As you’ve heard from me repeatedly, this time to myself early in the morning is sacrosanct. I’m exalted to think thoughts that will encourage my best actions for the fresh, new day of insights and possibilities.

With my heart wide open, I gather together in my imagination all my favorite people from all ages. I let in only the ones I love. While in real life we have to deal with difficult people, in this dreamy, meditative state I’m free to pick and choose the people I look up to and admire. (Wink wink, I also think of some of my favorite actors I have a fantasy crush on—Cary Grant and Gregory peck are so near to me now.)

I choose to begin my day in loving company. I muse on all the greats who have played a part in helping me be true to my authentic nature. When I’m in a circle of love, there is a sense of calm, a peacefulness, a knowing that lifts my heart above the treetops to the infinite sky. This sense of expansive freedom touches the mystery intimately, illuminating our inner life with all things true, good and beautiful.

Photo by Elissa

Charlie surprised me with these gorgeous lilies in a loaner vase!

Since I studied Aristotle in 1959, I’ve been practicing philosophy as a daily habit. He taught me that we are what we do every day. I’m a humble student of philosophy. Why am I so dedicated to continue on this path is simple. Philosophy is love of wisdom. The most pressing question for all times is the importance of figuring out how to live.

I choose to have the courage to know who I truly am at my core as an individual in a multiracial, cultural society. I need to practice the necessary tools that will teach me what is true, right and timeless. By practicing philosophy, I select the most exemplary teachers of good judgment and character. By spending time and focus in their company, I choose to acquire the ability to think more critically. I choose to be more discerning and develop sound judgment.

Thoreau famously said that it is characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things. If we have a reasonable, healthy brain, we can be ever aware of our own positive emotions. We have to choose to control our emotions. This is a tall order, and there is always hourly room for improvement. Practice may not make perfect, but it helps us avoid doing foolish, trivial things, discouraging negative emotions to take hold.

Peter died eight years ago, on September 25, 2014, and every September I celebrate his life.

What Artistotle taught in ancient Greece is that happiness is the aim and purpose of life. In order to be happy, we must be a good, decent, kindhearted person. Good people live the good life. Our responsibility is to learn right from wrong. We choose to value our principles. Draw the line in the sand when you are asked to compromise your character or better judgment. Be true to what makes you good and happy.  You and you alone are in charge of you.

September is to me the month of a fresh start. Children go back to school, and we get back to work! I’m excited to work on all my projects to clear out any unnecessary clutter. I feel a strong urge to “love up” all my surroundings to make my cottage represent my happy energy. When friends visit me, there is a wonderful feeling of sharing that takes place that is felt from the good energy this cottage exudes.

One of the great discoveries in 1961 was falling in love with Roger Mühl’s art. Just as we want to paint the walls of our mind with many beautiful pictures, I love my art. I love the joyful feeling of walking into my cottage and immediately feeling I’m at home in the deepest sense of our personal environment. I’ve been collecting art for 60 years, and I am more appreciative of my surroundings than ever before. Mühl’s paintings are simply joyful. Flowers, gardens, simple houses, olive and palm trees, sky and water, fruit, cheese and vegetables are all painted exuberantly.

These are the two Mühl paintings I let Carl borrow “for the duration.”

Knowing a living artist, having been in a position to have him acquire a large American following, is a constant pleasure to me. One of my dear friends, Rebecca, who went to work at the David Findlay Gallery (on Madison Avenue, across from the Carlyle Hotel) went to work for “Pop”—Mr. Findlay—fresh from art school. We share our devotion for the artist and his paintings. I got hooked at age nineteen. “Love me, love my art!” It’s funny how that works. It makes no difference to me if someone doesn’t like my art, because I didn’t buy art to decorate a room; I began collecting his paintings because they made me happy. Fortunately, my two daughters and four grandchildren love my colorful art collection.

Did I ever mention to you that when my literary agent Carl was dying of cancer, he came to the cottage and selected two of Mühl’s paintings? He wanted them “for the duration.” Carl died in August 2013, in a room with two glorious Mühls. One of the reasons I hope to be fortunate enough to die at home is because of my passionate feeling about his exalted radiance as an artist. I’m living in love every day with Roger’s love of life.

He told me once he only painted when he was happy. The only two periods of time he couldn’t paint were when his stepson was missing and he later discovered he had been murdered in Africa, and when his wife Line died. Roger died three months later of a broken heart and massive stroke in April 2003.

Clearly, Roger lived an exuberantly happy life. He bounced with joy. I have such wonderful memories of our 40-plus years of friendship, and he left behind art that feeds my soul.

The moral of my story is to know what makes you happy. Our obligation is to be courageously true to ourselves. All caution to the wind when you know, deep down, what makes you happy. When you give yourself the tummy test, or perhaps you tingle with soul-bumps, trust yourself. Follow, follow, follow wherever that leads you.

Photo by Elissa

Cozy under a two-color yellow and white quilt.

Quilts' Soft Touch

I’m currently passionate about my quilt collection, my soft-touch, feely art quilts.

My love of old quilts goes back to my earliest childhood memories. I loved my teddy bear and my quilt! I was five when my family moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut. Our new home was a former onion farm. I brought my teddy bear and my quilt with me on our car ride. Once I settled into this new environment, sharing a room with my sister, my quilt became my security blanket.

Off our bedroom was a large screened-in sleeping porch. You guessed it: I’d bring my quilt from my bedroom to snuggle under, looking out at the starry sky, enveloped in nature’s wondrous beauty, safe and secure.

Quilts bring us emotional comfort. They are labors of love. They’re sewn as a love letter is written. When we exude loving energy, it is always felt. There is definitely a mysterious spiritual warmth they exude; I feel it when I imagine the circumstances of the maker. The quilter had a scrap bag of leftover colorful, often whimsical cotton cloth she lovingly pieced together in an artistic pattern.

Photo by Elissa

A stack of some of my favorite exhibition-quality quilts in the “quilt room.”

Quilts played a large part in the aesthetics of my interior design work. I purchased quilts wherever I found one that spoke to my heart. I never thought about the monetary value, buying what I loved. I hunted antique shows, county fairs, auctions, quilt dealers and well as going door to door looking for Amish wedding quilts found in cedar chests in Pennsylvania.

When I was designing a modern glass building to be the headquarters of a bank in Texas, I used quilts as art. One memorable recollection was at a fairground in the spring, when the bluebonnets were in bloom, some board members and I went on a buying trip. I literally bought a crazy quilt from the back of a pickup truck that was being used as padding for furniture! This gem is photographed in my Book of Color, reawakening my amazing adventures with quilts. Peter was equally enthusiastic about quilts, joining in on the search whenever we traveled.

By the time we left New York City in 2008, I’d accumulated quite a colorful, happy collection of quilts. When we renovated the cottage, we stored the collection on the third floor. Years went by without my caring for them properly. When I was practicing voluntary simplicity on “Three,” the quilts were put on the dining room to be sorted. Inevitably, some were badly stained; they all needed to be “loved up.” Some went to the laundry room; a strong friend moved most of them upstairs to a small room—temporarily my quilt room.

Photo by Elissa

My signature blue Hawaiian quilt, one of my favorites, was photographed in the “Blue” section of my Book of Color.

Because of my commitment to simplify my life, I’m embracing letting go. I choose happiness. Enough is clearly enough. We know when we’re hitting the sweet spot when we intuitively know we’re divinely happy. Focusing on Aristotle’s golden mean between two extremes of excess and deficiency resonates with me more than ever. Serendipitously, August brought quilt makers, lovers and enthusiasts to awaken my passion. I was led to two extraordinarily knowledgeable quilt experts, Mary and Sue, who came to evaluate and appraise my collection. Their wealth of experiences, professional expertise and devotion to old quilts opened up my whole soul’s quilt history journey. I’ve fallen back in love with some I want to see, touch, mend and care for all my earthly days.

There is a possibility of a local art museum having a pop-up exhibition. Sue put aside the ones she felt the curator would be interested in exhibiting. I would love to think that some of my like-spirited, quilt-loving friends would want to buy a quilt or two from my private collection. I’ll keep you posted. I’m excited to imagine that they will be passed on to land in appreciative hands. I’ll be fascinated to know if one or two will hang on a wall. Quilts are a homey, beautiful form of art.

Photo by Elissa

I bought this treasured “Trip Around the World” quilt in Paris at auction.

Happy, happy September. I’m happy to let you know that I’m giving a talk on Sunday, October 2, at 4 p.m. in New London, Connecticut, sponsored by the New London Maritime Society. Susan Tamulevich is the executive director, who graciously is helping me celebrate the 20th anniversary of Choosing Happiness. Please save the date and plan to come. Bring friends. Susan’s email is nlmaritimedirector@gmail.com. The donation is $20 for a wonderful cause. The seating is limited, so reserve your tickets as soon as you can. My talk will be at the Custom House Maritime Museum at 150 Bank Street in New London, Connecticut. The telephone number is 860-447-2501.

In closing, I trust you will pace yourself as you enter this busier season and choose wisely how you spend your time. Have lots of “you time” in order to maintain your exhilaration, and stop and smell the roses.

Love & Live Happy,

“Success is liking yourself. Liking what you do. And liking how you do it.”
—Maya Angelou