August 2018

Dear Friends,

When you are your happiest, time seems to fly more swiftly. Our family reunion over July 4th week inspired me to have the cottage shine, inside and out. Preparing for us all to be together in the paradise of our seaside ocean haven in the heart of summer with the garden in bloom was exhilarating. The fruits of this labor of love are being newly rewarded as Alexandra’s daughters returned for the long final weekend of July three weeks later. Now, as summer brings sparkling sunny days and fresh blossoms and buds, inside and out, I awaken my senses and soul to a transformed appreciation for the astonishing wondrous life I’m able to live here on the coast in an old New England village.

Through my writing and the Happiness Retreats at the Inn at Stonington, so many of you have come to visit, from near and far, and you, over many years, have fallen in love with the spirit of place that is my emotion home on earth. I’m heartened when you tell me you’ve taken a walking tour of the village or bought a painting by a local artist or found some hidden treasured spots around the village when you walk about England village. For those of you who have never visited this enchanting spot on the map of southeastern Connecticut, I invite you to consider coming in the years ahead. One of my greatest joys is to have family and friends come here and consider Stonington Village their happy place. I’d lived in Connecticut until I was seventeen, only to return thirty years later. How blessed Peter and I were to have spent the last precious years of his long, productive, happy life here, holding hands, living in love, enjoying the good life as completely as we knew how to, and were capable of celebrating our good fortune, breath by breath. Even more of my friends knew Peter from our coming together on book and lecture tours or to come visit you in your lovely communities to meet your family and circle of friends. Whenever I open a hand-written letter from someone who remembers Peter with great fondness and detail, my heart fills with the light of our love that is enduring and eternal. If you ever feel the urge to send me a photograph of one of the events where we were all together celebrating, please pop a copy in the mail. I treasure any trace of Peter’s presence and will be forever thankful for your generosity of spirit.

Having our daughter Brooke and Cooper here (and Tony on the weekends) has been electrifyingly renewing. Cooper meets new friends at NESS – New England Sailing and Science – camp, every Monday. Imagine having this great opportunity for her and all the lucky children to learn all about the ocean, hands on, as they go to nearby islands by boat to surf, swim, snorkel, boogie board, and scamper about on pristine sand with friends and councilors to whom they learn so much that excites them. Brooke loves being there for the opening bell at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings to bring the freshest produce, cheese and baked goods home for our kitchen and succulently delicious suppers, all gathered from local farmers, gardeners, and bakers. As many of you know, I absolutely love eggplant. I love the shiny aubergine color purple; I adored making eggplant casseroles when I was in my cooking days, and I know my favorite ten restaurants in Connecticut and Rhode Island whose chefs make great eggplant Parmesan. However, brave Brooke, I've never enjoyed an eggplant feast more than her presentation, with perfectly ripe tomatoes in an accompanied Caprese salad.

Henry James famously said “August afternoons” are the two best words in the English language in his opinion. I’m tempted to agree, but my favorite two words "summer afternoons" takes second place to "thank you." It was the early mystic Meister Eckhart who said if we only have one prayer, let it be "thank you." I embrace this prayer, as a mantra, as a way to mindfully breathe in and out. Inhale "thank you." Exhale "thank you." I have a tiny porcelain green bell on my desk I ring randomly when I have a feeling in my soul that fills me with gratitude. I ring this sweet bell a lot! Peter gave it to me, purchased in Paris on a whim, telling me we will always be together, and to use this bell as a symbol of our devotion, to always remember we are one, we will be together always and forever.

Summer days delight my senses. In the early morning hours I sit in silence listening to the music of the singing of the birds or the patter on the roof of a heavy rain. I look attentively to the pre-dawn morphing into the awakening of light. In my writing room the sunrise brings my space color and vibrancy with east light exposures overlooking Narragansett Sound. From our bedroom the light shimmers on the water in the harbor with the bobbing boats and the clanking of the halyards. The reflections of sunlight on the houses’ glass windows far in the distance on the other side of the harbor are all aglow. A new day of magical discoveries and serendipitous delights awaits us.

Early one morning the end of July at 4:40 AM I was wide awake, sitting on Peter’s side of the bed, in a meditative sensitivity to the precise moment I was alive. I was holding a gardenia blossom that’s fragrance opens a floodgate of happiness for me. Out of pure silence suddenly I saw flames of red, green, orange, and the loudest pop, pop, pop sound. I knew instantly that something was seriously wrong. The lights went out. The sound and fireworks display ended. The electricity went back on for less than a second, and went off to the dark silence. I’ve lived through and witnessed several blackouts in New York City. I put the gardenia back in the bud vase and called for Brooke.

On this Thursday morning, Cooper, Brooke and I were safe, calm, and curious. We opened the front door to our neighbors, the police cars, the fire trucks, and the quiet predawn. Everyone told their story of what they heard and saw from their own recollection, their own perspective. Apparently, our master bedroom in the cottage had the front row center seat for the drama. Everyone agreed that if we hadn’t had a heavy rain storm around two o’clock in the morning, the tree directly across from our house where the wire caught fire could have, would have caught fire within minutes and all of our wooden houses could have, would have, been in flames. We live cheek to jowl in this village; the John Rathbone house was built by church carpenters in 1775, two hundred and forty three years ago, and like our neighbors, we all are vulnerable to the elements.

Remarkably our electric company arrived and cut down branches as men worked their way to repair the live wire. No one was injured. Branches from that giant tree create a natural arch over Water Street, overlapping branches with our dogwood tree in the front of the cottage. We watched with amazement the repairing of the electricity. By 6:40 AM, two long hours of anticipation, lights were back on, the sun was beginning to brighten everything that was dark, and our hearts burst with appreciation. We were so lucky. We were grateful. We were full of thanks. Some friends and neighbors slept through the excitement. Dear friends live across the street. Mary Ellen and Rick saw the event a few feet away from their window. The tree has to go. It is being cut down. Selfishly, without the tree I will see a glorious view of the harbor from my desk on “3” in front of our fan window on the top floor of the cottage, where I love to go to write.

Before closing, I want to report that “Men in My Life” is my favorite, most sacred at this stage in my life. I always love most the book that I am writing, but this one seems to have a reverence and majesty all its own. As Peter would say so beautifully, “Magnifique.”

Happy August! I am going to Paris and taking the fast train to Provence to be reunited with my favorite artist, Roger Muhl’s environment. Because I am writing about Roger, I will feel his presence more intensely being in his visual and physical world. I never went to Mougin without Peter – or Pierre, as I like to think of my Paris love, so my explorations will be accompanied by the spiritual guidance of two people I dearly love who have so profoundly supported and nurtured my happiness.

I will write again when I return from France the beginning of September. Until then, please know how much I think about all of you with a heart full of love.

Mark your calendars!!

Save the Date!!

Alexandra will be hosting a Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington on November 7th and 8th, 2018!!(More details to follow.)

(See Event Page)

Love & Live Happy

Oh the beauty of hydrangea!

Peter, the perfect sailor

Hydrangea magic ~~ I treasure each precious blossom.

July roses!

Peter perfectly framed by our door surround to watch the 4th of July parade, one of his favorite events of the year

Blue jean kisses!

Oh how fun to send hydrangeas to friends and loved ones

Peter and hydrangea are simply perfect together

Peter, was always learning.

Love & Live Happy

Grace Note

"This I know. That the only way to live is like the rose which lives without a why."

~~ Meister Echkart