August 2003

Dear Friend

I hope you’re enjoying happy summer days out-of-doors in the awesome beauty and dazzling light of August. Our roses have never been more opulent with blossoms. Our tiny garden is lush with bloom and color.

On the third of July a vacant brick factory caught fire a few hundred feet from our Stonington cottage. Peter and I were having an intense conversation about books, philosophy and interesting new thoughts with a journalist friend at a restaurant across a parking lot from the factory. We left the restaurant in the rain late that afternoon to see the black smoke and raging flames.

We had the waitress call 911 (first alarm) as we fled to our house to close the windows. Within ten minutes this factory was an inferno. The prevailing winds here are on shore. We felt the heat and smelled the smoke from our house. We lost power and were told to evacuate. The village’s future was in the hands of the wind.

All the television, radio and newspaper coverage reported that if the wind had shifted, all the 18th and 19th century houses along the narrow peninsula in the village would have been destroyed.

My journalist friend Mary Beth watched the fire from our house and our neighbor’s dock with horror. She felt the impact of the serious possibility of our losing our dear 228-year-old cottage and everything we cherish.

I slipped into our house, calmly called my daughter Alexandra in Washington, and left a message on her machine. When I heard her voice I cried and told her we were being evacuated. We had no power. This is grave. I scooped up my current manuscript, put it in a tote bag and went out to learn that four houses opposite the factory (on our side of Water Street) were on fire.

Other than my losing my calm when I left Alexandra a message, I was peaceful in the center of this powerful force of destruction. Our neighbors and friends united in love. The Red Cross came immediately. The local restaurants provided food for the brave young volunteer firefighters. The churches became shelters. A priest friend was on hand to give last rites, if necessary …

We all, as a village, did some serious soul searching, individually and collectively. We had a brush with our destiny. A CBS television cameraman and news host interviewed me at the gate of our picket fence, revealing the rising blaze (350’ high), showing the cheek-to-jowl tinderbox houses from the factory to our house. Our roses couldn’t stand the heat and smoke and began to die. One house near the factory got so hot the clapboards buckled and paint blistered.

None of us are ever prepared for the complete destruction of our home. As we look around at all the framed photographs, the art and objects, our books, the antique furniture we’ve collected together, we realize more poignantly than ever how precious every moment is. There is no security except within.

I breathed deeply, remembering that at the height of a raging hurricane there is a calm, a stillness at the center. The flags along Water Street waffled indicating that there could be a wind shift, but we were spared. The heroic firefighters contained the factory fire and were able to save the houses that were on fire. I learned freshly how emotionally attached we are to our cottage, to our things, our way of life here. We had moments when the wind was in charge that we realized we were alive and safe. We know we can’t take our possessions with us when we die, but we do love our earthly home here in this quiet authentic fishing village.

I feel the wind beneath the invisible force of angel’s wings. The next morning, predictably, the winds were strong, with whitecaps on shore, but the fire was by then under control. Earth, air, fire, and water. We live in a dynamic universe. We’re here, now, to get as much happiness as our minds, hearts and souls can create.

No matter what happens or what could happen, you are happening. Let your August unfold in wonderful ways that refresh your spirit. Increase your love of life by doing what brings you great delight. (We’re going to spend lots of time with our twin grandchildren this month.)

When we look at the big picture of our daily lives, we realize that whatever we do to nourish our mind, our spirit is eternal. No matter what happens around us, we carry with us a world we create through reading great literature, thinking noble thoughts and spending time reflecting on the purpose of our lives.

Summer. August days. I’m studying every day the minds of the greatest thinkers in the world. I’m reading and writing every day. I’m stretching myself to expand my consciousness. Let’s together use these precious thirty-one August days to inspire ourselves and those around us.

Great happiness to you this month and always.

Love and Live Happy,

August Book Sale

The Decoration of Houses in hardcover is a classic guide to the home. A $30.oo value on sale for $20.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.

Roaring inferno on Water Street, Stonington Village, July 3, 2003


Alexandra's roses in full bloom in Stonington Village.


Alexandra and Peter enjoy the summer sun at the Point of Stonington Village.


A New Look!

Book Sale

Living a Beautiful Life has a new cover. A memorable book to read, to have and to hold. This book has sold a million copies in hardcover. Now available, The new cover shows a tea celebration in Alexandra's charming cottage kitchen. Hardback $25.00 plus $5.00 s/h. Please send book orders and checks for this book to 87 Water Street, Stonington, CT 06378.


Ruger Muhl "Labaie de St. Tropez" lithograph. 21" x 28.5" Edition of 150. $1400 unframed.


A Note about Roger Muhl,
My Favorite Artist.

Many of you have expressed an interest in this great artist’s work. I’ve been collecting Muhl paintings for 42 years. If you are interested in becoming a proud owner, please let me know. The prices range from lithographs to oils. Fax me at (212) 996-4625. Tell me your price range (lithographs are $1,400 and oils are $6,000 to $36,000). This one artist has brought great joy to the lives of hundred of collectors.

Grace Note

Find a favorite photograph of yourself when you were a baby or young child. Frame it and put it on your desk. Be true to your pure, innocent spirit.