March 2024

“Happiness is continuing to desire what we already have.” —Saint Augustine

Photo by Elissa

I love yellow flowers, both real and painted!

Dear Friends,

I love you! Thank you for your loving Valentine’s messages. I’m especially touched by your writing me, “I love you too, Alexandra.”

The entire month of love has been more meaningful because of my focus on the vital importance of loving, good friends. Your letters, notes, cards and emails all conveyed a similar tone of appreciation, and all your communications, in whatever form, have added sweet happiness to my day-to-day life. Thank you all.

I believe sending a letter (or even a text) to a caring friend gives us great pleasure because we can open our heart to someone we’ve grown to trust who we know is appreciative. Please know I absolutely treasure reading your stories of how old you were when you went to one of my book events or discovered one of my books in a library or bookstore. My heart leaps with emotion when you write about our first meeting. Remembering all my exciting years in the past reminds me of how much they have transformed and shaped my present life.

Photo by Elissa

My amaryllis from Alexandra is the gift that keeps giving.

Your words are always kind and generous. What a wonderful feeling to have you reinforce my positive influence on your earlier life. Your encouragement for me to keep writing this newsletter and work on my video project is reassuring and energizing. Thank you. Thank you. One more — thank you!

I’m freshly grateful whenever you remind me of the vivid details of where, when and how you and I were first connected. What inspires me every day — and has consistently ever since 1974, when my first book was happily published — is no surprise. You and I appear to be connected because we are lifelong learners! We are readers! There is such joy in the discovery of all our teachers and writers who have important insights they want to share with us, their readers. We read books for the pleasure of learning and the thrill of discovering. If we find a writer who is a kindred spirit, we consider them our book friend. We’re related through the written word. We read, and often readers also write. We form an informal, spontaneous writing club. This mutual curiosity, the sense of wonder and whimsy is so exciting and valuable. Because of our trusted relationship, you and I are in a position to help each other’s spiritual growth. We can be available to lend a hand of support in challenging times.

Photo by Elissa

Valentine’s Day sweet peas from Brooke next to a tiny Mühl painting.

The power of books has no bounds. While I am no longer having my new writing appear in book form, I’m humbled to believe that many of my insights and ideas I wrote over the past decades are relevant, even prescient, in today’s reality. There is more technology now and greater scientific discoveries, but we haven’t become happier, calmer or wiser in our core nature. Perhaps reading about a less chaotic time, enjoying nature’s beauty and taking time to add beauty and grace to our daily life can be a refreshing reminder of the importance of living well. We can always enjoy pleasant rituals and mini ceremonies in the privacy of our own home.

Saving time is not the point; living well is. Expediency and efficiency have their time and place but should not replace human touch, eye contact and the happiness we gain from cultivating good, close, trusting friends. My daughters and friends in their middle age are living exciting adventures and making meaningful memories. I’m fascinated with the subject of memory. What we retain from our past experiences, what we remember and recollect, is fluid. Whenever we rush to get something accomplished in the quickest amount of time, we are robbing ourselves of being able to fully savor the exciting, lively possibilities of being present. When the focus is on Get this done, or I’ll be relieved when this is all behind me, or I can’t wait to get home from work, we are not appreciating this precise, present moment. We will not want to recall these anxious, stressful times.

Mrs. Brown in her drawing room on her 90th birthday.

“Living takes time” is an expression from my mentor and friend Eleanor McMillen Brown, who died a few days before turning 101. Mrs. Brown died in 1990, and I think about her grace and dignity every day. Fifty-one years separated us in chronological age. Because of my youth and vigor, I was able to carry her tote bags to client presentations. I worked my way to become the only “special assistant” in her long, successful career that began when she started an international design firm in 1924.

Not knowing exactly what to expect in each client meeting, I used my Girl Scouts motto: “Be prepared.” As Peter and my spiritual mentor John Bowen Coburn taught us, “You never know.” I brought floor plans, floor samples, marble, painted wall samples, fabrics, trimmings and hardware. When we put together attractive scenes created for each client, they could envision what their rooms would become. The more prepared we were in the process of creating harmonious room interiors for our clients, the greater their ability to visualize the result. While there will always be surprises in the process of turning creativity into reality, being meticulous in the planning stages is key.

Write it down! Scent your paper for inspiration!

In our lives today, we’re all moving forward into completely uncharted territory. Human beings don’t know how to answer all the questions that impact their lives. The world was, is and always will be in flux. Change is the only constant. Uncertainty is the reality that is hard to accept. What a comfort, pleasure and delight to be able to remember all the wisdom we’ve accumulated over the course of our lifetime until now from our parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, bosses and friends. When we feel this deep sense of admiration, affection and appreciation for someone for their contribution to our lives, we intuitively have an urge to express our gratitude. Act on that urge. Don’t hesitate. There will never be a better time. You may never understand how much your kindness means to the recipient. The mere fact that you set your ship out to sail is its own reward.

Photo by Elissa

Enjoying a cup of coffee in my Peter mug.

This emotionally charged eureka moment is when you can best communicate your recognition. While your heart is wide open, this is the precise time to express your gratitude to someone you admire. Let your vulnerability be your strength. I remember writing a love letter of appreciation to John Bowen Coburn that inspired me to write one of my favorite books, Gift of a Letter. Have faith that one thing leads to another. When you’re sending a “grace note” to someone who has helped you on your life journey, you are getting in touch with your own creative urges and your awareness of how dependent we all are on each other’s kindness.

You have been moved to do something concrete with your triumphant discovery. When your expression of praise comes from the deepest part of your essence, you are making a spiritual communion of great personal value. In these fleeting moments of clarity when we shed our self-consciousness, we feel this tender, elusive, invisible thread that interconnects us. We are no longer an individual trying to make our way. Suddenly we feel enlarged by this like-minded spirit energy of someone we relate to. You becomes we. We become illuminated by others in significant ways that aren’t easily expressed in words.

Photo by Elissa

My gardenia is blooming in the bedroom.

Whenever I’m in this highly receptive mood, I can’t imagine my life without so many caring, kind souls and brilliant thinkers who have contributed throughout history to my well-being. Other people’s passionate interests and insatiable curiosity awaken in me my own exuberance about so many simple things that bring me joy — things I pursue for my own pleasure. The details will be different between us, but the essence is there.

Marcus Aurelius wrote his only published work, Meditations, to himself as a pep talk to encourage his personal transformation.

Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.

I read his wisdom regularly because he reminds us of the extraordinary accomplishments that are possible because of our shared humanity.

“Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.” —Marcus Aurelius

Peter on our Paris hotel's garden terrace devouring the International Herald Tribune!

Movies on the Big Screen

I love to go to the movies. The screen on my downstairs television is 19 inches; it’s on borrowed time. Because it still works, I’m not going to replace it until the screen turns permanently black and silent. Upstairs, when the 19-inch screen died, I upgraded the replacement with one that is 24 inches. I watch most of the classic black-and-white movies from the ’30s and ’40s at home. Occasionally, there’s a documentary at one of the nearby movie theaters and I pounce on the opportunity to see some of my favorites on the big screen. There aren’t words to describe movie night with friends when I saw The Philadelphia Story with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart at the United Theatre in Westerly, Rhode Island.

My daughter Brooke and I also escaped to the opening of The Color Purple. I’d planned to see a live musical performance at the Ivoryton Playhouse before the movie came out, but there was illness in the cast, causing them to cancel the last matinee. The new movie has big songs, including some new exhilarating ones, along with lively dance numbers that lifted us up to a more joyful place. The eventual triumph over unimaginable odds of entrenched suffering is a transformative story that is incredibly hopeful.

Photo by Elissa

Having living plants in the home reminds me that spring is near!

Brooke and my granddaughter Cooper arranged a movie date to see The Boys in the Boat. They had seen it with friends and wanted to see it again with me. The film is adapted from the bestselling nonfiction book The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown. This story is set in Seattle and features University of Washington student athletes. The film was actually shot in the U.K. with nostalgic Seattle landmarks including Hooverville, a shantytown that was home for one man in the boat before he made the team to try to compete in the Olympics.

This transformative story is one of nine local boys who were able to find their purpose. Together they transcended their individuality and become a united “one” on the boat. As conflicting as it was to have the Olympics take place in the shadow of the Third Reich on full display in Berlin, their victory in winning the gold medal was thrilling. Life has changed in the eight decades since these boys took their places on this beautiful, winning boat.

I suspect there will be lots of fresh interest in the crew in the years ahead. George Clooney’s movie is so perfect. Once you see the film, you will want to see it again, telling friends, who also go and tell their friends. I saw it again with my other daughter, who didn’t want to know anything about it ahead of time; she was equally moved by the beauty of the message.

Photo by Elissa

Brooke gave me these fun, colorful matches.

Another movie I loved last month was The Taste of Things. The opening scene of the movie is simply beautiful. We are invited as viewers into a vegetable garden in France on a farm in the late 19th century, observing as the cook plucks turnips, carrots and lettuces from the earth in the morning’s early light. Then we follow Eugénie to a large country kitchen, where she displays her spectacular knowledge of food that she creates to please her epicure lover Dodin. She strives for perfection.

The film received the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Director Trần Anh Hùng was born in Vietnam but lived in France since 1975, and he made the intimate process of cooking and eating enticing, accentuating the sensuality of a relationship centered around a deep knowledge and love of food.

Because this drama takes place around 1885, a great sense of calm washed over me with a sense of longing to be there now, “at table.” We’re given a taste of experiencing an artist who transforms a working farm into pure ambrosia.

Photo by my brother Powell

Peter’s exuberant smile exudes happiness!


I read in the New London's The Day newspaper that the Garde Arts Center was staging the World Ballet Series’ Swan Lake. The night of the Super Bowl, my ballet-loving good friend Amanda and I spent an enchanted evening together. Professional dancers from more than 120 countries performed one of the great ballets, a personal favorite.

Hearing Tchaikovsky’s familiar music as we sat rapt, watching “The Dance of the Little Swans,” awakened my passion for this art form. Our center seats allowed us a full view of two dozen ballerinas on pointe. We were lulled by the magnificence; the sweet sound of 48 feet tapping the stage floor in their toe shoes moved us to an enlightened aura that penetrated our souls. Amanda hadn’t been to a live ballet performance since she took her now college-age daughter to The Nutcracker as a child over a Christmas holiday.

This experience brought back fond memories of being a design student in New York City in 1959, when we’d stand in the back row free of charge. Just living in the city as a student was so thrilling an experience, because it felt as though we could go anywhere and be welcomed. Can you imagine being assigned to go draw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Or envision being able to watch weavers make rugs and going to the art departments of fabric houses to see textile designs being created firsthand?

I’m forever grateful that I fell in love with classical ballet at such an impressionable age in a city I know and love so well. How extremely blessed I am to experience this international ballet company in New London for one performance 25 minutes from where I live!

Photo by Elissa

There is nothing better than a vase of colorful tulips. Thank you, Sara!

Facts Don’t Lie

Bob Woodward, the award-winning journalist and bestselling author, is a superb interviewer. When he spoke on Ari Melber’s Summit Series, Melber asked him some intriguing questions. When asked what the concept of the summit meant to him, Woodward said, “There is no summit.” He’s always reaching for the next challenge.

His main advice for people of great achievement was, “Beware of the demon pomposity.” No matter what degree of achievement or status, it is the devil who becomes self-important and pretentious. The hardworking, disciplined achievers love the work, always keeping in mind that they have been aided by a team of reliable, honest helpers.

His advice to journalists: “Only facts and evidence can drive journalism.” He believes in taking contemporaneous notes. Write down the precise words from the person you are questioning. Most importantly, he stressed, “There’s no such thing as too much truth.”

Finally, when asked about getting older, he said he is intrigued by the organic process of aging. I feel the same way. I’m embracing every moment of it; the mystery is so profound and eternal.

I’ve always admired Bob Woodward for his commitment to truth, fairness and his profound sense of humanity. I trust this man with my whole heart.

Photo by Elissa

The winter jasmine in the bedroom has been blooming nonstop!

Happy March!

I savored having an extra day in February, the month of love and loving friends. I used this bonus day as a microcosm of my being 82, living on bonus time.

I’m anticipating great joy this month. My neighbor Charlie’s white snowdrops are in full bloom. Friends have crocuses. Buds are appearing on the daffodils near my picket fence.

I have some happy surprises to share with you next month. March holds all of spring’s colorful blossoms under her soil. We’re going to have an early spring. Our glorious sunsets illuminate the sky later each day; we awaken to first light earlier each morning. Nature is headed in the direction of more light. I’m using this reality to keep my energy up and continue to believe in the infinite possibilities to help our troubled world see the light of truth.

Thank you for your contributions to my happiness.

Love & Live Happy,

Photo by Elissa

My repaired clock that I wrote about last month is now chiming harmoniously in the living room.

This month, I'm letting go of an oil painting by Roger Mühl if anyone is interested in adding it to their art collection. Please contact Pauline at Artioli Findlay (pf@artiolifindlay.com) for more information. 

Roger Mühl (French, 1929-2008)
Oil on canvas
11 7/8 x 23 1/2 in
Signed lower middle right, "Mühl"
A classic Roger Mühl painting of a berry tart painted with a thick impasto.