Category Archives: Journal – Vol. II

LXXIV. The Blue Deer

Listen to The Blue Deer soundtrack in my playlist, “The Dream” in the right sidebar. Scroll down the list to “Glass – Symphony No. 7 (A Toltec Symphony).”

June 1, 2012  — I climbed the narrow winding wooden staircase into the cupola of my blog, gripping the graying white painted walls as I went. In the small box of a place at the top I walked over to one of the rows of windows lining each side. A cobweb from a yellowing gauze curtain stuck on my forearm. I pulled a tissue from my pocket and brushed it away with other webs lacing the corners of the sill. A tiny black spider suddenly homeless scampered across the sill, over a little ramp, like a mini motorcycle jump, where the paint had chipped and down into a seam in the faded white beadboard wall. I cracked open a window. The curtain lifted on the breeze like a bird of prey from its nest. The sweet smell of meadow grass wafted to my senses, and from somewhere in the coming night a faint music played.

I stood and looked out. In the almost twilight, I surveyed the vast realm of my experiences, and thought of the path I would pursue now.

The refracted light of the setting sun colored the sky orange and before it, across the tall-grass meadow, I saw the mist rising off the broad stream. Down near the stream a bed of irises grew wild – pale purple, deep purple with white centers – they were the most striking –, pink, white, yellow, many colors. Nearby, a lone man with long, dark, reedy hair sat on the bank playing his flute.

Contemplating near and far, my gaze trailed off to the far side of the stream into the distant woods, and as the light faded I began to dream, to drift on a reverie. And then out of nowhere it winged to nest in my senses, music I had never heard: with purity and grace it came – an aria – Chi il bel sogno di Doretta, the beautiful dream of Doretta, Puccini: La Rondine (The Swallow). The aria lifted me into a spiritual space, the heart of where I stay for now.

Just there in the half-light, I felt a draft. I smelled nutmeg. Something brushed against me. I shivered.

“Ah, the music of the night,” a subtle, deep, monotone spoke. A low talker. The Phantom of My Blog. He stood beside me. He laid a deep purple iris on the sill. He smelled of nutmeg. He always smelled of nutmeg. “You shiver. Maybe you need a sweater.”

The aria ended. We stood in silence. The man continued to play his flute. We floated on the evening.

My mind drifted back to last summer. I thought of my little family that I took care of: Every morning getting Emma up and dressed; helping her step down the sixteen stairs with their narrow treads and her iron grip on the balusters; getting her to the table to eat the breakfast she once prepared for herself – orange juice, oatmeal or Cheerios with bananas, strawberries and/or blueberries in skim milk. I thought of the times I’d prepare lunch for myself and run it up the back stairs to my studio, racing Jetta who would run up the front stairs because the back stairs were too steep for her, and we’d see who got to my studio first so she could have her treat. Then Jetta got sick and I had her put to sleep. Two months later, Keats, my Valentine’s cat, showed up, coming tender on the night that cold, snowy, blustery midnight, February 9. He was a sweet, smart cat, as Jetta was a sweet, smart dog. I fed Keats a sumptuous meal Thursday evening, April 26, then let him out, saying, “Now, you be back by ten thirty.” I never saw him again. Clearly he had people somewhere – he came wearing a sage green collar and with impeccable manners. Maybe they came and found him and took him home. Then Emma got tired, so very tired. “I don’t know how I got here,” she said in her agitated state in January. “How do I get out of here?” I could see it coming. So did our Hospice team. Their attention shifted away from her and to me.

Just then an osprey circled the field and flew straight at the phantom and me, like we were in the control tower and it was coming in for a landing. The black mask across its eyes looked like the painted bands that wrap around the windshield and windows of a commercial jetliner.

“The Lone Raptor,” said the phantom, “on his wings of tarnished silver.”

The osprey came close to the window, nodded, veered off to its left and was gone.

I remembered Emma as she was, before dementia tarnished her mind. Now, five, six, seven weeks after Emma’s passing I have found myself thinking, “Hmm, here I am all by myself, no little dog, no Keats cat, no mother to care for, a house that suddenly got really big: Besides my writing, what do I do now? What is my spiritual path? My spiritual advisors tell me to continue my caregiving. How do I do that? What do I do?”

All the old thoughts stacked up on the roof of my mind like factory chimneys.

Emma loved flowers. She would have loved the flowers in our garden this year. They were exceptionally lush – yellow daffodils, deep pink tulips and pure white, fragrant yellow roses, and pale purple irises that grew as dense as trees in a forest. I looked down at the windowsill. “So, you were out picking flowers?” I said to the phantom. “That’s a beautiful iris.”

“I picked it for you,” he said. “Iris is the goddess of the rainbow, thus implying that her presence is a sign of hope, and the wind-footed messenger of the gods to humankind, according to Greek mythology. She flies upon the wind and moves like a blast of bright air.”

“Like an orb,” I mused.

I was surprised that he had thought to pick me an iris. More likely, as had been his wont I suspected he would nudge me over the sill and out the open window. I was touched by his kindness.

“Thank you,” I said.

Then, “Blue, dear,” said the phantom.


“A blue deer. Look.” He pointed.

In the meadow, over near the woods, in a shaft of soft light, stood a blue deer, nosing the ground, foraging for food at twilight.

The wind picked up, then. The stream flowed fast on the wind with little white caps like water in a channel. The man had gone from the bank. The music continued to play, slow, meditative, but lush: now strings joined the flute – violins and deep cellos, and satiny brass, and reeds – clarinets and saxophones –, and double reeds – English horns and bassoons –, then an accompanying chorus of voices. Haunting. Where was the man with the dark reedy hair?

“He’s gone,” said the phantom, although I had not asked aloud. “The music of the spheres,” he said. “It emanates from the deer.

“The Blue Deer reminds us that we must be stewards of our environment. The Blue Deer is a dream vision, it is a dream of finding one’s spiritual path and of healing not only oneself but also the world and environment from pollution.”

“I am deeply honored by his visit,” said I.

The phantom spoke: “I vacuumed your blog for you, organized it, hung a new header and cleaned up the clutter while you were outside ruminating on the precise color of tulips, learning that the term tulip evolves from the Persian word for turban, and contemplating the greater meaning of all that.

“You tend towards understanding the realms of wisdom and healing through nature,” he continued.

“The seeds of a summer garden,” I said, “the tender green stalks upon which the caterpillar crawls before it metamorphoses into a butterfly. I’m trying to plant these seeds now.”

“Maybe you’re harvesting them,” said the phantom.

“I seek guidance,” I said, “and thus arrive the flute player, the iris, the osprey and The Blue Deer – stewards. Caregivers are stewards; stewards are caregivers.”

“You forget me,” he said. “Am I not your steward?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “I can but imagine.”

Dusk embraced us now. The Blue Deer lifted its head, sniffed the air, and then walked off into the woods. I pulled the window shut, picked up my purple and white iris and we headed down the winding staircase, I behind the phantom. In case I stumbled I hoped he would catch me. If I went first I feared he would push me. I didn’t want to flatten my iris.

When we reached the foot of the stairs, I thanked him again. We parted there. I lifted the iris to my nose. The stem had a nutmeggy smell, like his hand.

“What is your name?” I called after him.

“Moriarty,” he called back.

—Samantha Mozart

Acknowledgements: I must thank my spiritual teachers and spirit guides, and the following creative souls for inspiring the vision of this piece: My extraordinary new group of women writer caregiver friends; T.J. Banks, award-winning author, “Sketch People: Stories Along the Way” and more (find her on Amazon or click on the links on either sidebar here); Philip Glass, composer – Symphony No. 7, “A Toltec Symphony”: 3. “The Blue Deer”; and “Passages”; Coyote Oldman, their album titled “Floating on Evening”, Charmayne McGee, author, “So Sings the Blue Deer”; for the story of the Goddess Iris; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and, of course, Gaston Leroux for his “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. And, oh, Puccini; how could any woman forget Giacomo Puccini?





CXVII. Snow Comes Softly

Sunday, December 8, 2013 —Yesterday came cold and blustery while we presented our wares at our town holiday outdoor market. Flurries of visitors arrived and it was good to be out among the people and to greet them. Choruses of children sang and Santa Claus came to town. The Newshound from the Delaware State News came and, holding up one of my books, To What Green Altar, posed beside me while his photographer took our picture. Like most hounds, the Newshound newspaper mascot doesn’t talk, but the photographer alerted me to look online at Delaware Newszap,, and the photo noting this author should be posted by Wednesday.

Today it is snowing. The purity of the white is centering. Snow falling is quiet, peaceful. I have decorated my Christmas tree in small clear lights this year with only a few balls in silver hues. It is a quiet tree, a tree decorated not for anyone else, but for me, a tree to give off a soft, warm light.

It is Sunday. The bell in the little Episcopal church across the street rang this morning, as it does every Sunday. It is a real bell, in the steeple, that somebody rings. This little historic church recalls all the chapels in all the English villages, meadows and dales that I see in all the British dramas I watch. They don’t ring the bell long in this Episcopal church – eight times for the eight o’clock service and ten for the ten o’clock service.

One Sunday morning, I was walking in front of the Methodist church down the street when suddenly the bell tolled. I know convention says you’re not supposed to be startled when you’re in front of a church: I rose several feet off the sidewalk and I suspect not lifted on angel wings. In fact, I exclaimed, “Holy [expletive].” This is a real bell, too, and apparently a good sized one; it is loud, and it goes on ringing for eons. It’s a big church and the congregation continues arriving for ages.

Snowflakes alight briefly in flurries or waltz in endless patterns bending, swirling, reaching and touching everything all the dull gray day and into the deep blue night, well beyond three o’clock in the morning.

Prose arabesques ornament the characteristics and romance of snowflakes. Each snowflake is uniquely shaped. The flakes fall softly, individually, in pairs and in gatherings. Yet they all come from the same source and have the same composition. Snowflakes have a mission: they fall out of the clouds and they land on black slick streets, red-brick sidewalks, brown winter grass, mounds of dried leaves blown into corners of flower beds and on the bare dogwood branches outside my window. Sometimes the snowflakes melt on contact, sometimes they pile up. And then everything turns white. Watching them fall, we become quiet, meditative, nostalgic, always a little awestruck. We watch snow fall with anticipation: snow disperses our routines, makes us turn to something new. Sometimes each snowflake makes a light ticking sound as it touches down. The birds get quiet when it snows. I watch the squirrels and the birds and I can predict the weather. The squirrels bustle gathering nuts in advance of the coming cold. Birds flock and chatter and then get quiet. Birds have different songs for different types of weather and different times of day. They have their cheery morning song, their spring song for temperatures mounting on soft southern breezes; they have their evensong.

Mothers brought their young children outside this morning to witness the first snowfall of the season. I observed one child hold out her pink mittened hand to watch the snow accumulate in her palm.

I like driving in a car when it is snowing. I love being in the magic of the snow flying at me, the cypress and cedars and oaks lining the road, their branches laden with snow, the padding of the car tires on the snow, the few other cars on the road all traveling slowly as in a dream, and the tire tracks of an unseen car gone before me.

Snow fulfills its own purpose. Snow comes softly; it piles on tree limbs, bushes, holly berries and cars. Snow comes softly, like a gentle soul, filling in the footprints on our paths. It stays for a while, and then it is gone.

—Samantha Mozart

CXVI. The House of Seven Staircases

November 25, 2013 — I have been winterizing my home the past few weeks. This home was built in 1894, and although some repairs and improvements have been made since then, it needs more, like new plumbing, electrical wiring and workable storm windows. The house has 34 windows, not counting the windows in three of the four doors, the fourth being the basement Bilco doors. All but five have triple-track aluminum storm windows and screens installed over them, so I have been going around the house pulling down storm windows.

I have included a soundtrack with this plodding piece:  three compositions on my playlist in the right sidebar, by Chopin: numbers 36, 37 & 38: “Marche Funèbre” from the second piano sonata; “Largo in E” from “24 Preludes,” Op. 28; and “Nocturne No. 10, Op. 32 No. 2, respectively.

Since, oddly, the windows and the screens do not seat properly in their sashes, frequently sticking rather than sliding, this task involves fingernail breaking and colorful language speaking. These features notwithstanding, generally I pick the windiest autumn day for this project. The front and back aluminum storm/screen doors have large plate-glass windows that slide up and down in grooves. I raised the window on the back door sash easily, thus covering the screen and converting it to a storm door. The window on the front storm/screen door won’t budge, and it’s heavy. Last spring, I couldn’t slide it down to where it sits in the bottom half of the door. It came out of the sash, and I set it against the wall until I could get the guy painting the exterior of my neighbor’s house next-door to come fix it. Now it won’t slide up. All I need is to force it, have it come out of its tracks, drop it and break it. So I’ve left it until I can nab a likely candidate to help.

This house is of balloon-frame construction; that is, with no platform framing or drywall, so the joists run all the way from the foundation up to the attic. This allows air to circulate excellently: on the hottest breezy summer days with the doors and the 34 windows open, the house is comfortable. I’d leave the attic door open to enhance the circulation, but then the bats come down and circulate in my bedroom in the middle of the night. When I climb the attic steps, where Lancelot Dampwick, a former owner, removed the horsehair plaster from the lath lining the staircase walls, I can reach into the open space between the joists and feel an intense draft. This draft, as you might imagine, is chill in winter; and in any case, on windy winter days, even with the storm windows in place I wonder if I’ve left all the windows open: the wind blows right through not only the glass double layer but also the vinyl siding layering the clapboard walls, circulating magnificently. I can place my hand in front of any wall outlet and feel the draft. Drafting so splendidly, in the event of fire the house instantly would convert to one big chimney, spectacularly.

Jack the Handyman comes every spring and fall and carries my three window air conditioners from the first and second floor windows to the attic. The first floor window air conditioner is substantial and Jack accommodatingly transports it on a dolly up the main staircase to the second floor and, lifting it off the dolly, from there carries it up the winding attic staircase, setting it neatly against the wall dividing the large front room with the finished floor from the back, windowless storage area.

Out in the yard, to make it easier for Jack to simply pick it up and carry it down the outside cellar steps, thoughtfully I coiled my hundred-foot garden hose having the precise diameter and black and yellow markings as the garden snake we found coiled in the corner at the tortoiseshell cat’s feet in my friend’s house.

So Jack could get into the cellar, I descended the staircase out of the kitchen to the cellar, ascended the steps to the Bilco doors, opened them, and on the way back down, nearly trampled a herd of stampeding crickets who had settled their winter ghetto there.

Seldom have I lived alone, and here I have housemates – Marjorie the Mouse in the kitchen cupboard, and Jupiter and Jiminy Cricket around the kitchen. I rarely see the bats, only attic evidence of bugs they have eaten, so I can’t name them. The other day, I transported Jupiter, the big cricket, who was standing in the sink near a water puddle, into my backyard in a clean empty refried beans can. Jiminy’s still around, or maybe it’s Jennifer. It’s hard to tell. I do know their bodies sport nifty brown and black horizontal stripes, like little pullover sweaters, or jumpers, as the Brits aptly call them.

A few months after my mother and I moved into this house in August 2002, standing in the big attic room one winter morning, I noticed a tall thin thing in the center of the back of the attic. I walked over and peered through the climb-through opening in the wall separating the front and back sections. The sun, lower in the sky this time of year, shone through the front window into the back illuminating – a red brick chimney that had been truncated, probably when they re-roofed the house in the 1990s, so it no longer extends through the roof thus eliminating leaks around the flashing. I wondered why the wood shelves beside the kitchen stove, their surrounding paneling extending in equal depth from the wall and flush with the front of the stove, were so shallow. Somebody paneled around that same chimney there that formerly drafted the smoke from a woodstove, and put shallow shelves in the front. A woman near my age, who grew up in this house, told me that she and her three sisters would sit around the stove and watch their mom bake cookies. I don’t know if that was before or after that day while their mom was at the store they painted the two-story barn behind the house two shades of purple. Since the property sits on the top of a knoll, “It could be seen from all over town,” the woman said. That barn is long gone. In its stead is my shed under which the Peter and Bunny Cottontail clan lives. These girls’ dad cemented the hitherto dirt cellar floor, built the back steps (their initials and ‘51 are incised in the cement) and blocked off the back staircase to the attic, to create a closet on the lower landing. This is the closet where my clothes shrink on their hangers, in the room above the kitchen that I now use as my studio, with the winding staircase out of the kitchen, directly below the walled-off back staircase to the attic.

Their dad used the smallest upstairs room, my den, as his office. This is my reading room, where I sit in the chaise between the two perpendicular windows, beneath my bridge lamp. I am gradually converting my den to a library. I want to line one wall with floor to ceiling shelves. This is the perfect wall, since the front chimney juts out from the wall at the end next to the window, creating the perfect indentation for bookshelves. I could spend endless hours there among my books. Books are people’s souls.

Balancing the scales, though, is my love for music, and recently I was invited to and attended a free piano master class in the Steinway Hall in a store where they want to sell me a piano. They could move the piano into my house facilely, since only four steps lead up to the front porch and then one more from the porch into the entrance hall opening to a wide doorway into the living room. This doorway once accommodated pocket doors handily removed by a former owner who had undergone a lobotomy thus rendering him senseless to matters historical. Here, the problem is that at the price of the piano I want, I’d have to live in it. No more climbing stairs. I could fit inside a nine-foot grand, but I don’t know how I’d roast a turkey, mash potatoes and cook bacon Brussels sprouts or any other meal in it. Master classes are a great way to gain appreciation of an art. In piano master classes you learn about composition, the composer’s intention and how to enhance performance. Alas, few but I can enjoy such an event. I invited friends who replied that they vaguely recalled a definitely possible engagement they were somewhat certain they had probably committed to; that is, if they weren’t too busy winterizing their homes.

This week I carried my eight-foot artificial Christmas tree from the attic down to the living room. The tree is a beautiful, lush Norway spruce laden with cones. It comes in four heavy, unwieldy sections. I laid the sections out on the living room floor and then assembled them in the stand. This is tricky, because inevitably I place the second part in the stand first rather than the base part, and then wonder why it’s all wobbly. I have to take it apart and do it again. This year I bought those tiny clear lights to string on the tree until after Thanksgiving when I will add my fabulous bubble lights and other colored lights and ornaments. All of this was easier ten years past when I bought the tree. I saw a television commercial a few years ago where the guy stood in front of his tree with those little clear lights all in a tangle around his neck. Ultimately, giving up trying to sort them, he flung them at the tree. They looked artfully placed. Did I try this? Yep. They looked like someone flung them at the tree.

This house has seven staircases. This makes the house sound like a proper setting for filming “Downton Abbey,” thus requiring a below stairs staff. No, not trolls; rather, actual servants. The house isn’t that big, though; in fact, it’s rather small; simply, it’s tall and long and thin and has a lot of steep and winding staircases. At the least, I’d like to have a dumbwaiter; and no, not some inebriated footman who trips over your chair and spills the tomato bisque necessitating your ladling it out of your black satin pumps, the ones with the silk grosgrain bows; but since I usually carry my meals upstairs to eat while I am at the computer or watching a movie or TV, it would be handy to have that food lift. I’m glad the kitchen isn’t in the cellar, as many were in the old days. Two staircases lead from the cellar, one to the outside, through the Bilco doors and one up into the kitchen. From the kitchen, through the laundry room, are the back steps down into the yard, and, over by the sink, the winding back staircase up into my studio and, above them, the stairs from my studio to the back of the attic where the truncated back chimney exists. From the front entrance hall the main staircase leads to the second floor and at the far end of the upstairs hall, the winding staircase to the front of the attic.

From the attic windows, beneath the front of the three gables, unobserved, I can watch my neighbors cartwheeling in the middle of the street after eating their Thanksgiving turkey. No one looks up.

This year on Thanksgiving I will contact family, who live at a distance, and imbibe in a gathering at the home of a special friend.

My idea to use Chopin’s “Marche Funèbre” for a soundtrack was inspired by my tedium with this post and by a blog I follow, “Excelsior” [], where I was delighted to find that blogger not only enjoying my nerdy musical taste, but intelligently discussing it and providing a video with the performance.

May your home abound with warmth, love and laughter this Thanksgiving.

—Samantha Mozart


CXV. The White Grape

November 8, 2013 — The white grape on my hors d’oeuvre plate rolled onto the floor in the corner in front of the closet, so I picked it up, wiped it off and ate it so it wouldn’t roll off in the center of the gathering and create a scene.

I was attending the annual artists reception at our local historic opera house. I walked along the walls of the two rooms, viewed all the pictures and incidental artwork. I finished eating my hors d’oeuvres, ate no cake for dessert, drank the small glass of opaque purple wine, exhibited in my hand like a royal crimson smudge on the chronicles of the peoples. I tossed my clear plastic plate and glass into the trash.

Moriarty came up behind me, then, tapped me on the shoulder and told me it was time to go. I remarked how amazed I always am at the wealth of local talent, and then I quietly exited down the stairs.

I removed my stick-on nametag as I descended the three flights. Against the outside brick wall of the opera house, well lit and encased in glass, I was keenly aware that I was exhibited in my descent.

I walked home alone in the dark.

Once home I ate a bowl of rich pumpkin soup from our nearby farm market and finished it off with bread pudding from our Odd Fellows Café. The works of artisans.

I sat out on my front porch after eating, sipping a glass of red Zinfandel, beneath the golden leaves of the walnut tree thriving in my flower bed, mourned its loss before it was gone, melancholic – the huzun, the Turks call it – soon to happen, for if it stayed in its place growing there under my porch, it would eat my house. I stared at the hundred year old Norway spruce etched against the night sky across the street.

Artists, I ruminated, know art comes from nowhere. The music of the spheres. What artists see and they create comes spontaneously. It’s not there and then it is. It is not something expected and then comes and you can arrogantly spout platitudes about or look down you nose about as you try to explain to lesser beings the work you have done. Works of art are not entities you can lord over awestruck others. Only the impresarios, the ones who present the art in a forum of camaraderie, food and wine or on a theater stage can do that. Artists simply visualize or hear the work and record it. Artists don’t know whence it comes, and they are humbled in that knowing, in its genesis and its presence.

It is with life the same. It’s temporal. We come, we exist, we exhibit what we create and then we quietly go.

There’s nothing to hold superior to that of others; all come and go, create and exhibit in their own ways, in their own time. There is parity in this.

There is no hierarchy; there are no mind games. Mind games are played by those caught in themselves, those mesmerized by their own images in the mirror – the adored but illusionary phantom.

Does art imitate nature or does nature imitate art? The proverbial and paradisal question, the eternal paradox. Does art merely mirror the spectator? Does art express anything but itself? Does it simply exist?

The white grape rolled off my plate and onto the floor in the corner in front of the closet. I bent and picked it up, wiped it off and ate it.

—Samantha Mozart

CXIV. A Treat for the Senses

October 24, 2013 — The cook toasted a purple chicken atop the flagpole until it became crinkled like the brown cellophane you crushed in your hand yesterday.

I am preparing a recipe for my Blue Deer Writers Workshops I intend offering in my home after the first of the year. Writing gets easier and improves when you don’t try to control it. Hell, you can even write upside down, Stephen King said. You can’t hold all the reins. If you do, you become so busy trying to control your team of words the reins entangle and you get writer’s block. So many potential writers tell me they want to write but they just can’t seem to get the story out. Everyone has a story to tell. My answer is, just write: write anything; just put the words on paper; write for 10 minutes without stopping; go back and edit and rearrange the words and phrases afterwards. If you don’t know what to say, begin with “I don’t know what to say,” and write that over and over if you must. Or talk about purple chickens. Combine seemingly unrelated words and see how they taste together. You may be pleasantly surprised. Unless you’re in a dark closet, be aware of your surroundings. Is your neighbor really cooking dog or does it just smell like that? Outside my window the vermillion dogwood leaves burnished by golden October sun, against a slate-gray wind cloud backdrop, quiver in the breeze surfeiting a corner of my mind with abundant beauty as I type filling the white page with black words in Times typeface.

Take a walk. Leave your cell phone home. With your face aglow in the light of the smart phone in which you’ve buried your nose, you miss your natural surroundings – the golds and reds and browns of the fallen maple leaves and the dry, smoky aroma rising from them as you shuffle through them; the venerable bald cypress incensing your hair and ears and shoulders with exotic fragrance as you walk in the cathedral of its graceful arms and hear the chittering and chirping of the many, busy little lives sheltered deep within.

In the Eastern High Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, the dry air smells of pinesap and granite dust. Hiking up the mountainside, at 9, 000 feet altitude and higher, I round a bend, unexpectedly to come upon a waterfall. I stand in awe, mesmerized, watching it shift and lift and change, sonorous, a white lacey veil played by the fingers of the wind. I move on, tripping the light fantastic along the banks of a glacier lake, taking care not to stumble over the plumbing, the pipes running from that lake down to the next and the next, ultimately to supply water for the town of Mammoth Lakes and other California places. The long arm of mankind reaches into the backcountry.

Sometimes I hiked with companions; sometimes I hiked alone. Always I listened, felt, watched, sensed, sniffed the air. High above, the sun glinted off an airplane, a silver sliver aloft in the blue, the singular sound of its jet engines in the high dry atmosphere, a sound that carries me back to the Sierra on the rare occasions the humidity is low here on the East Coast and I hear that sound again. Hiking in the Sierra, I didn’t take a cell phone, though always a camera, a bottle of water and a snack. The wildlife was different there from at home in Southern California; there were blue stellar jays, marmots and mule deer. The marmots resemble miniature bears; I steered clear of real bears, which at close encounter appear way bigger than portrayed in photographs.

Today a friend in the Seattle area mentioned buying delicious vegetable lasagna at Trader Joe’s. In Southern California I shopped regularly at Trader Joe’s. I bemoan the absence of Trader Joe’s in our local area. The nearest one is an hour away, and here in Delaware the law prohibits selling wine in a grocery store; TJ’s sells excellent wines at excellent prices. I really miss that store; and Whole Paycheck (oops, Whole Foods), too. A writer friend called it Whole Paycheck on her blog ( I find the term accurate. Our family-owned Willey Farms, though, just up the road, is a combination of the two, everything locally grown or in winter trucked from their Florida farms, connected to the farm stand where I used to work. I smile when I walk in the door — it smells so good, of the season — in summer like melons and beans and tomatoes; in fall like squashes and cauliflower and broccoli; in winter, citrus; and onions in spring; a feast for the eyes in red, yellow, green, orange and purple. Of course, there are the homemade soups and the mac & cheese seemingly made from the recipe Thomas Jefferson brought back from Paris. Then there’s the candle department, perpetually illuminating my temptations.

This is my favorite time of the year. It is also the time of the year my sinuses get stuffed up and I develop a sinus infection. This has happened to me every fall, from October, before Halloween, through Christmas since I was a kid (on the East Coast, though not in Southern California). As a kid I suffered from terrible sinus pain and infections, having to be in bed and take this horrible green liquid medicine. I would have a mild fever and hallucinate. Big cinderblocks closed in on me in my bed as I dozed. Mother fed me orange Jell-O which I didn’t like, but found interesting to poke with my fingers and play in. Now every time I see that particular color green, I can taste that medicine and feel that sickening sinus pain. Every year Mother and I rode the trolley out towards West Chester, Pa., to the office of Dr. Tunnell, who washed out my ear. Interesting name for an ear, nose and throat specialist. The accent is on the second syllable.

I had a set of wooden design blocks that amused me while I was bed bound. Each side of the block had a different geometric design – adjoining triangles in complementary colors – or was a solid color, in red, blue, yellow or white. I could make several different designs with those blocks. I liked the red/blue combination because they are the colors of the University of Pennsylvania. The design examples were pictured on the inside of the lid. I wonder what happened to those blocks. I often wish I still had them. I read a lot, too – Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse, classic short stories and novels – The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew – and biographies.

Last year my left ear was closed for a month. This year when I felt it coming on, I began taking colloidal silver. That normally stops the infection in its tracks and clears it up in three days. Colloidal silver kills the bacteria. It’s a liquid I administer by dropper — mouth, nose, ear.

I intend to begin the new year with a series I call “The Scheherazade Chronicles Afternoons of Authors Tea Readings.” I want to do these Sunday afternoons monthly until summer, in my home, each month featuring a different revered author, at $15 per person per session, beginning with a Jane Austen Tea Reading. At that time I will, of course, promote my books, Begins the Night Music, To What Green Altar, and hopefully by then I will have published my new one, The Phantom of My Blog. Moriarty’s been nudging me on that one.

I will also launch my writers workshops then. I’m planning to offer these workshops as 10 weeks of weekly hour and a half sessions for $300. If you are interested you can make a reservation via email at; and you can pay through PayPal at the “Donate” button here on my site. I will keep writers groups small, no more than nine, and I want to invite local authors to come read their work and discuss writing. The only tools you will need for the writers workshops are a couple of good, easy writing pens and a spiral bound notebook. We will handwrite our work, we will take short walks, listen to music and otherwise immerse ourselves in sensory stimulation. We will read our work aloud.

My Blue Deer Writers Workshops: The blue deer rends the cloth of the common brown herd.

—Samantha Mozart



CXIII. Sebastian’s Flight, Part 4 — Flight Path

September 21, 2013 — I held Manon’s diary open, Moriarty and I sitting on the folly foundation in the warm September sun, and I continued reading aloud:

[My “Sebastian Quartet” comes with a soundtrack: Click on my “The Dream” player (right sidebar) for no. 32, Thomas Tallis’s ethereal 16th century “Spem in alium” and no. 33, Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice, Dance of the Blessed Spirits” (Italian version).]

I sit now among my roses breathing in their sensuous aroma. I hold his response on my lap:

“My dear Manon,

Read more »

CXIII. Sebastian’s Flight, Part 3 — Perigee

September 21, 2013 — Manon began her diary of Sebastian and their strange, mystifying relationship in the middle, allowing it to fan out from the center to the tips, the beginning and the end, like a sunflower burst into yellow flame for a summer, and then in the autumn, drooping its head, the seeds falling at its roots:

 Sebastian came by this afternoon. It is a fine weather day. We walked out to the little bench in the garden, sat among the roses and talked for two hours. We spoke of our relationship and the closeness we feel with one another, and that it has caught us unawares. We do not know what to do with this. He came by for afternoon tea, he said. But, in the garden, our conversation soon turned to our feelings. I feel so natural with him. I believe he does with me, too. I could tell him anything. We talk endlessly on every subject; we could probably talk for days, almost without breath; yet, our silences are communicative and deep. Kindred spirits. I feel as if I have known him for lifetimes. There is a haunting quality to it, though. Something… something dark, something I see beyond him, as if when I sit looking at him he is transparent, and there’s this dark entity behind him. He has said nothing about it; nor I to him. He may not see it. I sense he is hiding something, or he fears something, something unsettling to him.

Reflecting at this late evening hour, I cannot recall our first meeting. It seems in this lifetime we never had a first meeting, but that he was always near me, an unseen but felt presence, and when we matured on our separate paths, we would become aligned and meet. Thus, this happened: eventually, we evolved into the same group of friends and associates; then we knew each other, yet had little direct contact until recently.

The light burns low now and the air holds a chill. At the hearth, I have stoked the fire, gift of Prometheus, and what remain are glowing embers, spirits of the flame. The wall sconce in the corner hisses with gaslight, and here at my writing table, pools of wax clot around the stunted candle base.

When we will see one another next I do not know. Our meetings are spontaneous and erratic. I have my garden club and the orphan children’s benefit; he has his businesses and men’s club. It is as it should be. It is part of the natural flow of our relationship. I inhale the essence of what it is and expect nothing more.

—Yet, the dark side. It carries a sad mysticism, something from long ago, like something from a past lifetime. I can see bits of it, like faded photographs in an uncompleted album, our loving companionship abruptly and tragically cut short. Why? Or am I having a premonition?

He knows. He doesn’t want to face it…. The hour is late. I must go to bed.

I sat at my blog round table rereading this opening of Manon’s diary when Moriarty entered. He had been in the back kitchen, this time sweeping up enormous droppings of Japanese spam.

He’d brought his fluffy black dog, Dickens, with him. I stroked the white patch under Dickens’s chin, scratched deep behind his ear, finishing by running my hand along his back, ruffling his coat. He shook, then, sending pieces of disconnected Japanese character strokes flying, like loose spider legs.

“He rolled in the spam,” said Moriarty.

“My last post, part two of this story, attracted page after page of Japanese language characters,” I said. “Must have been the keyword ‘masquerade.’”

“I built the foundation for the folly,” Moriarty said. “Come out and see it. A low wall we can sit on and finish our discussion begun the other night over the Chinese.”

We walked across the tall yellow meadow grass to the foot of the folly, parallel on the hill to the blog, overlooking the stream. I carried Manon’s diary.

Moriarty had set a cornerstone into the foundation and carved into it Sept 2013. What a Phantom. I beamed at his thoughtfulness to detail. Sitting on Moriarty’s masterpiece, I tilted my face upwards and took a long draft of the deep blue September sky, the honeyed warmth of sun drenching my face.

Dickens sat next to me and leaned against my leg; and then he lay down, resting his head on his tan forepaws. Crickets chirped and locusts buzzed. The rubber tip of the dog’s nose twitched as he sniffed the air. Maybe he smelled blue deer. I patted his head.

“There was a strange sadness to Sebastian,” said Moriarty, sitting down at the opposite end of the foundation wall and crossing his leg over his knee.

“Sebastian typified perfectly what most humans fear – they are afraid of the light, not of the dark,” I said.

“Clearly it seems,” I went on, “that he was deeply drawn to Manon in the beginning; he drew her in; their association blossomed, becoming close.”

“And then he got scared,” said Moriarty.

“He fell into the flame he had kindled, and then tried to flee; he erected a firewall of superficiality,” I observed.

I opened Manon’s diary and read:

Sebastian has turned. I wanted to know his darkness. We have become very close. Of late, though, he has begun to be controlling. In truth, I want to know if he is worthy of me. Would he always be respectful towards me. Would he accept my work for women’s suffrage? If we are to go forward, I want clear understanding between the two of us. I sent him a note. Would he talk with me? That’s all I wrote: what point would it be to discuss with him in a note what I want to discuss with him in person?

He wrote back: “When I have time. I shall let you know.” I replied that I understand he has other priorities, that such is as it should be. However, I stated, I do find that we must talk presently. I sought to prevent a miscarriage of our friendship, although I did not tell him this latter.

There is more …
—Samantha Mozart

CXIII. Sebastian’s Flight, Part 2 — Masquerade

August 26, 2013 — The wine I sip is rich and red. It warms my insides. I sit at the big oak round table in my blog. I have turned the last page. I close the worn diary and stare into the flame of the tall, orange candle, ruminating. This is the diary of a woman. I do not know her name. The woman lived long ago. Her diary chronicles her mystifying relationship with a man named Sebastian. Clearly I need more to do than to sit entranced, venturing into the dark realms of thought to find the hermit down at the far end of the tunnel, holding an LED lantern. I stand, pinch out the flame and take my glass. The aroma of wax drifting off the spiral of smoke from the doused flame precedes me partway up the stairs to the second floor catwalks, dissipating as I climb the narrow winding wood staircase to the cupola above. On the way, I flick off flakes of white paint that fall onto the dark sleeve of my sweater as I brush against the walls.

At the top, I go over and look out the windows surveying the scene across the meadow. The day is late and an orange-gray mist rises off the stream, obscuring the earth-most region of the woods on the far bank.

The blue deer and her fawn, Batik, stand on the near bank. And, then – what? To the left, in the meadow along the bank, is a small herd of deer, all blue, some fawns, blue with white speckles. I am mesmerized. An uncommon herd. Where have all the blue deer come from?

I smell a nutmeggy aroma, hear a creak on the step. I turn. My heart stops beating. I stop breathing. I cannot swallow. In the shadows at the top of the staircase, it is a hunchback man with a frightening face and wild puce hair. In his lowered hand he wields a large gun and something smaller, transparent, with it.

“It’s me,” comes the subdued, muffled tone – my low-talker, Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog. He is wearing a grotesque mask with wild puce hair attached. I take a long draft of wine.

“I saw your bottle of wine and carried it up with me,” he says.

“I thought it was a gun,” I say. I remember to breathe; my heart still pounds; I gulp more wine.

He lifts his banjo, by the shoulder strap, from his back, sprawls in the chaise lounge in the corner between the windows, removes his mask and lays the banjo across his knees.

“What, then, must we do?” he muses, wiping the sweat from his face with the back of his hand.

Balancing his banjo with one hand, he flips out the cork and pours wine into his glass with the other.

“Look at the herd of blue deer,” I say. “Did you see them? Extraordinary.”

“I know,” he says. “I put them there. I ordered them. They came on a Greyhound bus. I had to go meet it. They’re cardboard. I found them on Amazon. Made in China, I think.”

“And, why are you wearing a mask and that hideous hair? I ask. “It’s got, like, mint and mauve streaks in it.”

“Masquerade,” he says. “It’s all a façade.” He plucks a series of strings individually on his banjo and sings, “‘Masquerade, paper faces on parade. Masquerade. Look around, there’s another mask behind you.’ From my favorite musical, ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’” He plucks a final string, giving it tremolo. “Life in twenty-first century America. Thomas Jefferson would say, ‘I told you so.’ So would Barry Goldwater.”

Paper faces on parade
Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you
Masquerade! Every face a different shade
Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you
Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads
Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you
Masquerade! Grinning yellows, Spinning reds

“Before they sing the song in the musical, they say, ‘It’s a shame that phantom fellow isn’t here.’ That phantom fellow is always here. ‘Seething shadows breathing lies … leering satyrs peering eyes. … Take your turn, take a ride on the merry-go-round in an inhuman race’: The poetic gospel, the Alice in Wonderland side of religion. The Mad Tea-Party. Move around the table until no more clean plates remain. I’ve got mine and you’ve got yours to get.”

“Their mansions,” I say, “gilded on the backs of the other ninety-eight percent, the peasants whose only expectation is to reap the harvest of their hard work sowing the seeds in what’s become a field of clay. They may as well be pulling weeds from between the cracks in the pavement.”

“R speculated while he was trimming my hair, which he said looked perfect as it was, that ‘they soon will be coming to harvest our organs – then feed our withered intestines to the hungry buzzards.’”

He goes on: “What are the masqueraders afraid of? Why do they hide behind their false faces? Control. Politicians running for office, in office, or to impress a superior or potential investor, move with their spouses in lockstep, like a pair of carved wooden love doves appearing from the cuckoo clock door to tweet the hour. Shenanigans. It’s like a shell game. I offer you an example: They create a fantastic tableau, as I have with my cardboard blue deer out there, perfectly posed for the photo op.” He sweeps his hand across the swath of vacant domain before him, finishing with a flourishing gesture toward the bank of dusking windows.

“Just like Sebas—“ He feels his back pocket, he feels around in the chaise. “Where is it? I’ve lost it. I thought I had it.”

His wide-eyed expression, like that of a surprised cat, or round as doubloons in a treasury, bemuses me. “You mean Sebastian and the diary?”

“Yes – where…?”

“I found it in the chaise after you left the other night. It must have fallen out of your pocket.”

“Did you read it?”

“Yes. All of it. Whose is it? Where did you get it?”

“It’s Manon’s. I found it in a trunk full of stuff in the family attic in Arkansas. I think when they moved there, they just stuck a lot of stuff up in the attic and forgot about it. Manon was my great grandmother’s sister, my great great aunt.”


He pulls out his wallet. “Here. Here’s a picture of her.”

I take the small photo. In the cupola half-light and although the light and shadow of the image were faded, I can see: “She is very beautiful,” I say. I gaze at her a long time. Why do I feel as if I know her? Was it the diary? Yet, I felt a connection, even when I began reading her words. I hand it back to him.

“I sat down right there in the attic,” he says, “and started reading. The dust on the trunk made me sneeze, but I couldn’t stop reading. I didn’t sneeze on the diary. I became intrigued by her straightforwardness with him and in her prose, her sincerity. I asked my family if I could keep it. They said yes.”

I must admit, I have never seen my low-key Moriarty so passionate about something.

“What was the matter with Sebastian?” I ask. “Why did he—?”

“I’m hungry,” says Moriarty.

It is getting dark, and I haven’t brought a flashlight; I hope I don’t fall down the winding stairs.

“Let’s order out,” he says. “We’ll talk over some Chinese.”

He heads down the staircase and I follow.

—Samantha Mozart

CXIII. Sebastian’s Flight, Part 1 — The Folly

August 18, 2013—The church bells were ringing as I entered my blog this Sunday morning. I came upon Moriarty in the back kitchen sweeping up the spam.

“You let this stuff accumulate,” said the Phantom of My Blog. “It piles up like mountains of greasy crumbs.”

“We’ll have ants,” I said.

“There are some,” said he, “who would create elaborate measures to spare the life of an ant, yet would crush a human, without compunction, without compassion, without giving thought to understanding, too closed-minded to recognize that the other gives thoughtfulness and tolerance.”

The bells stopped.

“A bell can’t ring when it’s intolerant,” he went on. “There’s no leverage for movement, no tangible embodiment of openness to accommodate sound, to bear the clapper strike, thereby to be heard by the sincere.” He bent down, and with a whiskbroom began sweeping the piles of spam into a dustpan.

“I love the sound of bells,” I said. “La Campanile.”

He dumped the spam into a big, black plastic bag. “Let’s build a campanile beside the folly in an iris garden I’m going to build across the field from the blog,” said Moriarty.”

“You’re building a folly? Whatever for?”

“A place to go, to do nothing, to open our minds, to chill,” he said. “A place that means nothing, a place to be taken at face value.” He swept the last crumbs of spam into the dustpan and emptied them into the bag. “There are those who spam you with their minds; they overlay their own emotional baggage on you.” He tied the bag, struggled to lift it and carried it out the back door and to the trash. I held the door open for him.

I followed him. I don’t know why I was following the Phantom of My Blog, but I did, despite his unprepossessing manner – or because of it.

“And besides,” he said, as we turned to go back inside, “from the windows in the top we can get a good view of the blue deer.”

I went up to the cupola. He followed. We wanted to look for the blue deer. He kept talking. He must have consumed a garrulous biscuit for breakfast, I mused.

“Indeed, as it were, the folly is a place to which to take flight,” he said from behind me as we climbed the winding wooden staircase.

I smiled. The “indeed” and “as it were” he incorporated into his speech often. It was a giveaway to his proclivity. He read history much, had majored in it in college; it is peculiar to historians to utilize “indeed” and “as it were” often.

“What’s this?” I asked. Something new had been added to the furnishings in the cupola.

“It’s a record player,” he said. “I found it in Missouri and brought it back with me.”

“Missouri? I thought you said you were going to Arkansas, that your family lived in the Arkansas Ozarks.”

“I did. Arkansas. I meant Arkansas. I drove through Missouri, a corner of it. It stayed in the corner of my mind. Somebody set this by the side of the road there – in the corner of Missouri, actually; so I did mean Missouri.”

He had leaned a few LPs against the suitcase-style player. He pulled one out of its jacket and placed it on the turntable.

“Somewhere in Time,” I said. “I love that soundtrack, and the movie. That brings back memories.”

“History. We must not forget our history,” he said. “If we don’t remember where we’ve been, how can we recognize how to go forward? That’s a mandala, I think. How can you be complete if you keep doing the same stuff over and over? Your circle winds tighter and tighter and in time you disregard the world around you. In fact, you are likely to become too tightly wound and snap.”

He sat down in the chaise, the one with the plastic webbing like a beach chair, between the windows, in the corner.

I stood gazing out over the meadow. It was a gray day. They were calling for rain. I thought of an episode I had just watched of the long-running British TV series, “Foyle’s War,” called “The Hide,” featuring the extraordinary actor Andrew Scott along with the venerable Michael Kitchen portraying the protagonist of the series. Why was Andrew Scott’s character so protective of his secret, even when erroneously convicted and imprisoned, that he was willing to be hanged for it. What was the tragedy he had witnessed as a child and why would he not come forth with the truth? Well, you’ll have to watch the story to learn. I’ll not give it away for you. But, the premise intrigues me; it can be applied to so many instances in life. It may not even be a secret, but we end up carrying it around with us in the quiet recesses of our minds, so much old baggage.

I think I’ve pretty much gotten things out over the years. But, my parents’ divorce when I was 14 left a scar, that and their giving to the SPCA my dog and companion of nine years without even forewarning me. I came home from school one day and he was gone. That was it. That’s crushing a human – and an animal – without compunction. I hope I don’t do that, I really don’t; I have no intention of doing so; if I have, it’s been unwittingly.

“What—?” said the Phantom.

“Did I say something? I didn’t say anything. Did I?”

“You were thinking loudly,” he said.

“Oh. Just old stuff,” I said. “Spam on the roadside of my mind.”

“Somewhere in Time” had ended. “I have to leave now,” he said. He put the record back in its jacket. “I have an appointment. R is going to cut my hair.”

“Well, don’t be late,” I said.

“R says some people’s minds play like a broken record,” he called to me over his shoulder.

He left. I stayed in the cupola. There was a heavy haze in the air, almost like a mist. I listened for the patter of raindrops on the cupola roof, on the leaves of nearby trees. Mourning doves called and responded. They seem to come around here this time of year, late August. Crickets chirped.

A distant church bell tolled, for a late service I supposed. Then … rain began falling.

I was on my way to ending this session and heading down the staircase when I spotted a small dark thing in the corner of the chaise. It was a brown leather-bound book, about five by seven inches and a good inch thick. It was well used. Moriarty must have dropped this. I was intrigued. I opened it. The script appeared to be a woman’s hand, dip pen and ink, faded, old; the pages were yellowed, some curled and tarnished on the edges.

I sat down in the chaise and began reading. It began, “Sept. 15.” No year was added. “Sebastian came by this afternoon. It is a fine weather day. We walked out to the little bench in the garden and sat among the roses and talked for two hours….” I kept reading. I couldn’t stop. It was a diary and the story unfolding on the pages held me spellbound. Outside, evening fell, mingled with the rain. I pulled the light chain on the bridge lamp. I read long into the night.

—Samantha Mozart

CXII-ii. Giving Meaning to Life: Bartering

August 9, 2013

I thought I’d let myself off the blog-writing-consistency hook by publishing this essay I wrote a few years ago. In the meantime, from a recent conversation I had with Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog, I am in the midst of composing a multi-part story to post, but have otherwise been most unpleasantly occupied with pressing urgencies of a personal nature.

Pink Flower Watercolor by Emma

Pink Flower Watercolor by Emma

When I wrote the above paragraph, I had not yet heard the despairing news: Our beloved Hospice nurse, Tess, who took such good care of Emma and who has been there always for me, is seriously ill, for a long haul, and we are praying she pulls through. Please say a prayer for her. I would like to repeat here a prayer my writer friend Susan Scott – who is in her own healing process after a horrific auto accident – offered. The candle I lit for Susan’s quick recovery from surgery yesterday, when I heard the sad news became the candle I lit for Tess, also. “Please Lord, be with this kind woman who has been a source of strength to Samantha and her family when Samantha’s mother was in her death throes. Let her know that she is loved and cared for by us and by You. Please help her be strong and well.”

February 19, 2009 — During the early hours of the morning, just after I arise, I always have ideas for my novels. My ideas play out in scenes upon the movie screen of my mind, a fine, wide, smooth movie screen. And then come the interruptions – flossing my teeth; washing my face and applying lotion; Jetta, our teacup poodle, and I going for a walk; making my bed; making coffee; getting Mother, 94, dressed (I am her caregiver), making her breakfast; and so on, like scattershot, riddling the screen of my mind with holes, the punctured scenes never making it to the page.

The mailman is coming now to take Jeremy Irons away. I watched Jeremy, with Helen Mirren, another of my favorites, in Elizabeth I, the two-part HBO production. For 25 years I have loved Jeremy Irons’s performances, especially in the 1981 Granada Television Brideshead Revisited series, aired on PBS, where I first saw him; the 25th Anniversary edition DVD topped my wish list at Amazon until I bought it.

I say this about Jeremy Irons because as I was writing about all my morning interruptions, he came into my mind – the feeling, in his expressive eyes in his powerful acting that appears as non-acting. Anyway, that feeling, that emotion and those scenes of Jeremy Irons are what play across my mind now. It’s a dark emotion, very powerful, intense, a sense of loss, I think, and going on, of not knowing the future until it has happened and is played back upon the fields of history. Where is my meaning for my life? My intent is shot full of holes. It’s war.

Here I think of a friend and how we think alike – our organization methods, our bartering. “I grew up poor,” he said, “so I’m a wheeler-dealer.” Looking back, as an adult I have had little money and starting when I did hair, bartered – cut hair and did perms for massage, dance lessons, and such: time for time, talent for talent. Beware of bartering, some say. I think those naysayers speak from greed or from an ignorance of positive bartering. Life is about an exchange of information and ideas. That’s the correct method of bartering. Exchanging things you can do is a form of this. One person has knowledge of this; the other has knowledge of that. Each learns from the other, each helps the other, gives to the other, thereby exchanging information and ideas, via questioning and exchanging expertise. It’s a dialog; the drama of the endless cycle of life: turning the field, planting seeds, reaping the harvest.

This concept recalls Adam Gopnik, writer and New Yorker essayist, and his good friend, art historian Kirk Varnedoe, who died of cancer in 2004, who both spoke of the importance of giving meaning to one’s life: Having an intention and a goal, and a timeframe in which to fulfill that intention: this is a means of applying one’s talents to benefit others, and thereby expanding upon that foundation of knowledge and talent and watching it grow to elevate the consciousness and intelligence of society and mankind. St. Andrew’s School, the boarding school Kirk Varnedoe attended, the Middletown, Del., setting for the 1989 movie Dead Poets Society, and about which I have published feature stories, teaches this. Through such conscientious planting of thought, soon smiles bloom in a garden of faces.

That’s my little ecosystem for today.

—Samantha Mozart

CXII-i. With Every Note

Friday, July 19, 2013 I went to Steinway Hall last Sunday afternoon, July 14, to hear a classical piano recital. There I met a Russian concert pianist. The recitalist was a Chinese-American girl, 14, performing works by Bach, Chopin, Haydn, Prokofiev, Ravel and Shchedrin. The Russian I met is her teacher. Steinway Hall is in the back of a piano store.

This girl played amazingly well for her age. Unusual for many young performers today, she played with expression rather than just running through a dogmatic litany of notes. I could tell by her playing that she had a very good teacher, and, so, since he was present in the hall, I sought to meet him.

He introduced himself to me simply as Igor. He said he is from Novosibirsk (it means New Siberia), and came here to the United States in 1995. He told me he teaches his students to perform with meaning, emotion. He is assistant professor at West Chester University. He did tell me his last name, Resnianski, and I repeated the pronunciation so I had it right, rolling the R-r-r-r.

Later, upon researching, I learned that he is a Steinway artist and a prizewinner of many national and international piano competitions, holding his doctorate from Temple University. He has performed across Russia and around the globe and has recorded, transliterating his name as Resensky, with fellow Russian violinist Ilya Konovalov, for CD.

Chosen by the Pennsylvania Music Teachers Association as “2012 Music Teacher of the Year,” Dr. Resnianski is highly sought after, regularly giving master classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. His students are winners of competitions, and he serves as a competition juror.

My daughter and I studied with a ballet teacher for many years, an American Ballet Theatre guest master teacher, of whom when other teachers watched her students in their classes – for we sometimes took classes in other studios on our days off – said was an excellent teacher. You can tell – when the student executes the movements correctly and with the attendant discipline.

The girl in Steinway Hall played Chopin etudes (known for their difficulty) and preludes, concluding the hour repertoire with a stunning performance of Chopin’s “Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise.” Maybe in a couple years she’ll return to perform Liszt. Emma, a pianist and teacher, would have loved this performance. I sensed her there with me. Maybe she was. She bought a medium grand Steinway piano in the 1960s. She could have bought a nice car with that money. She sold it later when she moved from Delaware to Florida. Of course, Sunday the store salespeople tried to sell me a piano, but the one I want starts at about $35,000. Naturally, the store will finance the buyer. I wonder how old I’d be by the time I got that thing paid off…? A friend of mine said I’d be 55. Hmmm…. Curiously, maybe my name is really Benjamin Button. I won’t give up hope of getting an older, pre-owned black Steinway baby grand, though. The best I can do now, however, is look for it to rain pianos.

I found it interesting that on their wall in “Steinway Hall” hung a painting titled “Rubinstein plays for the Czar,” a part of the Steinway Collection. My companion thought it was a young looking Arthur Rubinstein. “No, it couldn’t be Arthur Rubinstein – I don’t think,” I said. I asked the store personnel which Rubinstein and which czar it was. No one knew. I thought it was Anton. It was Anton Rubinstein, it turns out, playing for Czar Nicholas I; he often played in that court. Later, in the 1870s, Anton Rubinstein came to the U.S. at the behest of Steinway & Sons, to perform. Anton Rubinstein founded the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His younger brother, Nikolai, founded the Moscow Conservatory. When Pyotr Tchaikovsky presented his newly completed first piano concerto to Nikolai Rubinstein in 1874, Nikolai declared the concerto worthless and unplayable. Tchaikovsky was devastated. These reactions would be equivalent to my ripping this completed manuscript page out of my typewriter, turning and handing it to Stephen King and having him throw up on it. I hope you, dear reader, feel not so inclined, for I have composed here not such genius work.

Arthur Rubinstein was born in Lodz, Poland (part of the Russian Empire at that time) and not related to the earlier Moscow-born Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein. Anton awed many by his uncanny resemblance to Beethoven. Arthur Rubinstein chose to play the piano rather than a violin or other instrument because he, as I, preferred the harmony and polyphonics of the piano. Arthur Rubinstein did perform in Russia sometime after his 1906 Carnegie Hall debut, but not for the Czar, to my knowledge.

I love Russian composers, musicians, conductors, and literary writers — clearly. Of those today, there’s something about conductor Valery Gergiev and his music. Among the many capacities throughout his illustrious career, he currently serves as general director and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre, principal conductor of the London Symphony, and artistic director of the annual White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, which he conceived in 1993 as a musical gift to the city.

Gergiev’s is not your father’s music. He conducts the same music you have been listening to all your life, yet hearing that music conducted by Gergiev is like hearing it for the first time. For example, I think Tchaikovsky would be thrilled to hear, say, his Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty ballet: he might be saying something like, “Wow. That’s what I meant. And, even I didn’t realize that.” It’s still the way the composer intended, but maybe more what the composer intended; that is to say, that it’s what the composer wished in his wildest dreams. There’s just that subtlety in Gergiev’s interpretations — I speak here particularly of the Russian composers — that is mystical. It affects me in such a way that I never get enough of his interpretation of a certain piece that I’ve been listening to for years. He really listens; he not only calls forth the subtleties in the composition but also achieves this with sensitivity and warmth, with an intimacy. Gergiev gets at the soul of the music.

Somewhere in the 1970s I was walking along The Strand in Hermosa Beach, Calif., on a breezy, bright sunny day, when through the open windows of the top floor of a Spanish-style house turret came glorious phrases and arpeggios of what sounded to me like a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, not his second, but likely his third. It was one of those mystical moments that lifts you off your feet – the piano passages spilling out across the broad beach, shimmering like the spray off the Pacific waves crescendoing upon the shore.

I’ve long believed I have a Russian soul. This I have found best defined by an reviewer’s description of Sergei Rachmaninoff, regarding that composer’s second piano concerto, performed by Arthur Rubinstein: “For lovers of Russian culture, Rachmaninoff’s works also have that mysterious quality – they sound ‘Russian’ – that is, like other great Russian works of culture, they are embued [sic] with essential qualities of complexity, romance, dark and brooding melancholy, passion, and strength, both raw and sophisticated… and are expressed in a manner that is, for lack of a better term, Slavic. I am not Slavic, though. I grew up with simply a Russian clock, Russian music in the house, and a Steinway baby grand.

Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin arranged parts of Bizet’s “Carmen” and produced The Carmen Ballet for his wife, ballerina Maya Plisetskaya in 1968. In 1972 he composed the Anna Karenina ballet for her. The Russian piano teacher I met last Sunday told me this story when I told him I had studied ballet for many years. (My daughter’s and my ballet teaching lineage goes all the way back through Balanchine to the Mariinsky. Our early two teachers danced for the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine.)

On June 26 this year, Valery Gergiev inaugurated the new Chamber Music Hall at the Mariinsky-II. The hall is named Shchedrin Hall, “to the Russian genius who shares a long and fruitful history of collaboration with the Mariinsky Theatre.” The inaugural performance was of a new Shchedrin opera “The Lefthander,” based on a novella by Nikolai Leskov – a buffonade through tragedy: There are the Russian emperors Alexander I and Nicholas I, the Winter Palace and the British Royal Court – the artistic contrast of the rational British and the irrational Russian. Fascinating.

Some months ago I searched for DVDs of Valery Gergiev conducting and came up with “Valery Gergiev Conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra” (2000), and thought O.K., I’ll view that; should be pretty good.

I was not prepared for what I saw: Russian violist Yuri Bashmet (b. 1953), back in the Soviet days asked Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998) to compose a viola concerto for him. It took Schnittke nine years to begin his Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, and by the time he finished, he was living in Amsterdam and had had a stroke. But it was done, and then Bashmet had to battle with the Soviet government to be allowed to perform it outside Russia so that Schnittke could witness the premier performance. “A very kind person” helped Bashmet unravel the Red tape, and the performance was given. Unfortunately, Schnittke was too ill to attend, so it was videotaped and Schnittke watched it at home. Bashmet played the concerto at the Gergiev Vienna Philharmonic Salzburg Festival performance. You know, the Vienna Philharmonic is considered by many to be the finest orchestra in the world. And here was Gergiev conducting.

The program opened with the Prokofiev “Classical” Symphony No. 1, on the classical style, a Haydn sounding piece, very pleasant, evoking the higher human self, and climaxes with the full version of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” This music for ballet was commissioned by impresario Serge Diaghilev, who would have been pleased with Gergiev’s conducting, so colorful you could almost see the firebird flitting about the orchestra. (In the 1920s, Diaghilev hired George Balanchine as the Ballet Russes ballet master to replace Bronislava Nijinska (Vaslav Nijinsky’s sister.))

At this Salzburg Festival, in-between the Prokofiev and the Stravinsky came the Schnittke concerto: Let me just point out that if I didn’t know who Bashmet and Gergiev were, I would not want to be alone in a small, dim room with these two passionate, wild-eyed men, especially the very dark Bashmet with the Romantic-era length hair and if Dostoevsky were present and some other guy had drunk too much vodka and perched on the sill to jump out the window.

Bashmet walked out on stage, took his stance, one leg forward, knee bent, placed his viola under his chin and began playing the viola concerto Alfred Schnittke composed for him. I was stunned. It’s Niccolò Paganini returned from the dead, I proclaimed to myself. The resemblance is striking. The six note theme of the piece enters near the beginning – it spells out Bashmet’s name (B flat – A – E flat – C – B natural – E natural, the Anglo-Saxon notation), is expanded in the second movement and the third concluding by drawing on the notes from the only chord they contain, the A minor triad. The piece is, to say the least, stirring. It is intense, at times terrifying, at other times, a desolate lament. Schnittke had had a stroke and entered a new, dark phase of his life. You have to listen to it, really listen, like you have to really listen to your life. To make this work even more compelling, in this performance, tears well in Bashmet’s eyes and he cries. No – he doesn’t full-on sob; I thought if he did he would make a real mess out of the beautiful wood on his viola. In the end, the camera close-up reveals not only the sweat dripping from Bashmet’s face and dark hair, but the tears, too, running in rivulets down the viola and presumably into the sound holes. I wondered how long it would take the instrument to dry out.

Although I’m not of a mind to jump out windows when there’s nothing I can do to resolve life’s traumas, my solution is to retreat into my music, especially classical music, and turn it up loud, so loud I cannot hear the phone next to me ring.

That Sunday evening after the concert I came home and watched a new episode of the ITV series Endeavour, the prequel to the popular long-running Morse that starred the late, inimitable John Thaw. This is the second episode of Series 2, titled “Fugue.” This plot deftly interweaves both the musical and the psychological meanings of the word. Opera plays a leading role. I can’t say more without giving away the solution, but the final line held much meaning for me:

“Go home, put your best record on, loud as it’ll play, and with every note, you remember… That’s something that the darkness couldn’t take from you.…”

—Samantha Mozart

*Programme Note by Gerald McBurney on Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra:

CXI. We’ll Always Have Paris

July 9, 2013 — It is disconcerting to see celebrities on the cover of AARP Magazine who are of your children’s generation.

What happened? Is AARP so desperate for funds – I can fill up my tall recycling bin nearly weekly with AARP fundraising solicitations – that they’re letting 10-year-olds into their membership? Or, maybe I’m so old I’ve forgotten the last decade. Yet, again, maybe I would have remembered had I seen it flash by were it not for my developing cataracts.

On a recent Sunday evening I watched a TV tribute Prince Charles gave honoring Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee. He pulled out some old long boxes – not dusty, because in the castle, whichever one he was in, presumably they have people to dust those things; he fingered through cans of film, and selected some old family reels.

He put one on the projector, sat back in a comfortable chair, as interested as I was to see what played, and narrated. Here was Queen Elizabeth as a young girl, Princess Margaret, King George VI, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Lord Mountbatten (a favorite uncle); and Prince Charles and Princess Anne as children. Prince Charles is seven years younger than I, so we are of the same generation. I remember when King George VI died and then watching on black and white 1953 TV the coronation of a young Elizabeth II.

Viewing this documentary tribute, I felt as if I were sitting in an armchair beside Prince Charles, chatting easily, alternately chuckling and tearing over the fleeting family images.

I felt so easy with Charles’s unpretentious manner. What could have served as merely a lesson in history for me recalled memories of Sunday evenings past: My brother and I were kids, then. Our family would gather in the living room after a Sunday dinner where we’d draw the shades and douse the lights, the projector illuminating the screen with slides, black and white and color, of family adventures photographed by my father or my uncle. My uncle, in particular, loved taking photos. To watch these slideshows was always exciting for my brother and me. We eagerly anticipated such evenings. Upon these evenings I call now with charmed nostalgia. We were a close family.

Indeed, since our grandparents had been born in the 1880s, my brother and I had rather a Victorian upbringing – not that he adhered to much of it; he was the renegade. I, however, followed, most of the time, that Victorian protocol I was taught. This involves keeping in touch with friends and family, having concern and being supportive, sending RSVPs and thank you notes. Though admittedly I find it hard these days, inundated with information and emails, I do my best. I am, therefore, a relic. I find my typical straightforwardness progressively in time misunderstood, especially by succeeding generations. What I express as a sincere offering is misconstrued as my expecting something from the recipient. These days, who cares? That’s the mantra. The word sincere is not in their dictionaries. They expect that you expect something from them.

Last Sunday the fire siren went off at the hose company a block from my house. A fire truck came to a house a block down the street, it turns out. The firemen put a ladder up to a second story window, opened it and climbed in. There was no smoke. I don’t know what happened. That’s all I saw.

This event reminded me of a few days prior when I had emailed my friend R to see if he was all right. “You’re very quiet,” I said. “You must be into something. When my brother was a kid and was quiet, we knew he was into something.”

R was just busy working; but my brother one day when he was about three had locked himself in the bathroom. Our mother had to call the firemen, who came with a ladder, climbed through the second story window, unlocked the bathroom door and let him out.

While our firemen were attending to the event in the house down the street, three teenagers, two girls and a boy, went from house to house picking flowers from my neighbors’ flowerbeds. They got to my house, “Your flowers are really pretty,” shrilled one girl of my bright, orange-red gladiolus. There were just two blossoms and they bloom gloriously for only about a week. “You’d better not pick them,” I said.

The girl replied, “It’s my mother’s birthday and we’re picking flowers for her.”

“And I’m sure your mother will be pleased with a birthday bouquet you have stolen,” I told her.

She said, “Were the people home?” They got into their car then and drove away.

“Where do these people come from?” asked R.

“Willynilly,” I said. “That’s in Arkansas, I think; in the Ozarks. It’s where Moriarty is from, I believe.”

“Oh, no,” said R. “The Phantom of your blog is more sophisticated than that.”

“Well,” I said, “the other day he told me he was going to visit his family in Willynilly, and he took his banjo and left.

“I think his family is originally from Massachusetts,” I added, by means of complementing his character with an element of historical sophistication. “I think his family retired to the Ozarks.

“Anyway,” I went on, “stealing flowers from a garden someone conscientiously planted for their pleasure and for the beautification of the neighborhood, is like stealing elements of someone’s soul. It’s a metaphor for all the uninformed, callous insensitivity fashionable today, the ‘all about me,’ syndrome. No one wants to take the time to actually think, to gain insight into the situation or to consider history: ‘I’ve got mine and you have yours to get.’ No one bothers to check the facts; they just haul off and spout platitudes. Few care about you; you’re on your own. They prefer looking into the cracked mirror, pleased with the distorted image they see there. It’s like the narrow aisle down a carnival sideshow.”

This is why I have the friends I have. They’re not of this ilk.

“How about the humbug [R’s new favorite word he recites after reading The Wizard of Oz] surrounding Socrates’s death,” said R. “At more than seventy years of age the state condemned him to death for telling the truth.”

Socrates didn’t spout platitudes; rather his method was to ask a series of questions thus encouraging his students to think for themselves, enabling both teacher and student to gain insight into the human condition, to get at the truth. His intention was to lead men to an awareness of their ignorance, out of false common beliefs, using the dialectical – logic and reasoning – in argument and discussion. Ultimately, because Socrates disagreed with those in governmental control, he was accused of being an atheist, corrupting the youth of the city (Athens), and condemned to death. He drank the hemlock and off he went to Elysian Fields.

Well, that was a long time ago. …Wasn’t it? The human condition has not changed, only the superficialities.

Notwithstanding, that’s how my father and my uncle raised me, to use common sense, logic and reasoning, forethought. Many pictures of these incidences flash across my mind. I do my best.

Until recently, nostalgia has been considered a psychological disorder, ever since a Swiss physician coined the term in the 17th century. In Greek: nostos and the accompanying pain algos – a longing to return home. Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. “It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.” This according to a July 9, 2013 New York Times story by John Tierney, titled “What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows:” Moreover, the story states, even though you may be forward thinking, nostalgia serves to give your life roots and continuity. It provides texture to one’s life and gives one strength to move forward. Although nostalgia has its painful side – bittersweet emotion – it makes life more meaningful and death less frightening. Speaking wistfully of the past, studies have found, makes people more optimistic and inspired by the future. It makes us more human, like Odysseus who used memories of family and home to get through hard times. But it’s not homesickness.

This Times story goes on to say, “Nostalgia was originally described as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” by Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the term in 1688. Military physicians speculated that its prevalence among Swiss mercenaries abroad was due to earlier damage to the soldiers’ ear drums and brain cells by the unremitting clanging of cowbells in the Alps.” Heh-heh. I have to snicker. Maybe this speculation is true, after all: nostalgia is caused by the clanging disorder surrounding us today. While bouts of nostalgia may be triggered by an unfortunate event, nostalgizing – researchers distinguish it from reminiscing – helps us feel better, even though the memories aren’t all happy.

A quick way to induce nostalgia is through music, researchers have found. Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. I love music and listen to it nearly all the time; and through that, one may feel warmer. So-o-o, not a preferable summertime preoccupation; although – how could I ever forget my teenage days at the shore (Southern New Jersey) in the summers of 1957-58-59 and the popular songs on the radio: the music was simply a part of the surf and the salt air, the boardwalk, toasted cinnamon buns and canteen dances. Happy memories of physiological comfort contribute to survival, inducing us to seek food and shelter longer. On the other hand, there exists “self-discontinuity” nostalgia, as defined well in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the song by Stephen Stills, letting the past remind us of where we are now, that sense of loss and dislocation. That can make you physically ill; it can make you crazy, delirious perhaps. But this condition is atypical and, generally, people have a healthier sense of self-continuity when they nostalgize frequently.

People who are leery of intimate relationships – “avoidant” – reap small benefits from nostalgia compared with people who crave closeness.

Even people in nursing homes can benefit from nostalgia when they focus on their past in an existential way; that is, “what has my life meant?”

It is therefore important to build “anticipatory nostalgia,” a nostalgia repository of memories to be.

So, plant the flowers and grow them. Even after the blooms have left the stem, the songs their scents and colors sang to you then will provide comforting memories for your future. Nobody can steal these from you.

Journalist John Tierney concludes his story recalling Humphrey Bogart’s quote: “We’ll always have Paris.”

—Samantha Mozart


CX. To What Green Altar

June 16, 2013 — I have published my new book, To What Green Altar: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume II, by Samantha Mozart. It is available at Amazon in paperback, soon in e-book format for Kindle and

To What Green Altar: A Dementia Caregiver's Journal, Volume II

To What Green Altar:
A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal,
Volume II

I took my title from a line in John Keats’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” as you probably know, recalled by my inspirational encounter with the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. I immortalized that scene with my photo now on my book cover. Viewing that day, more than 20 years ago, I stand on a low footbridge across the green Merced. Incense cedars flank the river, forming an aisle to the bell-shaped shoulders of Half Dome, sculpted by the glacier so flawlessly 10,000 years before. Half Dome’s granite face stands sentinel at the far end, the apse in the cathedral of the Valley.

When Romantic poet John Keats encountered the Grecian urn, that sylvan historian, that foster child of silence and slow time, he wondered at the carved pattern and the stories immortalized thereon – the paradox of human passions frozen in time, immortality set against impermanence: Who are these brought to the sacrifice and why? What sweet silent tune do the pipers pipe? What are the yearnings of these young lovers? All human passion suspended; all remaining forever young, like Keats himself, who succumbed to tuberculosis at 25.

In that year, 1819, that Keats composed his odes he was making an effort to discuss the relationships among the soul, eternity, nature, and art, using classical Greek art as a metaphor.

Keats was inspired by more than one Grecian urn. He traced an engraving of the Sosibios Vase, though, a Neo-Attic marble volute krater, signed by Sosibios. Sosibios is believed to be one among Athenian sculptors working in Rome around 50 B.C., at the end of the Republic, during an era when Greek sculpture was popular among the Romans. This is Keats’s tracing:

Sosibios Urn Tracing

Sosibios Urn Tracing

This is a photo of the same Sosibios urn:

Sosibios Volute - Altar

Sosibios Volute – Altar

According to the Louvre description (, this vase was once part of the royal collection belonging to Louis XIV, the Sun King, and in whose court classical ballet originated. This urn entered the Louvre in 1797 as confiscated property under the Revolution. It is a marble adaptation of a metal vessel.

This is Louis Quatorze:

Wow. Love his hair and outfit.

Wow. Love his hair and outfit.

Krater is a Greek term defining a vessel used for mixing. Kraters come in several shapes – column, calyx, volute, bell. Some had holes in them, as does this Sosibios urn Keats chose to trace, and were used for fountains or for pouring a liquid. At symposiums the Greeks used kraters for mixing water with wine. In fact, the word symposium is derived from the early Greek sumposion, from sun, “together” + potes, “drinker,” meaning to drink together or, at the least, a convivial discussion.

Speaking of conviviality, Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog, is away currently. He told me he wanted to attend a summer symposiarch seminar up in the Pocono mountains where he would learn to mix wine with water at our blog round table affairs. I told him why bother, why learn to sully the pure character of the wine; nonetheless, he insisted on going, if for no other reason, he said, than to sacrifice himself to the pure mountain greenery.

At Greek symposiums the symposiarch had overall charge, responsible for the ratios of mixing the wine to water suitable to the occasion – 1:3, 1:2, 1:1 – and for overseeing its serving. Drinking wine straight was frowned upon; one who did so was considered a drunkard. —Oh, I don’t know….

BL001W The Hermit HimselfThe patterns carved on the urn result from the vision of the sculptor; they are illusory scenes: pictures of a life created by the mind of the sculptor. Just so, we sculpt our own lives parallel to our dreams, how we think about phenomena. Therefore, to meet our dreams, we seek opportunities for positive change, our visions hanging suspended until such opportunity arises. But the talent is to recognize the opportunity when it appears before us. We have to keep the door of our minds open. O.K., well maybe a screen door to keep out the flies…. Alas, our personal patterns, frozen in time, sculpted by old programming, old emotional experiences, old hurts, exist in the present as mere illusion. The past mixing with the present like water sullying the wine can cause us, inebriated on illusion, to stumble right past that open door and miss our opportunity. This is tragic.

BD003W Bodie Alley

Bodie Alley
Bodie State Historic Park, Calif.

All of these thoughts filled my mind in Emma’s last days – the relationships among the soul, eternity, nature, and art, the choices I must make thereby. The context of my book, To What Green Altar, encompasses my relationship with Emma at the end of her life, as the Grecian urn encompasses the story of human relationships at the end of the life of the Roman Republic: Where is the music, where are the lost loves, the old friendships, what and for what is this life sacrifice? Is this a sacrifice?

What is the altar? Who or what is the mysterious priest? Why is the altar sylvan green? The answer is pure as white marble in its simplicity: “‘Truth is beauty, beauty truth’ –that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

—Samantha Mozart




CIX. Wallie-isms

May 27, 2013 — I sat on my front porch a few days ago when a big rabbit hopped onto the lawn, came right up to the flower bed in front of the porch, looked straight at me, whereupon I said, “Hello, Bunny,” and then the rabbit casually proceeded to eat the clover. One bold bunny, especially with all the loose dogs and cats in the neighborhood.

I have been Wallie-sitting recently for my friends’ white bichonpoo, Wallie, on two separate long weekends.

When Wallie arrives, he comes with his bag packed with dog food, an array of toys and his little bed. I immediately take out all the toys and toss them around the living room floor. He then carries them upstairs, one-by-one, and that’s where they stay, because that’s where I stay, mostly. He has a knack for matching toy color to rug color, so inevitably I step on them. One night I went rushing up to him, to hug him lying on the couch in the dark – “Wallie, Wallie” – SQUEAK – “what a sweet boy.” Only one of his toys squeaks, thankfully.

Upon his arrival on his first visit, he set up a command post at the top of the stairs, surrounded by his toys, and where, through the window of the front door below, he could reconnoiter the neighborhood and the return of his owners.

I talk to him to tell him what’s going on and what I’m doing; it’s nice to have someone to talk to other than myself; we go for walks where he encounters the chocolate lab, Willa, and they play chase on opposite sides of her fence.

Soon after Wallie arrived the other day for his second visit, I took him, on his long leash, out into the backyard. Instantly he picked up the scent: “Bunny! Bunny! Bunny! BUNNY!” he said, nose to the ground tracking the bunny first to under the hedge and then to the rabbit hole beneath my shed.

There we faced a dilemma: “That’s where the bunny lives,” I said. “I can’t fit down there,” he declared. He looked up at me: “Now what are we gonna do?” He tried every way to figure out how to get to the bunny, until I distracted him.

Once, when it was time to take Wallie out, it was raining. I let him out, on his long leash hooked to his harness, just to the bottom of the back steps so he could piddle while I waited at the top, inside. When he came in he kept trying to shake off the spritz of rain on his coat. I got a small towel and told him to come. “Oh, no, not me,” he said, and stubbornly refused to budge. I used my deep, authoritative voice, “Come!” “Nope,” he said, “I don’t know WHAT color that cape-looking thing is that you’re waving, but I’m not coming.” I had to go to him and dry him off. He loved the massage and felt so much better afterwards, he raced around the house for a minute.

I wanted to know more about this addictively lovable crossbreed, so I researched bichonpoos, sometimes known as poochons. We’re not totally sure what Wallie is, because he is a rescue dog. About the size of a miniature poodle, he certainly exhibits all characteristics of Bichon Frisés and poodles – smart, mellow, energetic, chicken-lover, and this which I read online: “Both are susceptible to small dog syndrome, whereby a dog attempts to become pack leader of its human owners, so care must be taken to establish dominance.” Taking care, it took him no time to establish dominance.

I have trouble remembering the name of the Bichon Frisé breed because, after my years of studying ballet, I get that name confused with the most difficult to master ballet step, brisé volé, without getting your feet tangled mid-leap and falling derriere over dog biscuits.

Here is a good demonstration of the brisé volé if you’re interested in seeing the execution of that step: This is the Kirov Mariinsky Ballet in 1999, the “Bluebird” Pas de Deux from The Sleeping Beauty, performed by Andrei Batalov and Svetlana Ivanova. Andrei Batalov is considered one of the greatest male ballet dancers ever, and his performance here of this “Bluebird” Pas de Deux, 5:15 minutes into the video for the brisé volés, is one of the best Bluebirds I have seen. Ah, but I have danced into the wings chasing rabbits. Back to Wallie-dog.

A friend, a dog-lover who owns a blue heeler rescue dog, called me a woman of gold for taking care of Wallie. Now, “Woman of Gold” found a tennis ball for Wallie. I bounced it down the steps, he chased it, brought it back upstairs, stubbornly refused to share it, rolled it away, picked it up, tossed it into the air, caught it, played with it at the top of the staircase until — it disappeared. It rolled away from him and fell through the space between the balusters, landing in the hall below. Wallie sat there: “Hmmm….” Woman of Gold had to retrieve it. Then Wallie came downstairs. WoG bounced the ball in place while Wallie ran into the other room to see where it went. He finally figured it out. I tossed it halfway up the stairs where it bounced and he grabbed it mid-flight and took it back upstairs with him. Then he went and chewed on his synthetic bone.

The last time he visited here, he was ASTONISHED to encounter the dog that looked just like him in the long mirror. He stood nonplused, spellbound momentarily and then went on his way, refusing to look at that other dog again. This visit, though, he did use the long mirror to see me, sitting across the room, but did not once look at that other dog.

I laid a fleece blanket on a cushion of the sofa in my studio. So, he can relax near me when I sit at my computer desk, or right up against me when I sit on the sofa to read or watch a movie on my computer. We watched Django Unchained the other night. Like WoG does during some movies, Wallie slept through it but for the part where the dogs barked that captured his attention.

He loves to have his coat brushed and it’s a good bonding measure for the two of us. But I spoiled him royally when I took him up on my bed with me while I watched three hour-long series pieces on Sunday night PBS. I couldn’t just leave him on the floor alone. Later, when I sat on my bed and turned on the TV to catch a moment of news, out of the corner of my eye I saw this white fluffy thing pop up, fleetingly, above the edge of the bed, grab the edge of the mattress with his forepaws, slip off and crash land. Too short to jump up, fortunately for me. Once I turn off the TV he knows it’s time to go to sleep, and he is fine. He’s a very smart dog. Show him something once, he pays attention and he remembers.

Sometimes we just relax and sit out on the porch together, surveying the neighborhood. It’s a pleasant way to pass time with a companion.

Ultimately, Wallie’s owner came to pick him up, and although Wallie greeted me happily when he arrived, on seeing his owner he was so ecstatic, he forgot to say goodbye.

Quiet. The house is empty without him. I miss my little buddy. But, he’ll be back for a ten-day visit in June.

—Samantha Mozart

CVIII. Moriarty’s Way

May 8, 2013 — I enter my blog and sit at my big oak round table, alone. Moriarty pads in and sets an empty wine bottle cloaked in multi-colored wax drippings, remembrances of candles past, in the center of the table. He places a fresh candle, orange, in the neck, pressing it down and twisting it a bit making sure it is firmly affixed. “The flames never stop burning,” he says. Then he places a small clock on the table. The hands are missing. I look at him. The Phantom of My Blog is an enigmatic creature.

“Where’ve you been?” he says. “You haven’t been at your blog in a while.” His hair is disheveled. He looks like he’s just spent an hour in conversation with Dexter Filkins and Charlie Rose, similar hairstyles, looking like they’ve just arisen from an afternoon nap at the last minute, rushed to the studio and forgotten to brush their hair.

“You’re staring at me,” he says. “Where were you?”

“Contemplating your hair,” I reply.

“No, while you were gone; where were you?” He sits down.

“I’ve been sleeping a lot lately and I feel like, well, chicken soup – liquidy. I don’t even know what that means, but it fits; and tired. My head feels heavier than my body, which is saying something, and too thick to get thoughts out of. Allergies, I suppose. I am going to make some chicken soup once I get done here at my blog.

“My friend Susan* wrote about her experiences climbing Kilimanjaro and I was lying in bed reading it,” I go on.

“I already made the soup,” Moriarty says. “I anticipated you might want it. It’s got carrots and onions and fresh ginger in it, besides other stuff. I’ll go heat some up for us.” He pushes back his chair and disappears into the kitchen.

He returns with two steaming bowls of soup, placing them on the table before us. He lights the candle.

I begin telling him of my experiences the past few weeks. He pulls out a large, brightly colored foil bag and begins crackling it to open it. It is annoying. I stop talking.

“Creggies,” he declares. “Crunchy veggie pieces for our soup.” I wait while he gets the bag open. I am getting a headache. He offers me the bag. I scoop some out with my fingers and drop them into my soup – bright, colorful pieces; they are good.

O, maid of beauteous tresses, and eyes of soft caresses, your glance is all beguiling and your lips are ever smiling….” He sings. “Ketèlbey, ‘In the Mystic Land of Egypt,’” he says. “It’s on your playlist, number 30. Let us float together, forever and forever, to some far distant isle, a-down the mystic Nile.”

“I love that piece,” I say. “It’s so-o-o British Imperialist pomp. A whole movie runs through that music. It’s like watching a Pathé newsreel of the British parading through their conquests. One could write a thick novel about just the British comings and goings in Egypt. It could start with Napoleon who snapped British eyes wide open in 1798, when he defeated the Marmeluke Army at the Battle of the Pyramids, to the importance of controlling Egypt as means to protect their precious India.”

That story would be never ending,” Moriarty postulates. “It’s all interconnected. And it’s impermanent. It seems beginingless. Relative to your last post, written before your head got funny, Tamerlane invaded Syria, defeating the Marmeluke Army in the Battle of Aleppo on October 30, 1400. He sacked Aleppo and Damascus. Marmeluke is said to be an Arabic designation for slaves. Just call me Marmeluke. Want more soup?”

“You’re not,” I say. “A slave; you’re not. Anyhow, how could you be a slave when you’re a phantom? A phantom slave wouldn’t be of much use to anyone, I should think.”

He crackles open the foil again, tilts the bag and dumps more Creggies into his soup. “Little boats,” he describes, “floating down the soup, past the beguiling carrots, carrying exotic ginger spice.

“I like the kiss scene,” he goes on, sailing into the next port of thought, “the mother’s kiss. While you’ve been in bed climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I’ve been reading Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust. He wrote it in 1913. So, as this year marks the hundredth anniversary. I thought I would read it – volume one of In Search of Lost Time. The young boy has to go up to his room to bed early without kissing his mother goodnight because she is hosting a dinner party for an important guest. He agonizes over the separation and its coming duration spanning across the long, deep night until morning. She will not come up to his room to kiss him later. He gazes out at her and the dinner party guests from his window. How can he reach her? He contrives to write her a note and send it to her at table through a servant. Once she reads the words poured from his heart, she will come. The servant delivers the note. The mother reads it. She never comes.”

“Why do you like that?” I ask him. “It’s sad. It makes me cry.”

“Because it’s true,” he says. “It’s how life happens.”

“Therefore, by virtue of it’s being true, it is also false,” I add.

“Sometimes it is what it is….”

“Well, I like Proust,” I reply. “His long sentences and flowing rhythms are easy to acclimate to. Most people don’t want to read that kind of deep, thoughtfully dense writing these days. They want their reading served in colorful little pieces, like watching a TV show splattered with commercials every six minutes. It takes patience to read writing styled like Proust’s – a luxurious indulgence in patience.”

“Anyway, how can you search for and find lost time when time doesn’t exist?” he asks.

“What?” I look up from my soup. My head feels lighter and the headache has retreated. I wipe my chin with the paper napkin he has provided.

“Well, look,” he says, waving his napkin around in large aerial circles, attempting to enlighten me of his thought. Suddenly he finds himself waving a flaming torch. The napkin has caught fire in the candle flame. He sinks it in the remains of his soup.

“At bottom,” he says, “there is no mechanistic physical foundation for the cosmos, implied by the quantum theory. None of this exists. None of that happened. The universe closes in on itself, reversing what was just there, destroying it. What is created is uncreated, micro and macro entangle, macro destroying micro: the issue of decoherence.”

“So, then,” I ruminate, “what if the history we just spoke of is all humanity’s mass-minded perception? And what is humanity? How does quantum theory apply to consciousness, as well as to matter?”

“They are two complementary aspects of one reality. Observe,” he says. “No experience takes place outside of consciousness. If something exists outside of consciousness, we won’t know it.”

“Mystical,” I muse.

“The mysterious edge,” he says, “where micro processes are transformed into macro processes.

“I read a scientific paper** on this,” he explains. “Make a footnote at the end of our conversation, so our many followers will know if I interpreted it correctly. They may have some enlightening thoughts on this issue, the wholeness perspective of the Theory of Everything.”

We arise from the table. He pinches out the candle flame. Smoke rises from the extinguished flame in entangled spirals; further up the spiral, it dissipates. In the kitchen together, we wash the bowls and utensils. Together we exit my blog, going our separate ways into the night. We have left the blog empty, ready for the next reader to react and act upon it.

—Samantha Mozart
with Moriarty

*Susan Scott: “In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden,” available by clicking on the icon here in the right sidebar.

**Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol. 14., 2011. How Consciousness Becomes the Physical Universe. Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., and Deepak Chopra, M.D.