She’s continuing to grow

Former H&G editor overcomes unemployment, illness

“I’ve lost my old life, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been,’’ says Dominique Browning about losing her magazine job. “I’ve lost my old life, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been,’’ says Dominique Browning about losing her magazine job. (Frances Palmer)
By Carol Stocker
Globe Correspondent / July 8, 2010

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Dominique Browning was the last editor in chief of House & Garden magazine. One Monday morning in 2007 Conde Nast suddenly folded the magazine and she was told to pack her things. After selling her house in New York, she retrenched to Little Compton, R.I., where she rebuilt her vacation home from the ground up, planted a perennial garden, and wrote a book, “Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness.’’ She recently spoke at Trinity Church about how gardening helped her heal and reinvent herself.

Q. You’ve lost your job, lost a kidney to cancer, and ended a long-term romance within a short space of time. What’s your advice to people who have been knocked down and are trying to get up again?

A. First, allow yourself to mourn. It’s OK to be sad. And get yourself physically moving. If you move your body, your mind and heart will follow. I gardened. And I walked for miles. After I lost my job, things were not better. They were worse. I lost friends. I had no income. But I decided I’m not going to let this destroy me. I was going to make it better.

Q. So how does it feel going from influential magazine editor to unemployed?

A. I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked. I’m writing all the time. I’ve lost my old life, but I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

Q. Why?

A. I’m more settled. I’ve made my peace with the situation, and now I’m in control of my time and who I work with.

Q. What do you miss most about your old life?

A. I miss my colleagues and the team spirit of accomplishing something together. But I’ve gotten a sense of connection through my blog and the virtual community.

Q. Why did you move to Little Compton on a peninsula on the way to nowhere?

A. I’ve been coming to this town for 25 years, first as a couple, since my children were babies. It was an undiscovered gem back then, and it’s still somewhat undiscovered.

Q. And you threw yourself into gardening?

A. It was the thing that brought me out of my grief. Gardening connects you with the cycle of life and death. You realize you’re part of that normal cycle. Some people get it from putting their hands in dough and making bread. I get it from putting my hands in dirt. And my children are grown, so this calls to my nurturing instincts.

Q. After summering here, what’s it like living here year-round?

A. The first summer was wonderful but winter was hard, gray, cold. I don’t know if I can do this. I spend more time in New York in winter. I have an apartment there through next year. Then I might move again. This place has already served a wonderful purpose of grounding me and giving me a creative outlet.

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