AUTHOR | SPEAKER | PHILOSOPHER | DESIGNER
Happy spring! Greetings to one and all from New York City where I arrived upon my return from a two week sojourn in Paris.
Even though Peter absolutely loved New York City, where he came in 1927 when he was five years old from Shaker Heights, Ohio, Paris utterly captured his heart. I’d been to Paris several times before I was able to show him this magical city of light in 1974 on our honeymoon; this has been “our” romantic place on earth. Not only is Paris always a good idea, being there is such a sensual re-awakening; I hope I remain on this elevated level of awareness and appreciation indefinitely. Escaping into my writing retreat in Paris, celebrating Peter’s 96th birthday March 15th , was unusually tender and thought provoking.
My “Living in Love” event was the last day of February, putting me in high spirits and provided me with my attention and focus to be on love in all aspects, and how we can truly grow in love and understanding by the hour. Having gone away on a writing adventure in a most beautiful place, thinking about love, being loving, and living in this elevated consciousness of everything desirable and good, I dwelled on what’s most important to me: love. I spent my days writing my new book, honoring and celebrating the people who have become my heroes, the rare people who have become my greatest teachers. By committing myself to writing a book about so many great human beings, I’ve sifted through countless hundreds of them, and I’ve gone through a selection process, realizing that what they said and taught was definitively important, but not the only criterion. I want these souls to be role models, exemplary characters, people worthy of their reputations, worthy of praise.
In the three and a half years since Peter died, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what I love and the factors that make us less loving as human beings. Although Peter appears in “Heroes” as one of many brilliant, wise thinkers, because I feel the privilege of having been his partner in life since our promise to each other that we would always be together, his influence is the most powerful force that runs through the book. As I believe and have shared with you on several occasions, love never dies.
Hundreds of times since Peter died, (when it was his time, we were together, in love), people tell me how lucky I am. I’m definitely blessed by our ability to have been intertwined for so much of our lives, to grow, to learn, to cherish and encourage each other, to thrive. In a word, to “love” each other, to grow in understanding and grace, we quite literally became inseparable. I want to remind you what my ancient teacher Aristotle taught, that we were two bodies in one soul. This animating and vital principle in humans is immaterial and I firmly believe survives death. Because Peter’s spirit is one with my own spirit-energy, the most vital part of our essence is not only sacred but eternal.
Living in love is a quality of awareness that is on this soul level. In order to experience our daily lives on this uplifting, soulful perspective, we will have to do some soul-searching to question our motivations. Why do we do what we do? Is what we do for a living useful to others? Are we doing anything that is not in keeping with our core values? Are we trustworthy and honorable in all our thoughts and actions? What we think about all day long is who we are. Being able to elevate our intellectual abilities is in our hands by the choices we make about the way we live our lives. What are the beliefs that you hold dear? How are your thoughts about impermanence suffering and the concept of interconnectedness guiding the path for you to patiently look at a broad perspective at timeless values that are eternal truths?
When I was in Paris, I deliberately decided to escape from my routine in order to enter into a state of being that mainly focused on the rare, exemplary people I was selecting to hold up as those with whom we revere, and in many cases, want to emulate. Other than my utter enjoyment of the city, my focus was on the heroes I was choosing to honor in my book, and their most significant, lasting teachings I hope to share with you.
A friend asked me, “Why Paris?” Why do I feel this is the place where my greatest inspiration lies? The answer is quite simple and obvious to me: I love Paris. Peter fell in love with Paris upon his first visit on our honeymoon in 1974, and this is where we read and wrote together regularly for forty years. We created our Paris writer’s workshops, where we reflected on the meaning of life and how we could maintain a certain quality of purpose.
Over these forty-plus years, since my first book was published, Style For Living: How to Make Where You Live You, many of you have reached out to me in thoughtful, generous ways. You have written to me, shared your personal stories, met me at different cities around the country, invited me to your homes, and together, we were able to make deeper connections. Our relationships morphed from writer and reader, to friendship. Now, when I hold a fountain pen in my hand and write, there is a mysterious alchemy, where I deeply feel the transformation of my life because we have this alliance, this true connection. Long before we met, there was this understanding between us. This is ineffable and I certainly am incapable of expressing it, but I assure you, this force for good is the bond between us and nothing can break it without our permission.
You will never be able to imagine the unlikely possibility of me, an unknown writer writing a book about interior decorating, the first ever without photographs. Not only did I have the great good fortune to meet a literary agent who felt I had a spark and a point of view that was worthy of being published, but Carl also led me to an editor he greatly admired who read the manuscript, believed in it, and got her editor colleagues at Doubleday & Co. to read it in order to agree to publish. If that wasn’t enough good fortune, I landed on the Today Show with a stunningly thoughtful interview that helped launch my literary career with the legendary Barbara Walters.
Not only did she read, Style For Living, she was intrigued, and when I saw a flower bouquet on the set that had all my favorite flowers, it was because she did her research, and through the pages of the book in sepia ink, she learned I love daffodils, tulips, hydrangea, lilies, roses, hyacinth and gardenias.
That was in 1974, the year Peter and I married. Now I am faced with a situation I am not elevating to a problem, but I must move ahead and explore all my options. In order for me to reach you, my friends, in order to have my writing available to you, I am going to have to find a publisher who believes I am still relevant, that I have something useful to say to you. I will remain true to myself, and write what I believe to be true no matter how difficult the road ahead. With your encouragement and support, I will not let this temporary setback interfere with my great sense of joy and abundant good fortune. I am living my philosophy to the letter now.
Because the real world is changing so rapidly, and so many people are not reading as many books in print as they once did, far fewer books are being published in this volatile climate. If you can remind me what is most meaningful to you about my work, I might be able to get through to a person who has the power to help, who will be understanding of this valuable connection of continuity in my commitment as a writer.
Before I return home, I want to share what a spectacular time I had in Paris. Aside from my work that was extraordinarily stimulating, walking on some of the streets in Paris named after some of the heroes in my book, I saw friends, I went to a sweet Mary Cassatt exhibition, I reread Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic, The Little Prince, I took a calligraphy class from a marvelous teacher, I bought two newly issued fountain pens that had just arrived from Lamy in Germany, as well as several bottles of various colors of ink and cartridges. The day before leaving, my daughter Alexandra surprised me and took a train from London with her husband Peter, and their three teenage children, Nicholas, Anna and Lily. My grandchildren's first European trip made our time in Paris so thrilling. On the flight to New York City, I indulged and saw for the third time, "Midnight in Paris" enjoying seeing so many familiar sights, and reminding me that whenever it rains I say, “Paris weather.” The movie ends romantically in Paris as it’s raining.
My night flight arrived into New York City, getting me in to the hotel late, and the next day I went to the opening matinee of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center with Lauren Ambrose as Eliza Doolittle and Harry Hadden-Paton as Professor Henry Higgins. What a marvelous way to “re-enter” and feel the foot thumping joy of clapping and giving extended standing ovations.
Happy April. Please call to reserve your stay for our November Happiness Retreat (call the Inn at Stonington, 860-535-2000 and ask to speak with Aubrey), or call Bank Square Books (860-536-3495 and speak with John) to order a wide range of my back-issued books, as well as the re-issued Living in Love and Tea Celebrations. Thank you!
Continue to Live in Love, and remember to “Love and Live Happy.”
Love & Live Happy
Mark your calendars!! Alexandra will be hosting a Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington on November 7th and 8th! (More details to follow.) (See Event Page)
Paris, the City of Love
Cherished memory of Peter in Provance
April luncheon, Dog Watch Cafe, 2011
Daffodils .. spring is here!
Paris memories -- Peter and Alexandra, with AB, Peter and Brooke
The beauty of tulips
A toast in Provence
There's no such thing as too many spring flowers!
Peter and Alexandra, April 2014
Love & Live Happy
"The only journey is the journey within."
~~ Rainer Maria Rilke