A to Z Challenge Reflection 2016: Without Silence

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

Without silence, we could not distinguish the notes of the music. Even so, the music of the words that play within the walls of my mind is not the same as the sound of a voice that speaks aloud.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice.” That’s pretty much how it’s gone for me every day, the 26 days in April writing my A to Z posts. But, I’m not living in a communal house on the Princeton University campus, so I can’t retreat to that house like Amory Blaine in Fitzgerald’s 1920 novel This Side of Paradise to see if anyone else has arrived. I am alone, sitting in my studio at my computer. I feel the urge to pick up the phone and call someone. But I conclude that’s hopeless. No one wants to listen, no one has much to say. Few like talking on the phone these days, anyhow. They text. I don’t text; but even if I did I wouldn’t be hearing my own voice. I’d be seeing elisions and acronyms, oft misspelled, standing in for words and phrases, arriving on a tiny screen with the size typeface and images made for 18-year-old eyes, and a keypad for 3-year-old fingers.

So I climb the rickety, winding staircase, with the peeling white paint on the walls, to the cupola of my blog. Maybe Moriarty has arrived. He is the Phantom of My Blog, a low talker, a thoughtful thinker, someone I can converse with, even if he doesn’t dust.

On the way up I’m ruminating on why I chose the theme I did for 2016, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” my landscape photographs from my travels across America, pictures of places where I have lived or visited. I thought it would be quick and easy: use photos already in my computer and then say a few words. Not so. I found that for each photo in my computer, to give a true sense of place, I had to scan in more. Plus, the photos are old, 20 years or more, so I had to research each place to update my facts.

My photos are old because I spent the last decade caring for my mother, at home, who suffered from dementia. I had no time to do much else. In fact, I started my blog in 2011 to write about our journey through her dementia. Writing this story not only served as a catharsis for me, but also as information and support for others in similar circumstances. My mother died on April 11, 2012, hence this month marks the fourth anniversary of her death. She was 97. Many of the photos I used in this A to Z theme are of trips she and I took together. So, for me, this theme was a journey into a place called Nostalgia; and because the photos are old, I felt that I was seeing my whole life pass before my eyes. Often that made me sad. I was sad to see all those lost loves that I could look at, but whose voices I would never hear again. Without silence, there is no Nostalgia.

I am favored nonetheless to have had those travel experiences, to have met the enchanting and the enchanted along the way and to have traveled with the greatest companions. So I thought maybe my readers on the A to Z journey with me and from around the world might like seeing places in America they had not seen. Out of the corner of my imagination I observed that the native peoples who originally inhabited Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California made me a box out of soapstone. So, climbing upon my soapstone box I achieved my Scheherazade Chronicles mission of storytelling about sustainability of the environment, wildlife and humanity, that whole ecosystem. I did so verbally in some of my posts and in photographs in all of my posts.

As a journalist for over 35 years I am used to meeting deadlines; therefore, for that aspect, I facilely met the daily A to Z post deadlines. I took the A to Z Blogging Challenge last year for the first time and I found the writing, reading and meeting new friends exhilarating. This year I wasn’t going to take up the challenge, because I knew I didn’t have time. I was already inundated with obligations. But, I did it anyway. I found out I can’t do it all. I’d drop some quotidian pieces, forget and then have to go back and pick them up when I’d stumble over them, and affix them into their proper places in the picture puzzle on my mind table.

My mind kind of looked like this (hover your mouse over the image for further comment):

Sea Foam 1

So, this 2016 A to Z series is a new journey upon which I embark and share my old journeys with you; old friends, fellow bloggers, have come with me and along the way I have met new friends with utterly fascinating thoughts and lives. I am always interested to know how others think and to hear their voices. These are the treasures I encounter on the journey from A to Z.

I watched Ken Burns’s The National Parks, which just happened to be showing on TV as I neared the culmination of my A to Z postings mostly about designated parks and landmarks, and I realized what I had done in my life, where I had been, what I had photographed and written about. I should like to continue this.

Ah, here we are at the top of the stairs. I hear a tap. I look around the cupola. Moriarty is here. He’s sitting in the light by the open window. The pale, yellowed gauze curtain undulates in the soft breeze. Moriarty is tapping his iPad. He’s reading my A to Zs.

I speak.

He interrupts me. “This series is a photo essay,” he says. “And, where am I? Not one mention of me throughout, let alone a picture. It’s like I’m not here.” He is silent for a moment. A shadow of sadness passes across his eyes. And then he continues, “So, would you please post a photo of me. Your readers think I am a figment of your imagination. And, I am not. I am real. I am a genuine Phantom. And, besides, they always liked me better than you.”

So, dear reader, I give you Moriarty, The Phantom of My Blog:



–Samantha Mozart
May 8, 2016

Inspiration: At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice, so he retreated to his house to see if any one else had arrived. Having climbed the rickety stairs he scrutinized his room resignedly, concluding that it was hopeless to attempt any more inspired decoration than class banners and tiger pictures. There was a tap at the door.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920. BOOK ONE:
“The Romantic Egotist”; CHAPTER 2: “Spires and Gargoyles.”


23 Responses to A to Z Challenge Reflection 2016: Without Silence

  1. Pat Garcia says:

    Hello Samantha,

    I have nominated you for this year’s Liebster Award. If you decide to accept, the instructions are at my book review website at:

    Have a nice Sunday.
    Shalom aleichem,

    • sammozart says:

      I have accepted the nomination, Patricia. At long last.

      Thank you.

      Shalom aleichem,

  2. As I ponder ideas for future challenge themes, I am drawn to those that benefit from, or are inspired by, real-life activities. One of our many future travel plans is to visit as many of the national parks as possible. Your pictures are lovely. I look forward to seeing many of these in person.

    • sammozart says:

      I would like to visit all of the national parks, too, Lissa.

      Thanks for coming by and for including me on your list.ly list. I greatly appreciate it.

      I’m glad to meet you on the A-Zs, and congratulations for making it through.

  3. Congrats on completing the challenge. This theme sounds like a fab way to look back on some memories of your mum and remember the good times you had travelling together 🙂

    • sammozart says:

      Thank you, Debbie, for coming by. Congratulations to you, too, for making it through the A to Zs. Yes, lots of memories on the A-Z journey — caught me by surprise. 🙂

  4. Samantha, what beautiful and heartfelt words. “Without silence there is no Nostalgia.” So true. We need peace around and in our minds to think. We need to hear ourselves think, and the world all around is full of stimulants that go way over the top. Sometimes, I wonder, how will the young generation with so many gadgets constantly in their hands, in their ears, will learn to hear themselves think.
    So nice that you had the opportunity to revisit places you visited with Mom. So sorry about your loss. I sit here tying to imagine how difficult the journey must’ve been for you both. I imagine there is strength to be found after such difficult time, perhaps strength in the memories.
    Thank you for taking us to all the beautiful places you have visited. I enjoyed each post more than I could say.
    It was good meeting Moriarty. It’s been a pleasure reconnecting in April. I am looking forward to reading your beautiful posts. To hear you “talk.”

    • sammozart says:

      How thoughtful your comment, Silvia. I was wondering if anyone would pick up on the “Without silence there is no Nostalgia,” because that came to be at the heart of my A to Z journey this time around. It was one of thoughts that comes and stands right in front of you as you’re moseying along your story writing path. I think you may have said that in something you wrote. I agree with your concerns about the younger generation with their devices illuminating their faces and blocking the sensuality of their surroundings.

      Yes, the journey for my mother and me was difficult and heartrending — I wouldn’t want to repeat it — but, you know, you grow spiritually, and I believe that’s what life is about; nevertheless, I would have liked a more fun way.

      Thank you so much for your deeply thoughtful and kind compliment. I enjoy reading your stories, too, and look forward to reading more.

      Moriarty says he’s glad to meet you. 🙂

  5. Pat Garcia says:

    I LOVE this! Tell Moriarty I said hello. I am glad I had a sneak preview before it was posted officially. You did an amazing job my dear. I enjoyed each day we travelled together looking at your photos.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia http://www.patgarciaandeverythingmustchange.com/2016/05/reflection-to-z-blog-challenge-2016.html

    • sammozart says:

      That Moriarty, he’s pretty sneaky, Patricia, sending out previews of my posts when they’re still drafts. I never know what he’s going to be up to. Anyway, he says hi, and that next time he’s over in Paris visiting the Phantom of the Opera, he might just stop over and visit you. He’d kind of like to meet The Prophet and The Child.

      Meanwhile, thank you for your kind compliments and for traveling with me all along the A-Zs.

      Shalom aleichem,

    • sammozart says:

      I meant to say, too, Patricia, that I thought about you in these Reflections when I was writing about the music.


  6. Marsha says:

    I so thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful piece. You are a spectacular writer and I have missed keeping up with you and our other group members. I believe in Morirty and his presence in your life. He is a part of the creative universe you tap into and share so generously with you readers. He is real!!

    • sammozart says:

      Thanks for the “spectacular” compliment, Marsha. I know — we know you have been with us bloggers in spirit. You were in our hearts.

      As for Moriarty, at this moment he is beaming from ear to ear. 🙂

  7. Gulara says:

    I loved your theme, Samantha. I loved your posts – the photos are stunning and you captured the soul of those places. Amazing. I also love sea and water in any form, so your posts captivated me with their beauty. Thank you!

    • sammozart says:

      Thank you, Gulara. I loved your “Love Letters” theme, too. I like “sense of place,” and in so appreciating seem to capture the soul — I hope. And, of course, I love the sea.

  8. Mary Burris says:

    This year, the challenge started out strong for me, but toward the end, I was so tired and didn’t get around to as many blogs as I had hoped. Thankfully, I did manage to have all my posts pre-written. Next year will be different. I will be better prepared.

    • sammozart says:

      Oh, tell me about it, Mary — getting tired and trying to keep up. I started out ahead with prewritten posts, but nearly fell behind towards the end.

      We did it, though! Congratulations to you for surviving.

      Thanks for coming by.

  9. Hilary says:

    Hi Sam – not sure what happened .. as I’d have been around commenting, even if I wasn’t participating … but now you’ve shown up here – I’ll come back and read some of the A-Zs …

    Sounds like we’re on the same wave length … looking after the land – which will keep us alive and healthy …

    Cheers for now – Hilary

    • sammozart says:

      Yes, I agree about the land, Hilary. I had a glitch in my website in the beginning — my computer and it had been down for a time — so I had to get email notifications and other details sorted. I think I finally had achieved all that just as I was finishing my last few A-Z posts, naturally. 🙂

      I’m so glad to see you here. I always enjoy your comments, and have enjoyed reading them on other bloggers’ sites.


  10. Gwynn Rogers says:

    I loved your A to Z posts as they showed the beauty of nature across this incredible country. The history of the land and your wisdom that you shared made the posts even more interesting. Great job and Congratulations for surviving!!

    • sammozart says:

      Well, thank you, Gwynn. I appreciate your compliment. Congratulations to you, too, for surviving!

  11. susan scott says:

    You did a truly extraordinary and beautiful A-Z Samantha, showing us the beauty of your travels with your family. Also, you revealed the importance of retaining the land in its pristine state, while giving us some fascinating history behind the scenes. I was captivated …

    And thank you for the photo of Moriarty; please send him my very best wishes. I look forward to climbing those stairs one of these days to have a blueberry scone and lashings of delicious cream with him and you –

    • sammozart says:

      If Moriarty doesn’t eat it all first, Susan. 🙂 Even so, how lovely it would be to spend some time together.

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful complimentary comments.