Category Archives: Journal – Vol. II

CVII. The Unstable Wind

April 20, 2013— So much anger and hatred exist in the world. It seems someone or some group is always on a crusade. Some, bearing standards, ride horses across continents. Others tote pressure cookers, setting off bombs along a racecourse. I raise my pen and write, bidding my instrument be more incisive than a sword, that it serve towards enlightening a mind rather than eliminating a head or limbs. What good would the latter do, anyway? In the long run you’d be the only one left standing – which would be O.K., I suppose, if you were a misanthrope.

Over the course of the five-day pursuit of the Boston Marathon bombers, I have watched the news and observed reactions on television and across the Internet. Understandably, these traumatic events produce pressure and cause stress. Throughout these days I have tried to move through the stress, neither to add to it nor to be receptive to it. I’m not very good at this. But I am aware of its polarities; I think about it; I correct my thinking on those occasions I catch it headed off to join either opposing team. This awareness ushers me one more step closer to the finish line. It takes long; I stumble often; I get thrown out of religions, like I get thrown out of stores, like my ancestor may have gotten thrown out of England. My experiences lend credence to the rumor about my ancestor; although, unlike he, I don’t fool around with the lord of the manor’s daughter, I go straight for the lord of the manor. This last sentence is metaphoric. Or, maybe I did go for the lord of the manor – and got thrown out. This is why I write “The Scheherazade Chronicles” (check out my Facebook page), my tales to save the maidens from certain death at the hands of this particular lord of the manor, the maidens in this case being humanity.

These last few lines may make you think I’ve gone over the edge. One of the fun things about being a writer is that you can go over the edge. I love that freedom of imagination, that freedom to create my world as I desire it, if only on a sheet of paper. But, think … if I can conjure up all these images in my head, reeling out like a whole movie – one with a happy ending, then why cannot I and the rest of us create the worlds of our lives to be such. When I was young, I read Emma’s childhood book Tales of the Arabian Nights. It is a beautiful book, with a forest green cover and colorful illustrative plates throughout the glossy pages. This book lit my imagination as campfires illuminate the tents beneath a deep sapphire sky.

The camels are restless. I have to surrender my ego as best I can in order to wrap my mind around recent events. This week I’ve heard individuals saying things like, “I HATE that person. He or she should fall into a deep pit of snakes with a pressure cooker nailed to his stomach and a Catherine wheel rolling down the center of her body.” Vivid imagery. I heard the Marathon bombers’ father and aunt say Americans framed their boys. The family are Chechen, admitting that in Chechnya they have to move around and be watchful to slip between agencies, whom, by a word or deed, they may offend. Well, if you spent most of your life in such a police state as Chechnya, might you not react likewise? Who would influence you?

I heard that the older brother of the two bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, shot dead by police this week, had stated that the media conditions everyone. I don’t recall the exact quote. The media can condition you, if you let it. It is easy to allow yourself to get lulled into a trance in front of your TV or the Internet, especially, it seems, by social media. I try to avoid too much screen time, but I get sucked in, too, sometimes. As some comedian said, “Ve must be wigilant!” (If you remember who the comedian is, let me know, please.)

It may be of note that Edgar Allan Poe wrote an epic poem titled “Tamerlane.” It was first published in 1827 in the collection Tamerlane and Other Poems,” not credited with Poe’s name, but rather by “A Bostonian.” In his poem, Poe has Tamerlane sacrifice his young love for a peasant girl in order to gain power. On his deathbed, Tamerlane regrets his decision to create a kingdom in exchange for a broken heart, his love’s beauty now in his mind but “shadows on th’ unstable wind.”

How was it that Ambition crept,
Unseen, amid the revels there,
Till growing bold, he laughed and leapt
In the tangles of Love’s very hair?

Isn’t that always the way. Making reparations in this regard means just more stuff to untangle in the next lifetime.

Tamerlane owned the Silk Road. Tamerlane is the Latinized name for the Turkic ruler, Timur – Timur the Lame, the Persians called him – (April 9, 1336-February 18, 1405). He conquered West, South and Central Asia. Timur means iron, and he referred to himself as “The Sword of Islam.” He was a great patron of art and architecture. He walked with a limp, because half his body was paralyzed.

We never know what moment we may tread upon the fringe of a dark magic and all the rich colors of today be pulled out from under us.

My thoughts and prayers are for all those who suffered losses from the Boston Marathon bombing. I wish them well and in the future, at the very least, all of the good that has come to me.

As for those two young men, those brothers who set the bombs, I can only feel great sadness and compassion. I cannot hate them, because I don’t know – I do not know their karma, their history, their needs, and the complex interrelationships with all affected by this tragedy. This is well beyond the scope of my little mind.

—Samantha Mozart

CVI. Beneath the Laughing Willow: Physics Rendezvous with History

HISTORIC DISTRICT, April 4, 2013 — What is it that’s said about something being a walk in the park? I walk through my studio in the dark at night where my Mac computer resides, sleeping with it’s host of attendants – the modem, the external hard drive, USB ports, surge protector and their array of winking and blinking red, green and white indicator lights. It looks like a landing strip. Mac itself is breathing, its pulsating light indicating life.

As a writer I revel in my ace access to research on the Internet – a couple of clicks, google in a half word, the whole word magically appears; google a phrase and it even asks you if you really meant plumbing puddle or did you mean plum pudding? Lo, a litany of pages of potential erudition pre-researched and published – even way back in the oil lamp days – by someone, who somehow got interested in, for example, the proprieties of tea rituals aboard a flying hippodrome in the Steampunk-Époque.

What a marvelous disposition are these treasures docked at my fingertips, the packet boats to tomorrow.

Not too long ago, I was given a pre-owned iPod Touch. Magnificent. I have yet been able to get it to access the Internet. It keeps telling me to enter my password: I have no idea what that could be and, based on zigzagging research across the Internet, no hope of finding it, even of setting it, of shooting off an email to someone sitting on the other side of the screen to say that I have forgotten yet another password – or user name. Mystifying. Undaunted, I spent a recent Sunday afternoon being quite pleased with myself for finally learning how to work “call waiting” on my home phone.

I was basking in my grand achievement at mastering this new technological particle with what seemed to me the speed produced by the Large Hadron Collider. Then my daughter phoned me that she is sending me their webcam so I can Skype. All my friends are Skyping each other around the world now. I feel left out. They make Skype dates, like play dates. I was so thrilled last autumn to get a used bicycle so finally I could join my neighborhood friends who spend balmy days out riding their bikes. Soon I’ll soar into the Skyping age.

Continuing our phone conversation that I took via call waiting, my ear collided with my daughter’s explaining that they are giving me their webcam because Skyping is passé – my two granddaughters, 9 and 12, use FaceTime on their iPads or iPhones while simultaneously talking on their iPhones and running around the house engaged in other activities, presumably without colliding with one another. Massive to ponder: I wonder if I will arrive at this juncture – I could use the exercise, and quite possibly this fortress of mental multitasking will hold dementia at bay.

Bits of this digitally packeted information dissemination leave me in the clouds. When my brother and I were kids, Emma would feed our family Spam sometimes. Now, even in my most far-flung imagination, I cannot fathom peeling the aluminum top off a can of Spam. Recently, leaving my home early one warm sunny afternoon, I dexterously tried to sidestep the pleasant couple headed right for me, disseminating pamphlets. “Have you received the invitation?” asked the woman. I reflected on the many invitations I have received over the course of my lifetime: “Yes, I have,” I stated, pleasantly. She called after me what fun I’d have at the “thing,” as I pleasantly continued walking down the sidewalk. I’ve determined that the way to address these such information disseminators – since I am not at liberty to press delete – is like a cat: you kind of rub past the humans while being pleasantly dismissive.

My friend sent me an email yesterday. I replied and then saw another from her requesting information. I thought that I had already fulfilled her request; but, then, maybe I only meant to and had forgotten. So I replied saying that I would get her the information in a matter of hours. The instant I clicked on send, I noticed her email was dated July. I had sent her the information. How did that old email arise from the depths, lurking beneath 25 pounds of other emails? It reminded me of the summer I worked at the Florida farm stand and was lifting tomatoes out of a carton, neatly stacking them on the display table, when I reached into the bottom of the box without looking and came up with a rat snake. Mistake. Apparently, I need to investigate my email box and clean it out. Clearly, dredging up a July email was due to a misclick.

New York Times journalist Gina Kolata published a March 13, 2013 story titled, “So You’re Extinct? Scientists Have Gleam in Eye.” I haven’t read it, but you can, if you’d like, by following this link. The story leads with: “It could be years before scientists succeed in bringing species back from extinction, but they are thinking of ways to give new life to creatures like woolly mammoths and frogs.”

Sometimes I feel extinct. I like hiking high up in the mountains, like the Eastern Sierra Nevada in Mammoth Lakes, California. Mammoth was named for the woolly mammoths, whose bones have been found in the area. Wandering in the mountains I love hearing the winds relay messages across the tops of the tall conifers, and rounding a bend to come upon a crystal waterfall.

I find too much screen time to be over-stimulating. Too, I’d rather turn off the TV with its flock of talking heads and watch the flock of speckled birds outside my window jostling with each other over who gets to eat the most red berries off the dogwood tree, or the squirrel hanging by its hind toenails while stretched down to the limb below to grab a kernel for a mid-afternoon snack. Right there in front of me is a window into another world, even without Skype or FaceTime. And when my mind gets tired and I gaze trancelike through that window, the squirrel pauses and says, “Hey. What are YOU lookin’ at…?”

—Samantha Mozart

CV. Toccata

March 26, 2013 —O.K., let me set the stage here: First, the soundtrack – a piece of music I heard for the first time, I think, last night: 19th-century French organist and composer Charles-Marie Widor’s Organ Symphony No. 5 in F minor, the toccata movement. You’ll find this piece on my “The Dream” playlist in the right sidebar, number 28. Those few of us who like to listen to classical music, the allegro molto tempo, while cleaning house, listening to this piece could deep clean our entire houses in five minutes.

Friends and others have questioned alternative ways of caring for an incapacitated loved one – keeping loved ones at home, placing them in nursing homes or frail care facilities, or a combination of solutions. There is no set right or wrong way, as long as the caregiver’s heart is in the right place. Loved ones in advance of their frailties may have expressed, even prepared for, their choices. Deciding what is best is an individual choice, a very personal choice. No matter the choice or the situation, you feel trapped – trapped by the patient, by the healthcare professionals, by your family, by yourself. As my writer friend T.J. Banks says, “You can’t help feeling as though your life has been taken away from you.” The situation bodes ill for other close relationships. I, personally, could not imagine having a man in my life while taking care of Emma. I often thought about it and wondered what I would have done with him.

Some of us discussed this dilemma last night on my LinkedIn women writers caregivers discussion board.

Here is where I lose it and vent: Read my book, Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume I and coming soon, To What Green Altar? – A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume II, or read my blog.

I set up my LinkedIn discussion board a year ago, March 12, as a place for caregivers to vent, for, after all, none other than caregivers wants to listen; and we listen and support unconditionally. I, so far, had not vented. I suppose I have been too focused on dealing with the fallout of my mother’s passing, all the details to attend to, reintroducing myself to myself; and, besides, I was tired, just plain tired. Of course, you don’t recognize these indications until after they have occurred; I think mostly because you are still in the caregiver mode.

So, I vented, and I recapitulate Emma’s and my story, start to finish, here, for my blog, especially in case you are new to our story. I debated whether or not to publish it. Heretofore, I have spread the story of our journey across two years and in two books, served it like tea with milk and sugar and occasional rough biscuits. This encapsulation is raw. It may be hard to swallow. I write this simply to tell my story; it is like yours yet it will differ from yours. And, after all, it is not about me. It just is. It’s the place where I was, and the dark place where Emma lived during a relatively brief portion of her 97-year life. It’s what happened and now it’s past. I do not wish to go all back into it. This is it. It is finished. I let it go; I move on. This post, as the toccata in Widor’s organ symphony, is composed as the postlude.

Emma thought she would die at 72 of a stroke, like her mother. So, she spent all her money. Nursing home care would have to have been paid for by the state. I have heard horror stories of nursing homes here – patients lie in their urine all night long, and worse. I have visited nursing homes. I walk down the halls and see the patients lying in their beds, alone in their rooms. I cannot begin to describe the hollowness I feel – talk about a view within a room . . ..

People suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s definitely need social interaction. How fully it helped my mother – it stimulated her, brightened her countenance, made her smile and happy. Even when we were in the room and not talking directly to her, she knew we were there and was as content as was possible.

I came to Delaware to visit family and realized my mother needed help. All my clothes, my library of books and phonograph records, my guitar sheet music, all I have written pre-computer, furniture, everything, was and still is in storage in California. I had no winter coat, even. I had to stay and care for my mother. There was no one else – my brother, living nearby then, rarely came to visit her. My daughter was in California. Emma’s other grandchildren were occupied with jobs, children and grandchildren, and lived at least an hour away. Ultimately I had to give up working, so I had no income other than Social Security. Emma received Social Security and a miniscule pension. She was 91.

I cared for her by myself, no aides from October 2001 until November 2008 when I got five hours a week “respite” care. Our car died. I could not afford to buy another one. Kind friends offered me rides or I walked to the store and became quite adept at packing Emma’s small shopping cart.

Simply, no other way existed to do this. We had neither insurance nor other monies to pay for help of any kind. The state allocated the respite care funds from federal Medicaid grants.

I got Emma a cane, and then a walker; I ran and got neighbors to help me pick her up when she fell. I tried to get more state aid or other aid. Most agencies did not return my calls, nor did the state.

I bathed my mother, changed her, fed her, watched her nose run into her food, rolled her out of bed, pried her hands loose from her bed posts so I could dress her, washed her bed linens – king size sheets, blankets, fluffy comforter often daily; slid in her poop in the hallway in my bare feet. I would make plans to go out to the store, only to have the aide not show up. I went to the mall once – once – only to come home and find that my mother had been left alone for two hours.

Finally, having been turned down by Hospice on the first try, we got Hospice, in October 2009. Eight months before Emma died, we rose to the top of the list in August 2011, after several people had died, for State Attendant Care Services, which meant that I had help 30 hours a week, seven days, including a driver. Emma became the employer; I, as her agent, administered the hiring, firing, wages and taxes. Federal grant money to the state was put into an account administered by a nonprofit organization, and I hired help. And one of those aides was fine until the day she sent her evil twin.

In the end, I had people (aides from hell) creeping around my house in the middle of the night to deal with Emma’s agitation. There were aides I told to leave and never come back. Even those words they didn’t comprehend. I sat up all night one night with Emma, so agitated she was climbing the walls and trying to get out of her hospital bed. “How did I get here? How do I get out of here? Can anybody tell me how to find the subway home? Bob! Bob! Where’s Bob? [my brother] Mother! Mother!” She had gone all the way back. She was calling for her mother. I sat beside her all night and held her hand. This was the only thing that calmed her. I told her it was O.K., that she could go.

My social worker/writer friend Beatrice Hale is right – “Grieving begins before diagnosis, and goes on long after.” You spend years watching your loved one slowly slip away. By the time your loved one passes it is such a relief, a release for you both.

To put Emma in a nursing home would have required Medicaid to pay for it (state aid) and that required having a Miller Trust. I would have had to put nearly all Emma’s income into this Miller Trust fund. That money would be applied towards paying for the nursing home care. Moreover, in the end, since Medicaid likes to be repaid anything still owed, they would have taken our home in payment.

Now, of course, that my mother’s income is gone and we needed both to pay the mortgage (she bought the house in 2002; I added my name to the deed in 2011), and other household expenses, I need to find a way to make up that income to pay the mortgage.

I fully realize that I could be in a much worse situation. I am most fortunate to have a roof over my head, to have good friends, loyal friends and to have had such extraordinary help in the last few years. I really do have a Team of Not-So Rivals, friends who are smarter than I. I have faith, one of the things I learned as a caregiver. If I didn’t have faith, trust, I would sink. Maybe I sound Voltairean: “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Many people have it much worse than I, way worse. I am blessed.

Nonetheless, let me say this: If you have money/insurance to pay for your care, then use it. Decide now what you want for the end of your life; talk it over with your family; put it in writing; get all your legal work in order.

Those who are nurses, healthcare aides, social workers dedicated to their jobs exceed life’s call to duty. I don’t know how they do it. They are extraordinary beings.

Ah, that organ toccata is invigorating. Possibly I’ve drunk too much toccata juice. This needed to be said; this story needed to be replayed. People need to know. This isn’t a walk in the park. My writer friend T.J. says caregivers have that look – I think maybe almost of shell shock. And it does change you, as we caregivers know. So, what do you give a caregiver getting to know herself again after her loved one has passed? T.J. suggests, “Get her a ‘pamper-me’ sort of basket – soaps, books, candy, whatever you think she would like. After all, she’s just starting out on a journey to find herself again.”

Moriarty wants to know if he can come out from under the desk now.

—Samantha Mozart

CIV. The Water Goblin

March 14, 2013 — I sat on my front porch one recent night watching the moon rise from behind a tall, old conifer, through the breaking clouds, reflecting on a friendship, the potential of losing that friendship just where the night goes deepest and darkest, in the middle of a silent woods.

Each of my friends is special, each is unique, none is of the cookie-cutter genre. And this particular friend means a lot to me; a very special being. I had been deeply hurt. I felt alienated, my friend remote. It seemed the bridge had collapsed. I wanted to bond the schism. So I enlisted my brilliant Team of Not-So Rivals and endeavored to understand, to see both sides, to be watchful of what I learn from this situation. Oh, where is my shipload of brains?

Listen to the soundtrack to this story, “The Water Goblin.” Go to “The Dream” player in the right sidebar, scroll down and click on no. 26.

Came Kevin, my surrogate son-in-law. He dug direct and deep below the surface, meticulously lifted the pieces one-by-one out into the broad sunlight, gently dusted them off, sorted and ordered them into a whole picture. His arch support resolved my distress and helped preserve the relationship from crumbling into a messy little mound of desert dust in the wasteland of my mind. He told me to become Team Samantha – “Team Samantha consists of your heart, your brain, your dignity, your ability to do the right things, and include in this team, anyone or anything (i.e. hobbies, tea with friends, brisk walks.) that will be conducive to your recovery and happiness,” he wrote in an email.

Truly, I was stumbling through another dark night of my soul, as my writer friend T.J. suggested, and I was about to fall and break something. I wanted to emerge soon into the sunlit, fragrant field of, well, irises. Lilies are the usual outcome of dark nights of the soul; yet, I prefer irises, though they are not as fragrant. Irises, especially the deep purple ones, symbolize spiritual evolution and healing. Irises waving in the sun were the place I wanted to lay my head.

In fact, I had chosen to embark on this dark journey; I had been standing on the dock waiting for the boat to take me to face the dark side of myself, to view that hidden side, at least a phase; not all, of course, because that darkness is as vast as a starless, moonless night sky. You might expect I thought I was going on one of those Disneyland/Disneyworld adventure excursions. This Dark Night might have to do with pirates, but not of the Caribbean sort. I thought I could be brave. I thought if I understood that part of myself, I’d be better able to understand that part of another. I should have carried a torch.

When I felt bolstered having processed Kevin’s thoughts, I emailed my friend saying I wanted to clear up the misperceptions between us. My friend replied that there was no problem between us.

I emailed a follow-up: “Please call me when it is convenient to you.”

My friend phoned. Our conversation was long. We discussed our mutual misperceptions. I cried. Light came. Now there is no problem between us.

My sociologist/writer friend Beatrice, in email, put it best. “Good for you getting clarity with your … friend – that’s so important, and so many people fail to do it and a valuable treasury of friendship falls away.”

I could not allow this valuable treasury of friendship to fall away.

Then I dreamed one of my Dark Night Dreams: this is the third in a series this year, one just before Emma’s passing and two since. This one: Alone at Night in The Dark City. It is very dark. I can barely see where I am going. The neighborhood is not safe. I walk along a smooth sidewalk, past a dim churchyard bounded by a black, wrought iron fence. I cautiously step down three or four broad steps and cross an alley. Coming toward me in the alley, all alone, is a little girl, dressed in a little dress and carrying her dolly. She is about four years old. I hope she will be safe. I am not in a position to take on the responsibility of looking after this little girl. I hope her mother knows she is out alone in the dark. I need to reach my destination to fulfill my current obligations by deadline. I have no purse, no keys, no jacket; I am just me, I carry nothing. I climb the few gray-painted steps to the gray-painted front porch of the house at the end of the row by the alley, across from the church. Mother (Emma) is there, inside. She is hard of hearing. She will not hear me knock nor ring the bell. Without a key, how will I get in? I bang on the door, three times with the flat palm of my hands. Kellie, my daughter, is there, inside, too. She lets me in. Emma and Nana (Emma’s mother) are there, all lined up in the living room – we make four generations of women on my mother’s side of the family.

There’s always more after your loved one is gone, just as my caregiver writer friends have advised. Your loved one, after passing, will appear out of the darkness to haunt you, periodically and unexpectedly. Would that we had worked out these things between us, kindly, when our loved one was still in human form.

Meanwhile, Moriarty returned from his Voyeurs Congress in Miami. I encountered the Phantom up in the cupola of my blog. He was wearing a green coat and red boots. It struck me as odd. He stood gazing out the window, mesmerized by something down across the meadow, at the stream.

“How was your Voyeurs Congress?” I asked him. I caught a whiff of his nutmeggy scent. “You didn’t seem to get much sun color down there in Miami. Did it rain the whole time you were there?”

His comment was nebulous: “We watched each other watch each other.” Then he pointed down to the stream. “There’s something in it,” he spoke in low tones, like Jerry Seinfeld’s “Low Talker.” “Look, there’s something bobbing up and down, in and out of the water.”

I looked. From our distance, it appeared an eerie creature.

“It’s the water goblin,” he half whispered. Then, upping the volume a notch, “Why don’t you play that music for me,” he requested. And so I have. The music is a gossamer piece I discovered only this past week. “The Water Goblin” (Vodnik) is a symphonic poem by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. (I know: Vodnik sounds more like an integral symphonic component of an alcoholic beverage.) Dvorak composed the music in 1896 based on the poem Vodnik, originally published with the English title “The Water-Fay.” The poem was found in a collection, Kytice – “Bouquet” of poems written by Czech historian, poet and writer Karel Jaromir Erben (1811-1870):√≠r_Erben. The story of the water goblin is haunting. I copy and paste the Wikipedia version here:

Vodník tells a story in four parts of a mischievous water goblin who traps drowning souls in upturned teacups.

A water goblin is sitting on a poplar by the lake, singing to the moon and sewing a green coat and red boots for his wedding soon to come.

A mother tells her daughter of a dream she had about clothing her daughter in white robes swirling like foaming water and with pearls of tears hiding deep distress around her neck. She feels this dream was a presentiment and warns her daughter not to go to the lake. Despite the mother’s warnings, the daughter is drawn to the lake as if possessed and leaves for the lake to do her laundry. The moment she hands down her first garment into the water, the bridge on which she was sitting collapses.

As the water engulfs her she is abducted by the malevolent water goblin who lives there.

He takes her to his underwater castle and marries her with black crayfish for the groomsmen and fishes for her bridesmaids. After the birth of their first child, the abducted wife sings it a lullaby, which enrages the water goblin. She tries to calm him down and pleads to be allowed ashore to visit her mother once. He gives in on three conditions: She is not to embrace a single soul, not even her mother; she has to leave the baby behind as a hostage; and she will return by the bells of the evening vespers.

The reunion of mother and daughter is very sad but full of love. When evening falls the distraught mother keeps her daughter and forbids her to go even when the bells are ringing. The water goblin becomes angry, forsakes his lair in the lake and thumps on the door ordering the girl to go with him because his dinner has to be made. When the mother tells him to go away and eat whatever he has for dinner in his lair, he knocks again, saying his bed needs to be made. Again the mother tells him to leave them alone, after which the goblin says their child is hungry and crying. To this plea the mother tells him to bring the child to them. In a furious rage the goblin returns to the lake and through the shrieking storm screams that pierce the soul are heard. The storm ends with a loud crash that stirs up the mother and her daughter. When opening the door the mother finds a tiny head without a body and a tiny body without a head lying in their blood on the doorstep of her hut.

I am whole, thankfully, head attached to body, at least – Team Samantha. I have stuffed my water goblin back into his bottle and corked it. Maybe he will dissolve.

I saw the water goblin arise from the watery depths where my old emotions reside, those memories you think you long ago flushed downstream, only to have them rise up out of the bottom muck just when you least expect, and you have to deal.

It is my understanding that upon encountering water goblins and their ilk, when you view them as nothing, nothing but illusions, negative attachments, let them go and have faith, they will dissipate and not return. I have experienced this phenomenon, myself – now and beginning palpably during Emma’s last year of life: I learned to have faith, to trust. I have taken only a baby step upon the deck of omniscience; but think what a relief it would be to step away from the controls.

When Moriarty and I looked more closely, we discovered his water goblin to be a small school of trout.

—Samantha Mozart


CIII. A Hug and Kiss at the Gate

March 1, 2013 — Moriarty is out of town. The pale Phantom of My Blog is attending a Voyeurs Congress in Miami. As he went out the door, I told him I wanted to hear all about it when he comes back. He turned halfway to look at me, hand on luggage cart, other hand holding the door open, and told me that upon his return to my blog he will not comment. He said the event promises to be a quiet affair and that participants will spend most of their time sequestered.

Meanwhile back at the blog, speaking of affairs, my friend R asked me to write about relationships. Given my lack of experience in relationships, I viewed him pensively across the candlelit tables laid with theories and accepted his proposition.

Before I sit down, I will tell you that in my relationships I don’t care if you are the Pope, I allow zero tolerance for patronization, condescension, control, or lack of interest to hear my thoughts. But if you tell me you don’t want to hear it, then I’ll leave you alone. Treating me like a child, or like someone else, someone I am not, as a trophy friend, with any lack of dignity and respect, will send our relationship up in smoke. Strive to know me for who I am, and I will strive equally towards you.

I don’t burn bridges. I keep an open door and an open mind. People can change; the act could have been due to a simple misunderstanding. Too, perfect as I am, there is a micro chance that I could absentmindedly treat someone disrespectfully. I would hope the person would tell me, for I would not have meant to do so.

Straightforward communications and direct questioning map the shortest route to understanding. Caring and gentleness cushion the journey. I do not play mind games, I do not pout. I say what I mean, that is all. Sometimes I may not make myself clear, unwittingly – you know, like I know what I said; how could you not? But, mind games? Life is confusing, complex and difficult enough. I rarely get angry; frustrated, maybe, but that’s because I don’t understand. Once I understand, my frustration ceases.

I seek nothing more from you than your companionship and support – and laughter. I may not agree with you on every issue, but I value your thought, nonetheless. I choose to abide in a home with windows on all sides, so I can view things from various perspectives. I like the cupola of this blog – I can get a good overview of things.

And I do try to keep in touch. A good friend told me years ago that she puts much effort into keeping in touch with her friends. Good advice.

Emails comprise a terrible way to communicate. Misunderstandings abound via emails: “No, I wasn’t angry; I didn’t mean it that way; my intonation was like this, not like that; I was not shouting – my caps lock is stuck; not thinking, I simply left out a word intrinsic to meaning.” It’s much better to talk to someone in person; then you can tell what he or she is thinking. Second best is talking on the phone, then at least you can hear the person’s tonal.

I wonder how well people communicated back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when they wrote letters and mailed them far away, across land or across the sea. If you mistakenly or absentmindedly with your quill or pen wrote something that left the recipient angry or deeply hurt, or maybe you just ran out of ink, couldn’t finish and wanted to get the letter off, given the protracted delivery time, weeks or months would pass before you could write back your reassurance that you unwittingly made a mistake. By then, the person could be dead – or married to someone else.

Occasionally the caldron of a relationship may need to be upended to clear it of refuse; I believe in cleaning out the cause for the misunderstanding, without blaming one another, listening, being willing to change, not just superficially smiling and reconciling; rather, confronting the issue. Deeply discussing the cause, being honest, clears it out and strengthens the relationship.

This that I’ve written so far sounds like a contract. But, little that I know of relationships, these ingredients I follow I believe combine to serve most relationships well.

My aunt and uncle made a pact that they would never go to bed angry at one another. They had a great marriage.

My writer/sociologist friend Beatrice in New Zealand wrote on our LinkedIn writers caregivers group discussion today that it’s taken her until her seventies “to learn to appreciate the people we are, rather than demand to be the people we are not,” and that maybe that is the essence of forgiveness.

My writer friend T.J. seconded Beatrice and suggested a “wonderful book … called Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart. It’s by Robin Casarjian, who was herself a rape victim in her early 20s and who later began doing workshops and lectures on the subject of forgiveness,” said T.J., adding that it’s a very wise book, definitely worth the read and keeps her from getting on her high horse too often.

Oh, I don’t know. I like to ride that high horse at times. But, seriously, no sense in riding the horse to death: in my seventies, I have begun to believe that when we forgive ourselves we place fewer expectations upon others. Therefore, we more readily forgive others.

Oh, and as for voyeuring here? I welcome your presence. I know you are here or have been here – I can smell your cologne, the garlic from the fabulous Italian dish you just ate, or see your fingerprints in the dust. Do me a favor, though, and leave a flower, a tear, a smile or a hug and kiss at the gate, will you? In fact, pour yourself a glass of wine and venture out across the field, amble down by the stream and pet the blue deer and her fawn, Batik. See if the irises are getting ready to bloom. No matter what, I am always glad for your visit.

—Samantha Mozart

CII. All the Forgotten Faces

February 20, 2013 — I see that Nora Ephron’s play, Lucky Guy, is in production on Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theater. Her friend Tom Hanks will play Mike McAlary, the New York muckraking columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his columns about New York police officers’ brutalization of Abner Louima. McAlary died later that year of colon cancer. He was 41. Nora Ephron died in June 2012. She was 71, my age.

I don’t remember Mike McAlary, but I do remember Nora Ephron. She was one of my favorite writers, and she wrote one of my favorite movies, “Sleepless in Seattle.” I’m so glad it had a happy ending, an affair to remember. I think I will remember Nora Ephron a long time. She seemed to have always a smile on her face. I think we could have been friends. Hanks and Ephron were good friends. He said he liked to hang with her, one of the reasons he is doing the play. He said about missing her, “It’s terrible, horrible.” So now he will have to hang with her in second place, “hanging with the essence of Nora as opposed to Nora herself.” (I read this today and watched the video interview in a New York Times story written by Patrick Healy:

When my grandmother was in her sixties, I remember her sitting in a chair in the living room and saying wistfully, “All my friends are dead.” I’ve never forgotten that. It is one of the reasons I value my friendships so closely. I haven’t forgotten my grandmother; I haven’t forgotten either of my grandmothers, nor any of my family members that have gone on ahead of me.

They gave me such a secure childhood and I miss that security. Moreover, they were fun. We laughed a lot. They were storytellers, and their stories were funny. I seemed always to have a smile on my face when we visited. I looked forward to every visit. I miss the humor and the laughter.

Last evening, I had just put a chicken potpie in the oven. The warmth from the oven fended off the darkness outside and the cold wind blowing right through the clapboard walls of this Victorian house. So I felt all warm and secure. The doorbell rang. I thought it was some stranger blown up onto my porch, like the neighborhood trash in the corner of my flowerbed, circulating pamphlets to hand out. To my delight, standing there was my mother’s superb and caring healthcare aide of three years. She had just finished her workday caring for a dementia patient who had reached forward, gotten her in a tight grip and ripped the buttons off the front of her coat. We shared stories and warmed up over a glass of wine. (We each had our own glass, mind you.)

I am so very glad she keeps in touch, a sincere, caring friend, because some of my friends have died, too. I miss them very much. I wish I could pick up the phone or turn to them and say something. When I think of them, is that like posting a thought on the wall of the universe, and somewhere they’ll pick it up? I miss many friends whom I presume are still living. The winds of change over the years drove us apart. I have forgotten none of them. Some I connect with on Facebook after years gusting by like lifetimes. It’s like, “So, hey, how’re ya doing in this lifetime?” It’s very cool.

At times I walk into Emma’s bedroom, look at her king-size bed with its white comforter and white eyelet-ruffled pillowcases, and I sense them there, Emma and her little dog, Jetta. I miss them. Recently I was very sad about the loss of a friend. I sat down to relax and suddenly I cried. Then I felt a comforting presence. It was unmistakably Emma. I dried my tears. I felt better. I feel the presence of various people from time to time; often at that moment they’ll call. This was the feeling of Emma. Sometimes when I was very sad about something, she would comfort me sympathetically. There’s nothing like a mother’s comfort. I thought Emma had moved on, true to her character; but I guess she saw my need and stopped back for a moment. Of course, I will never forget her beautiful face, nor Jetta’s sweet little face, nor that of her apricot toy poodle, BeeGee, whose untimely death at age four preceded Jetta’s arrival.

Of course, some faces we encounter in life we’re glad to have forgotten. Others, not so.

Losing a friend who is living is not only terrible, horrible, it is also tragic, you know, like Romeo and Juliet, but the characters are still living. I have lost a couple of friends during the past year in this manner, over what I perceive as a horribly perverted rearrangement of words. It is despairing to hang with someone over the years watching them slowly die; it is traumatic to lose one over insensitivity and misunderstanding. It’s as if the relationship leapt from the platform in front of an oncoming train. In either case, that loss leaves me feeling bereft.

My writer friend Susan Scott (author of the book “In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden”) forwarded my blog link to a woman friend whose mother has a form of dementia. This friend read my blog and, in turn, forwarded the link to a male friend named John. He picked up on a phrase in Thomas Wolfe’s poem, in the left sidebar of my blog, prefacing his novel, “Look Homeward, Angel” – the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth, likening it to the mental prison of Alzheimer’s/dementia.

John read my blog and emailed his adult children. His parents, too, suffer from some form of dementia.

Just here as I write this, I smell something nutmeggy; then, a hand on my shoulder. It is Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog. I turn and look up at him. “You’d remember this face anywhere, right?’ he says.

“Oh, how could I forget,” I reply. He is leaning in close, reading my computer screen.

“Tell them the man said this,” says Moriarty, pointing to a line: “‘The woman writes exceedingly well.’” (Thank you, John. May you always travel in the light.) I will be working at my writing into this evening, so Moriarty goes off to make dinner – a piquant Chinese affair, he labels it.

This father in poetic email ruminates to his children, “Will I eventually recede from life worth living in similar fashion as the writer describes?” By then, “it won’t be a simple manner of prior choices in life and their later consequences, nor of having asked politely ‘Please, Sir, may I be allowed not to walk into that dark recess?’ The journal speaks to unease, a recognition this could afflict us … Her account of her mother’s cognitive decline resembles” what John’s friend’s mother and his parents are going through, though each in different ways. Indeed, the unique experiences of dementia sufferers differ within the commonalities of the condition according to their life experiences and genetic makeup.

The sufferers become forgotten faces, in a way. They don’t know where they are, wonder how they got there, plead to get out, they forget how to do things, they may forget the identity of your face.

This kind man emails a thank you to Susan, “My four siblings and I, all of us over 50, will be the better for reading her thoughts, insights, and the cogent advice one can draw from such compelling writing.”

And then this father in his email to his children goes on to touch upon my Russian soul, the face of which is an up-close mystical remembrance of a 19th-century past life:

He says, “Her insights are well worth the time to puzzle through the curious matryoshka-like construction of her journal of dementia and caregiving for ‘Emma’.”

He asks, “Will the two of you be confronted with me having become the likes of your Grandfather, or [his friend’s mother] in my own Anna Karenina way?”

—Samantha Mozart

CI. Who Cares?

February 12, 2013 — The wind rattled the windows all night and kept me awake. My head rested on my pillow while inside a corps of Valentine’s blog posts whirled in the corners of my mind like dust devils. The choreography wasn’t right, the arrangement and rearrangement of words; I dozed, the windows rattled, I awakened: the syncopated music of the wind. All I composed tripped short of truth; my mind kept dancing around it. The ball was over, the gown rested on the chair, the cavalier had left the rose. It lay in the dim lamplight inside my mind, wilting, the deep blood-red edges of the petals crisping. I listened to the two striking clocks in the house toll the hour, and the next and the next hour.

Setting back the clocks to standard time last fall, I had turned the hands of Emma’s grandfather clock back rather than taking the time to wind it forward eleven hours. Now it strikes an hour short. I don’t know how to fix that. Is there some lesson here about wishing to go back in time to correct the past or to that one hour of life that was perfection?

So the two clocks are not synchronized. The only way to achieve clock synchronicity – resolving their striking the same correct hour simultaneously is through much thought, effort, and yes, a willingness to give time.

Synchronicity – my definition: a simultaneous occurrence of events, although with no discernable cause, logically previous thoughts and actions are the cause matured simultaneously to produce the effect.

With or without the presence of clocks, time passed this night. If you want to make time pass faster, bundle it, writes Nobel laureate author Orhan Pamuk, a writer of deep thought and density. Daylight came bundled in woolly gray clouds spilling rain down my bedroom bay windowpanes like profuse tears.

I arose, padded down to the kitchen and made coffee. I poured my coffee, added half and half, cinnamon and nutmeg, placed a homemade scone on a little plate and headed upstairs. Yes, I, not a baker because I never measure ingredients exactly, have learned how to make scones. Although not the perfection of my friend Bettielou’s scones, I make them with Bisquick, toss in some dried cranberries and black walnuts, stick them in the oven for ten minutes, et ici sur la plat – a scone.

Carrying my Delaware Wild Lands coffee mug, that I was given when I wrote a magazine story on that nonprofit, and my little plate holding its marvelous scone, I climbed the narrow winding staircase out of the kitchen up to my studio.

I sat at my computer and took refuge in my music. What to write for my Valentine’s blog, I mused. I sipped my coffee and bit into the scone.

Last year on Valentine’s Day I had received a furry Valentine, the traveling visitor cat I named Keats. He arrived on that blustery, snowy yet tender night just before Valentine’s Day, and stayed, until a few weeks after Emma’s death, just as long as I needed him. Then he returned to his family, I guess, for, still wearing his sage green collar with which he arrived, he went out one evening after dinner and I saw him no more. This year I have no Valentine; that is, no cat, no man, not even a man who owns a cat.

My Valentine gift this year, though, came through many persons – my author profile in our local newspaper: Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times. It is quite a nice story and through that and my related book signing at our downtown First Friday event February 1 – for my Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume I – I sold a number of books. Not bad for a small town. Moreover, I received encouraging comments from fellow writers around the world. Presently I am working on Volume II, To What Green Altar, and expect to publish it in a few weeks.

At the same time (one might term it synchronicity), someone, without reading past the fold in my email, dressed me down one morning, prematurely emitting a razor-edged response slashing writing, and for that matter, reading, as worthless, self-serving stimulation, as no more than a constant rearrangement of words, like alphabet soup, meaningless to help others, climaxing as sleep inducing; and saying in effect, who cares? This wounded me deeply and will take a long time to heal, if ever completely. I trusted this person as one whom I perceived interested in what I thought and said. My mistake. That’ll keep this cat out of the kitchen.

My friend R sutured and dressed my wound. The next day the wound opened like a fissure during an earthquake and R re-sutured it. The Phantom of My Blog, Moriarty, passed by the open door at that juncture, glanced in and turned whiter than his normal shade of pale. He grasped the doorframe, leaned his forehead against it a moment, and then went on. He could not bear to face the mincemeat heart and the trampled spirit. Moriarty may have nudged me over the edge once, but he doesn’t get off on abuse.

Writing, the thoughtful expression of experiences or imagination in words, helps and comforts others. What if we all just stood around mute as if to say, “Hey. That’s your problem. Deal.”

Later, a member of our LinkedIn writers group wrote that she couldn’t understand why Hospice let a close relative in the final stage of cancer suffer, starved him and why he couldn’t be euthanized to end his suffering. From my experience with Emma and with my stepfather, who died of stomach cancer, both under Hospice care, I replied that Hospice’s mission is to make the patient comfortable, increasing morphine dosage as needed. When you are dying, I wrote, your body shuts down; all the organs shut down gradually. Hospice and doctors do not starve the patient. In that state, too much food would overwhelm the patient’s body. Near to death, one can survive on a very small bit of food every two or three days. Emma’s Hospice doctor and nurses reiterated this.

Next, I welcomed a woman writer to our LinkedIn group who had been caregiver to three people. This woman had questions of frustration and guilt, as many caregivers do. I address this subject when presenting my book to caregivers’ organizations. I told her these feelings are a normal part of the caregiving experience. In turn other writers in our group expressed their compassion and shared the wisdom gained from their caregiving experiences. Our discussion group that I started a year ago now has 5,400 postings from around the world. So, through our writing, we’re helping someone. Caregivers need someone to tell, someone to write it to; no one else will listen; they find it tiresome. We listen unconditionally and give support.

I can only write from the level of wisdom and craft I have achieved. From that station I hope my thoughts and words help, through knowledge, compassion or just plain entertainment. As I experience, practice and become more enlightened, I will write from that higher station. All I ask is that you read below the fold before prematurely emitting a response and then falling asleep.

Sometimes through journalism a chance to physically help arises. I have encountered such situations and have taken action as I could, mostly through writing a newspaper or magazine story. I truly hope my actions and words help others. That is my sole mission. I act spontaneously, without thought of return.

Anderson Cooper, in the midst of reporting on the Haitian earthquake, dropped his camera and ran to pull a bleeding child out of danger during a shooting. I witnessed this event on TV. The child had been hit on the head by a concrete slab thrown from a roof. Cooper saw it happen.

Cooper said, “Some journalists like to be strictly observers, they don’t intervene, they don’t participate, they just document what they see, even if what they see is terrible. But the way I see it, journalists don’t exist in a vacuum. They are human beings, living and working in a very human environment. And that humanity is essential in relating to their stories. When you lose your humanity, you lose any kind of journalistic integrity you have left.”

My point. When you lose your humanity, you are a voyeur to the suffering of others. I consider that selfish.

Leo Tolstoy said, if you help one other person, you are helping the world. Maybe words provide for you simply an escape into a good novel, or a great television series, such as “Downton Abbey,” superbly written by Julian Fellowes. Writers will tell you that you can put more truth in fiction than you can in nonfiction. Storytelling is as old as humankind. Any writer will tell you that if he or she is prevented from writing he or she will explode. You do not want to be around a writer who is prevented from writing, trust me on this one.

Who cares what you read and write as long as your heart is in the right place.

Happy Valentine’s Day, R.

—Samantha Mozart


C. Last Kiss

January 27, 2013 — Today is Mozart’s birthday – Wolfgang Amadeus, that is, not me. He would be 257. He lived 14 percent of that age. He died December 5, a recurring date of the ending of things in my own life. Today is my brother’s birthday, too. He’s lived nearly twice the years as Mozart. The two share a common love for music. My brother, from about age 3, sat at the piano, as did Mozart. He composed, too – pieces from a series my family called “Hammering on the Keyboard”.

I watched Dustin Hoffman discussing in conversation with Charlie Rose the other night the 2012 movie he has directed, “Quartet,” starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, and other greats. This movie is about the unintended reunion of four aging opera singers, based on a play and script by Ronald Harwood. Harwood was inspired by Giuseppe Verdi’s “Bella figlia dell’amore” quartet, which he considers one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written for the human voice, from “Rigoletto.”

Of my favorite Charlie Rose conversations are those with Dustin Hoffman. He is an entertaining conversationalist and Rose lets him run on. As I laid my head on my pillow to sleep at 1 a.m. when the TV show ended, I found my cheeks aching from smiling broadly for an hour.

Those of us in our 60s and 70s know how hard it is to find work, no matter how high our achievements and level of education. Hoffman, who is four years older than I, talked about the declining availability of roles for actors as they age, of the short career span of a singer, dancer or an athlete. The actor who romanced Mrs. Robinson talked about how fleeting is life and the wisdom not to waste it. Jane Fonda, born the same year as Hoffman, writes in her book, Prime Time, about the poignancy of the third and final act of one’s life, those years over age 60: relationships become deeper, you realize that it’s the little things that are meaningful, and you have the experience to know that you’ll get through the current crisis somehow. Don’t waste time, live life, fulfill your dreams. I’ve lived a full life, but I’ve also wasted time, discarded opportunities, as I see it. But, all the evidence isn’t in yet, so I cannot judge. It may be that I have composed my life as I needed, that the related early expositional and variational movements developed the requisite preparation for the resolution at my finale.

A friend once told me, “You are always right where you need to be, doing what you need to do at that moment.” I find that thought comforting.

There’s another movie out about music and aging, with almost the same title, “A Late Quartet,” directed by Yaron Zilberman, one of the writers, and inspired by Beethoven’s late composition, String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor (Op. 131), a long piece, the seven movements of which are played without pause. The piece is recognized in music circles for its air of finality, so prompting Franz Schubert to remark, “After this, what is left for us to write?” “A Late Quartet” tells of an aging chamber group, and stars Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others.

My information about these two movies, besides from Dustin Hoffman, I took from two New York Times stories, “Two Films in Which Classical Music Is Much More Than a Score” by Michael Cieply, October 31, 2012, and “A Rigoletto Reunion Just Might Save the Day,” by A. O. Scott, January 10, 2013.

The former story cites the Guarneri String Quartet. Among my favorites, I wanted to read more about them, so I clicked on the newspaper link. I learned that, formed in 1964, once considered the world’s finest string quartet, to my disappointment they retired in the fall of 2009. A founding member, cellist David Soyer, died in 2010.

Everybody gets old. Everybody dies. From the instant you are born your whole life is a prelude to your death. You could die between notes, between breaths in the middle of the night while you are sleeping. This scenario, in my third act upstaging my earlier life, prompts me to reflect on what I do, how and what I think, and how I use my time. No matter how conscientious I am, though, I am always behind on emails; so I hope you will have patience.

Born October 10, 1813, nearly 200 years ago, composer Giuseppe Verdi died on the 27th of January 1901. Before his death, he established a retirement home in Milan for musicians, called Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, known as Casa Verdi. The home did not open until after his death because he did not want the acclaim.A documentary was made about Casa Verdi in 1984, titled “Tosca’s Kiss.” It is currently unavailable except from a handful of sellers in the UK. On seeing the documentary, “60 Minutes”, with Morley Safer, produced a 1987 story on it. I am keeping this post short because I think you may want to watch this touching piece. If you have 14.25 minutes, grab a tissue and click on this link:

—Samantha Mozart

XCIX. A Sense of Place

January 15, 2013 — I awoke this morning thinking about thinking. It is a dark and dreary day, damp and cold, one of those days when daylight never really comes. Such days impel me to sit at my computer and think and write.

This post comes with a soundtrack: go to my player “The Dream” playlist in the right sidebar and click on number 13, Alexander Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B, 3. Andante.

Some of us writers seem to write best when we are out of sorts, unwell, or confined – I think of Christopher Hitchens and Oscar Wilde in their last days; there are others. When I posted my thoughts to my LinkedIn women writers group, my writer friend Val commented, “Gee … I thought we’d all earned the right not to have to think so hard.” Wise.

Before reading Val’s words, I visited my blog. It smelled nutmeggy as I entered, like Moriarty, the Phantom, but I didn’t see him anywhere. By his signature aroma, clearly he had been around. Here, it was bright and sunny, so I strolled outside, across the meadow, down towards the stream, crunching on dry little earth balls and broken stems, and rustling through the sweet-smelling tall grass as I went. I found a sun-baked, large, flat tan rock amidst leggy green-brown weeds. I sat upon it and mused. The mid afternoon sun over my shoulder cast my body in long shadow upon the ground.

In the sun of afternoon I sat and mused on the dark shadow of morning I had left. Here it seemed I was in between: it was neither dark nor light, it was neither pain nor pleasure, grief nor joy; it was warmer middle colors, serene. I don’t like being kept in the dark. When I am, I sense that I am. Of course, if I were thoroughly kept in the dark, I wouldn’t know it, would I?

Have I reached the synchronicity of the meeting of the dark and the light? My friend Susan Scott, writes on the potential acausality of the phenomenon of synchronicity in her recent blog post: I invite you to read and explore.

Susan makes me think. In her book, In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, she writes of our inner opposites, the dark and the light, suggesting that we allow ourselves to venture into our dark side, our shadow, that we dare to be brave enough to face it.

Oscar Wilde wrote a story called “The Fisherman and His Soul”. The fisherman falls in love with a mermaid and desires to lay down his life to be with her. A witch hands him a knife and tells him that, if he dare, he must cut off his shadow, for his shadow is his soul, and the only way to be with the mermaid his to cut off his soul. The fisherman dares; he takes the knife, stands upon the beach, bends down and cuts off his soul. The shadow is gone. He lives blissfully under the sea for many years with the mermaid. Meanwhile his soul goes off on many adventures. When the soul looks in a mirror, he does not see himself. Curious. Where is the synchronicity? Wouldn’t he, the soul, holding a mirror and looking into it cause the mirror to reflect him, thus synchronizing the soul with the illusion of himself the mirror reflects, like your computer screen mirroring the data that you have called up? This is a paradox. If it can be true, also it can be false.

It turns out that the soul committed many cruel acts. When the fisherman cut off his soul, he kept his heart. I leave you to seek the rest of the story yourself.

Susan Scott climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. She writes an essay about it in her “Lilith …” book. I cannot imagine myself doing that. Oh, the MUD, she says. She found the mud nearly unendurable. Caring for Emma was my Kilimanjaro. So often was I stuck in that deep, slippery, tacky mud; so often I thought I could not go on. But I did. I learned to have patience and faith, to trust and to relinquish some of my independence. It was the only way.

Now, afterwards, I am down off the mountain. Where to now? While I cannot deny my feelings, I would not sell my soul to be with the mermaid; and I’d most certainly want to keep my soul and my heart together. What is a soul or consciousness without a heart? And what of the paradox of twin souls?

I had to allow myself to experience this dark day, to go through it, face it, reflect on it, then take myself out into the light, and then to stay in between somehow. I have left that place of caregiving for Emma, and I have not reached a new place. I feel myself to be in an empty space. So, I strive to understand what I have been taught, that is to stay in between. The silence in a musical phrase makes the music.

The sun now low in the western sky, I must go inside. About to arise from my rock, I look up. I see dear Moriarty’s face filling a windowpane in the cupola, Moriarty who would be dismayed to learn he is but an illusion. Wildly gesturing, waving his arm, he is pointing to someplace over my shoulder. I turn, and there is the Blue Deer, the Blue Deer with her blue and white spotted fawn, Batik.

As I wander back through the weeds and tall grass, I think what if the dark and the light forces do not combat each other, rather that within each there abides a gentleness and a patience of the one for the other?

—Samantha Mozart

XCVIII. Bag of Scones

January 10, 2013 — I had a long conversation about non-conversation the other day with a friend, a talented artist. We discussed the many subjects on which he doesn’t like to converse. Under one of these topics was something I had done which caught his attention sufficiently some months earlier that he gave me a related gift.

Whenever we meet or talk on the phone we begin talking immediately and talk for one, two, three, four hours nonstop.

My friend R, a very creative artist, and I have long conversations about a lot of things; we can talk on almost any subject – literature, music, movies, religion, politics, art, ideas – for an hour or two on the phone almost daily or at length in person, especially over a glass of wine, or maybe that’s more than one glass; I don’t remember. At the conclusion of our conversations, one of us will say to the other, “I’m glad you got to listen to me” or “I’m glad you got to see me.”

My friend Bettielou and I like to talk, too. They’ve cut back the ship schedule due to the present state of the economy, but when our schooners send a skiff to shore carrying a bag, one that would neatly fit inside a windbreaker pocket, of diminutive doubloons having the thickness of a church wafer, we go out to lunch together.

Bettielou gave me a gift for Christmas related to my tastes – a bag of her superb homemade scones in a variety of flavors as well as little gift boxes of other homemade sweet treats. I hid this bag of scones from my friend R when he came over for Christmas dinner, because he would have eaten the whole thing right there while he was watching me prepare the Whole Cranberry Sauce. He had his own bag of scones that Bettielou gave him, but he ate them pretty much in one sitting.

I see here in my dictionary that the word scone is Scots, the root originally derived, possibly, from Middle Dutch, schoon, meaning fine bread.

Concerning schoon, my stepfather was a successful, esteemed artist. In his youth he spent time at American illustrator Frank Schoonover’s studio in Wilmington, Delaware. Schoonover, one of the Brandywine School, helped organize in 1912 what is now the Delaware Art Museum, located in that same neighborhood, and was chairman of the fundraising committee responsible for acquiring works by Howard Pyle, also of the Brandywine School of illustrators, who had died in 1911.

“An illustration from Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates (1903) exemplifies the “Brandywine School” style.” Image and caption from Wikipedia.

Little more than a decade later on a street corner nearby, F. Scott Fitzgerald sat in his automobile and made up a fairy tale for his daughter Scottie, while wife Zelda went inside and upstairs to see about a dollhouse. Fitzgerald’s tale became his short story “Outside the Cabinet-Maker’s”, published in The Century Magazine, December 1928.

I like to talk about music, especially classical music; indeed, have enjoyed crescendoing conversations about music, composers and conductors with Emma’s Hospice music therapist and with one of my LinkedIn women writer friends. Lately, though, I made a long playlist of Electric Light Orchestra music, mostly from the ’70s and early ’80s and have been listening to that – loud. One of the advantages of living in a house that’s closed and sealed with storm windows and doors in the winter is being able to play your music really loud without disturbing the neighbors; it resounds throughout this whole Victorian house of balloon construction. I test the decibel level when I go outside, and I can’t hear it too much. Too, I have been playing Tchaikovsky’s “The Sleeping Beauty” ballet music, the complete ballet, one of his best compositions, I think and have heard said by music experts. The performance I have on disk is by Valery Gergiev conducting the Kirov Orchestra. Gergiev is a fascinating conversationalist and sensitively listens to the music he conducts, emphasizing phrases, instruments, dynamics and rubato as if to say, “Listen to this …”, and I am stirred by nuances, instruments and notes I never heard before or hear anew.

About ideas, Gergiev says that the only way the Russians held their country together during the twentieth century was by valuing and supporting the arts. They realized that this was the only way to create cohesiveness from imperialism, through Bolshevism and Communism to the Russian Federation. Food for thought, especially in light of the present United States economic condition and under-graduate educational system – teaching to the test in schools, whereby the students don’t have to bother to think critically or creatively. And since they exhaust so much screen time and don’t read books, their minds are little able to visualize.

One of the best short pieces of literature I have read recently is an essay written by Turkish author, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk vividly detailing the contents of his refrigerator, when in the middle of the night he opens the door and the light goes on inside.

I could serve up a word concoction of my own based upon this essay idea, but—and here I know you’ll be disappointed – I don’t feel like getting up from my computer and going downstairs to look in the fridge. Besides, I just ate.

My friend Jackie, who used to own The Gathering Place store downtown, and I like to sit on my porch and fire up a virtual burgoo of ideas, portions of which we offered as cross-promotional wine and cheese functions for artists and fundraisers when she operated her store. To house her store she bought and restored the historic Odd Fellows building downtown. Now her building houses “The Odd Fellows Café”, a charming, sunny, farm-to-table café, serving generous portions of delicious homemade dishes and exhibiting original artwork on the walls. Check it out at TheOddFellowsCafe on Facebook. I’d put a link here, but when I do, it keeps taking me to my own page, and many of us have seen that.

It’s time to bag up my thoughts and word pictures here and go make dinner. Tonight I am having homemade butternut squash soup. This recipe is in my recipe file on my blog and published in my Begins the Night Music book. Here is my whole cranberry sauce recipe.

Whole Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries – Whole, fresh – one bag

In frying pan, add one cup of water and 1/2 cup or more of honey (I like my recipe a little tart).

1 or 2 McIntosh or similar apple, unpeeled

2 Mandarin Oranges – Clementines, Tangerines or one Orlando or minneola Tangelo

Walnuts – Shelled, chopped – 2 or 3 handsful (I prefer black walnuts)

Bring cranberries, honey and water to boil, reduce heat to low medium for 10 or 15 minutes. Stir often.

While cranberries are cooking and popping, slice and add remaining ingredients, in order given above. When all ingredients have been added, sauce will start to thicken. Remove from heat and let stand to cool. The walnuts will not have had much time to cook, but they don’t need it.

— Samantha Mozart




XCVII. The Iris in the Snow

December 30, 2012 — I have awakened mornings recently to glorious windy, rainy wintry weather and over coffee at my computer to wonderful stories from my LinkedIn women writer caregiver friends about their daily activities, about the weather, their gardens, about letting go of expectations, and about sage philosophical thoughts. I could not be given a better start to my days. Then I walk a few blocks downtown, and as I pass my neighbor’s house, the one with the wrap-around porch two doors down, I see an iris blooming deep purple in their front garden. It didn’t snow here the other day, just rained, although it snowed everywhere just north and west of us. I could imagine that deep purple iris standing tall and graceful, an individual undaunted by the cold, above the pure white mantle glinting in the sun. How magical that would have appeared.

Each of my women friends has a story to tell. Each has stood tall and strong throughout the impermanence of their seasons, filled with grace, undaunted by the cold:

There’s Catharine, sweet, bright, a trained opera coloratura, who lost her dad this year and will begin, this winter, studying for her master’s in child psychology;

Val, who was caregiver to both parents and then found and married her great love in midlife, who thinks I’m whacky because I converse with Anton Chekhov’s “Black Monk”, and she likes that;

Linda, whose teenage son was mortally shot three years ago, in New York where it’s winter and she’s escaping her devastated Howard Beach, Queens, home and going to the Catskills for the holidays, where the snow is two feet deep;

Gwynn, whose brother, and only sibling, a former Buddhist monk, died of a dreaded life-ending disease some years ago;

T.J., who lost her husband in a vehicle crash, and her mom and dad prematurely; whose evocative stories she tells so beautifully and sensitively in her novel A Time for Shadows and about others – everybody has a story to tell – in her Sketch People stories and Catsong about amazing cats;

Susan, with degrees in clinical psychology and her particular interest in Jungian psychology and dreams, inter alia, as she terms it, in South Africa, where it’s summer and she’s vacationing for the holidays at Plettenberg Bay, watching the full moon rise over the sea, going for a swim, and in the evening visiting a club to watch her sons perform in their band, The Kiffness. I recommend Susan’s book In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden to every woman and to the men who know them. Susan likes and suggests lying on the warm ground and letting the warmth of Mother Earth rise up and heal oneself;

And Beatrice, researcher, author, and retired social worker, in New Zealand, who yesterday took a trip with her family to Otago Bay to watch the seals, cormorants, the albatross soar and plunge in the protective colony established by one of her clients, and the penguins swimming ashore. Penguins. Beatrice wrote today on our discussion board of the New Year’s Eve – Hogmanay – tradition in Scotland where she is from, where you are supposed to stay up until midnight then visit around the neighborhood – “first foot”, first foot across the door, first visit after midnight; then you drink “a wee dram”.

These are women of my thought group; that is, women who think like me, the types of women with whom I have aligned myself over the years, who have supported my thinking, reinforced my awareness of my own inner power as a woman. And so they have this day.

I have other long-time friends both where I live now and in Southern California and around the U.S., whom I have known for many years. These women, all, are my encouraging, supportive friends and my spirit guides.

I could tell them that I am going to take up the business of cleaning sewers and they’d encourage me; or, at the least, look out for my welfare, cautioning me to be watchful not to fall in – and to write about it afterwards.

Interestingly, as usual, I find my writing in my journal and my blog posts to be cathartic and illuminating. That light bulb in my mind went on the other morning while I was still in bed, almost before I opened my eyes: My Christmas story I had just posted on my blog, I had recorded in my journal in 2004-5, right after the events when the historic Maggie S. Myers oyster schooner came home with her restored mast and sails. I wrote the story again in 2008, a much longer story, for publication in a book anthology. Much had changed within that story by 2008. I edited and wrote the story again, now, in 2012. Once more, much has changed within these four years. This recent morning, through that story, I saw my pattern, which has not changed. It’s about expectations and waiting around for something to happen, someone to act. I see that I must gather my own inner power, which I periodically let fall, decide upon my future and move on. Of course, the decision the bank returns about my mortgage, on which I’m still short, will provide a piece to my decision-making as a whole. And, then, I must choose among the solid income generating opportunities I have awaiting me, and there are many. These women this recent morning, December 21, as this morning have reinforced my newfound awareness and how I must think towards my future. The other day may not have been the end of the world as we heard the Mayan calendar predicted; nevertheless, traditionally December 21 is the day of the year my life changes. We’ll see.

My friend Linda said that she likes this “time zone arrangement” and so do I. I can post on our discussion board “Good night, Susan” in South Africa, and “Good morning, Beatrice” in New Zealand, where it’s tomorrow, and “Good morning, Gwynn” in Washington state, where it’s today, simultaneously and be accurate, while eating lunch at home in Delaware.

I have three spiritual teacher friends, men, with whom I am regularly in contact, two who live out West and have been a part of my life for most of three decades.

My friend R, who recently encountered Moriarty, the Phantom of My Blog, dozing with a book open on his chest in a warm, sunny corner of my blog cupola, between the windows, tells me I am most fortunate to be surrounded by such enlightened friends. Indeed. And I feel my spirit guides around me, too, the ones I cannot see. I don’t know what I’ve done to be so honored – maybe they see that this bumbler needs special help; all I can do is continue my spiritual readings and continue to cultivate my learning towards the positive. Sometimes, I forget and just as I am about to slip over the edge, catch myself, or a friend catches me and stops me in my tracks.

We of the human condition have experienced many changes this year, devastating changes for some. Emma left this year; that is a blessing. My aunt, my last living relative of that generation, living in a nursing home and still of reasonably sound mind, will be 99 New Year’s Eve.

To you who wish for a sudden and miraculous turn for the better as the New Year dawns, have you considered that the change, not only already prepared for, has also already begun?

As my friend Beatrice put it, she counts our women friends, and I add my men friends, among the most successful people I know, real success at being human.

I wish for you a 2013 filled with the magic of irises in the snow.

—Samantha Mozart

XCVI. It Came Upon a Night So Clear


We stood shivering in the dark on the dock of the Murderkill Creek as we watched the lights on the top of the Bay float slowly, slowly towards us. It was 6:30 on the evening of December 16, 2004. The historic oyster schooner, the Maggie S. Myers, with her newly restored mast and sails, was making her way into the cut at Bowers Beach, Delaware. The tide was so low that her captain, Frank “Thumper” Eicherly IV, had to cross the bar from the Delaware Bay to the creek at almost a standstill because the Maggie’s bottom was scraping the sand here and there. At 6:45 she tied up at the public dock.

“Oh! She’s beautiful!” we all exclaimed. We were friends and family of Thumper and his wife, Jean Friend, the Maggie’s proud owners. The Maggie had been to the rail to get her sails back and we had gathered to welcome her home. “She’s so awesome!” exuded Jean’s mom, Dot, 82, visiting for the holidays from New Hampshire. “Oh, she’s beautiful!” each of us said again, in turn.

Indeed, she was beautiful with her white-painted, fifty-foot yellow-pine mast and her colorful sail Thumper had sewn, and jib riggings. She looked like the boat she was born to be. She was once again: The Maggie.

Our gathering went back to Jean’s and Thumper’s house a few blocks away, the one with the chimney Thumper built from conch shells. The long table was laid with soup Jean made and bread the guests brought. Thumper said the blessing, and after we ate, he played his guitar and sang a song. Then Dot played the piano; Sadie, Thumper’s old dog, leaned against the wood stove; and a cat jumped onto the table and almost lit her tail in the candle flames.

The Maggie S. Myers, was built by Rice Brothers boatyard in Bridgeton, N.J., as a Delaware Bay dredge schooner and commissioned in 1893. She is the twenty-second boat to get a New Jersey oyster license. She has never been out of commission. She is fifty feet long, eighteen feet wide, drafts five feet and weighs 24.62 gross tons. “She can carry her weight in oysters,” said Thumper.

In the 1940s, like most oyster schooners of the day, her masts were cut and she was motorized.

“Maggie had two masts, sails, and probably some very large oars in case the wind didn’t blow,” Thumper went on. “Maggie is thick-skinned, beefy. Her wooden hull is six inches thick. She won’t get crushed by ice like some boats. In fact, on cold winter days she cuts through the ice in the bay.”

Love at First Sight

The Maggie was not always a part of Thumper’s and Jean’s lives. They rescued her from the brink of scuttling in 1998 when her owner could no longer afford her annual tens of thousands of dollars upkeep. The owner sold the Maggie to Thumper and Jean for five thousand dollars.

“The instant we saw her, it was love at first sight,” said Jean.

“She looks so cool,” Thumper observed. “She’s low to the water and dredges by hand. She turns on a song, like a snow goose flying around in the air.”

Today, with her sails restored, the Maggie is believed to be the oldest continuously working oyster schooner under sail in the United States. She is listed on the National Historic Register.

She is the little schooner that could.

For me it was love at first sight, too.

The Gift of Candlelight on the Snow

A few nights after the Maggie came home with her new mast and sail, many of our gathering were back in Bowers, this time to attend the Candlelight Christmas Carol Service at the little wooden historic Saxton United Methodist Church, which Jean and her friend Lonnie Field had recently restored, where Thumper, who taught Sunday school there, played his guitar, accompanying the organist, and sang two hymns.

All Creation sang for joy, making offerings and gifts, and as we sang the song of the angels—“Angels We Have Heard on High”—the angels must have heard, for it seemed they had come in. A member of the congregation read an abridged O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” Outside it began to snow. We sang “Silent Night,” and in the candlelight, through the gothic church windows I watched the virginal white flakes journey slowly, peacefully, soundlessly towards earth—some alone, some in gatherings. Following the service, women of the church served hot apple cider and homemade cookies.

Then we went back to the house. Jean served vegetarian lasagna and oyster stew made with oysters Thumper had just dredged. It snowed throughout the evening and driving home was difficult, but we made it.

—Samantha Mozart

I excerpted parts of this story from one I published in James Milton Hanna’s  Delaware Bay Stories, Past & Present, published by Cherokee Books, 2008.

Photo by Robert Price.

Maggie Coming Through the Cut


XCV. Tales from the Family Tree

December 10, 2012 — The genius of Mozart in part was his ability to listen and keep an open mind. How else could all that music that he put to page come through to him in such a short life? Suppose he had not bothered to listen to the melodies, harmonies, rhythms and counterpoint, the dynamics coming into his head and just blown them off.

Suppose his parents had blocked him and the scene played out like this:

His Mom: Fulfy, stop doodling on that paper and attend to your schoolwork.

His Dad: Son, stop diddling around on that keyboard. Go out and play football with the other boys. And do watch where you step – the horses, you know ….

Fulfy: But, Papa, the game has not yet been invented.

Papa: Well, then, be the first. Humanity would acclaim you a genius.

Fortunately for humanity, his parents supported his proclivity and Fulfy didn’t invent football.

My uncle was a musician. As a boy he played the saxophone. One evening my grandparents went out, leaving the three teenage boys alone – my uncle, his brother (my father, younger by two years) and my aunt’s cousin. My grandmother and my aunt’s cousin’s mother (my aunt’s aunt) were Sunday school mates. Through this friendship my aunt met my uncle. This evening, my uncle proceeded to play the sax. He kept playing it. My father and my aunt’s cousin told him to stop but he persisted. So they locked him in a closet.

When their parents came home, the boys let him out. He was so angry he swung his fist at them. He missed and knocked a chunk out of the doorframe.

My brother took saxophone lessons for a time. I won’t say he played, because he didn’t. He hated it. One time he got so mad at it his face turned red and he unceremoniously blew into it. The blast emitting from the bell end sounded more like a tugboat pushing a barge upriver.

Another year when my uncle and my father were teenagers living in this same Tudor style house in the Philadelphia western suburbs, they decided to keep their Christmas tree up until Washington’s birthday. On that day they put in the fireplace to burn. The living room in their house was long, the fireplace at one end. Flames shot halfway across the living room.

Grandmother’s & Granddaddy’s House

My grandfather was one of five children, the boy sandwich-filling in the middle of four girls. Some of the sisters were crazy. So, when his two boys came along, it seems he often became one of them. I’ve heard stories of the spaghetti fights they had at the dining room dinner table, flinging the stuff at one another, it hitting the walls. My grandmother, ever the consummate lady, abided it somehow. That was before my time.

Daddy was a musician, too. He played the clarinet and the piano. He wanted his father to set him up with a band like Benny Goodman’s. Daddy even had the name, an abbreviation of his own – The Ward Carroll Band. Granddaddy said no. So, Daddy attended the Wharton School, became a certified public accountant and went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Daddy continued to play the piano, though, and composed music even into my childhood. He wrote a novel, too. He submitted it to a publisher but it was rejected. Fascinated with my publishing my writing, he told me about this novel only about a year before he died. He died in 2004. My sister found the novel and she has it. I have never seen it. I hope to read it before I die. Clearly, my sister, who has published novels and is the daughter of my father and stepmom, and I inherited our writing genius from Daddy. Daddy would call it genius because it was inherited from him.

Grandmother grew up in South Philadelphia and into adulthood attended Methodist Sunday School. She told us the story told her by an aunt or a family friend, who attended Sunday school with John Wanamaker: “That Johnny Wanamaker was really something with the girls.”

John Wanamaker loved music. In 1909 he purchased the world-renown pipe organ built in 1904 for the St. Louis World’s Fair and installed it in the Grand Court of his Philadelphia store. I have thrilled to listen to that organ many times. Once I even sat in the organist’s booth up in the Gallery and watched him play. Thankfully, Macy’s, present owners of that great department store, have restored the organ, now a National Historic Landmark, where you can go hear it played daily. Now through New Year’s Eve Day you can shop at Macy’s Philadelphia, hear the Wanamaker organ, see the light show and visit the Dickens Christmas Village:

I fleetingly thought that if my granddaughters were here at Christmas, we could go to the Macy’s store and share in the experience their great-great grandmothers took me to enjoy. Well, maybe next year. Anyway, they’re busy. They erected their 16-foot live tree this year, began to decorate it, went to bed and it fell over.

I remember one Christmas Eve when I had gone to bed early so Santa could come. I lay there in the dark with my eyes open, listening. And then I heard it – the tinkling and jingling of the sleigh bells. I kept listening and they continued. This was Santa Claus and his eight reindeer pulling his sleigh full of toys, certainly. And they were quite nearby.

My father and uncle were always telling us funny family stories. We laughed a lot. Grandmother told us stories, too. They orally handed them down through the generations. I decided to write them down so that my offspring will know a little of their ancestors if they are so interested. I know little about my great grandparents. Only one, my great grandmother, was still living when I was born, and she died just before my brother was born, and I know nothing of generations beyond them.

“Tell me about our family history,” I’d ask my father and my uncle periodically.

“Be careful what you ask,” they’d say, laughing. “You might find out that someone was chased out of England.” And then they’d proceed, “The story goes that a stable hand fell in love with the lord of the manor’s daughter and the lord of the manor chased him out of England.” That fits with my experiences of being chased out of local stores here, and similar experiences of my close kin. That my 12-year-old granddaughter should get in trouble for writing in the margin of her social studies book “They could make this more interesting” comes as no surprise to me.

Well, children, it is time to turn the page. I have come to the end of my family stories for this day. I think I’ll do something different now and go dig up some nuts, find my nutcracker and listen to music, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet, for instance, based on the novella, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” one the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann.

—Samantha Mozart

XCIV. The Serenity of the Turquoise

This one has a soundtrack: Click on no. 23 in my “The Dream” player in the right sidebar — Robert Schumann’s, “Fantasy, Op. 17, in C”.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 — From time to time we may feel the need to take stock of ourselves. At this hour of my life I find that the best of times and the worst of times often concur. I liken this phenomenon to the moment in Jerome, Arizona, thirty years ago when I saw the marble angel its sculptor walked me up the long, steep ochre dirt path to show me. There the flat, white angel lay in a wooden box of straw, a foot square and six inches high, on a table in the back of his studio on the edge of a cliff. Through the window behind the table on which the angel lay we looked down deep into a pit, the copper mine. Symbolically I had come face to face with the marble angel of Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Look Homeward, Angel: “… Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.”

I had just read the novel. I wanted to write like Thomas Wolfe, with that lyricism derived from the classics. I wanted to write. My peak experience, the synchronicity of that moment confronting the marble angel on that Jerome mountaintop awakened me, shaping the amorphous stone of my writing dreams, acutely summoning me to set words to page. As Thomas Wolfe descended his Asheville mountain to attend Harvard and then to become a writer, I descended the Jerome mountain to return home to the City of Angels where I became a writer.

Two nights ago I finished reading The Turquoise, a novel by Anya Seton. Based on fact, the story follows the 19th century life of a Scots-Mexican woman, a psychic visionary, born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, given in early adulthood a turquoise stone by a Native American medicine man who cautions her to stay to her true path. She strays, and I, frustrated, kept wishing she’d get on with the real meaning of her life, my reaction caused perhaps by her story being too close to home.

The turquoise is said to possess mystical powers: The turquoise is a vibrant stone. It is known as the sky stone or stone of heaven. Its mystical powers strengthen the psychic powers of the wearer. The turquoise provides protection and brings healing, harmony and serenity. The turquoise is the Goddess Tara in her green aspect. The turquoise illumines one’s true path.

The turquoise ring I wear was given me by my spiritual friend who guided me through my uncle’s untimely death from colon cancer. My friend gave me the ring long ago, forty years ago, so long ago it seems like yesterday. It is a Navajo ring, come from Arizona. “The turquoise means friendship,” my friend told me then. And although I have neither seen nor been in touch with my friend in nearly forty years, the ring has never left my finger. It won’t come off. The turquoise has served me well.

I try to serve it well, by staying on my spiritual path, and unwittingly, it seems, I am led. Soon after seeing the marble angel, I saw myself, in vision, as a sage woman wearing turquoise and silver jewelry and a white dress. I became Turquoise. So when my Linkedin caregiver writer friends adopted kangaroos and we began calling ourselves the Roos, we each chose a color. I am Turquoise. Other friends are Purple Roo, Teal Roo, Coral Roo, Little Blue Roo, Yellow Roo, Pale Olive Green Roo or Pogroo, Tartan Roo and so on.

I am also Human. So, my Turquoise presence holds to a point. For example, the other day when my WiFi modem lost its setting, I called our cable service provider to reset it. When I got the guy who sounded exactly like Elmer Fudd with an Indian accent, all thoughts of Turquoise flew from my mind to roughly the same area Amelia Earhart’s airplane went down. I get tested, often unsuccessfully, and it often takes me a while plus a grousing phone call to my friend R to reset my bearings.

Caregivers complain a lot and then feel guilty. This past Monday I gave a presentation of my book, Begins the Night Music to our Modern Maturity Center here in Dover, Delaware. I was delighted by a fine reception of twenty interested caregivers and several graduating nurses. All listened intently to my talk and then asked questions and shared experiences. The experience I hear most often is that of the guilt-ridden caregiver: “Did I do enough? Did I do the right thing? I wish I didn’t get so angry.” Caregivers are human; caregivers must remember that they are people, too, and give themselves a moment to take stock of themselves. Caregivers, you must forgive yourselves, then you will not get so angry:

It can be the best of times and the worst of times—the best of times because you still have your loved one with you to tell you stories of their lives and of whom you can ask questions; the worst of times because they are sick. The times are poignant.

Caregiving by its very nature is a spiritual path, for it is caring that gets you onto the path. It is love that gets you in.

A note: One year ago today the compassionate young woman vet came to our home and put Emma’s beloved teacup poodle Jetta to sleep. Jetta, maybe you’ve come into a new lifetime as a Human. You were sensible enough. I wish you the serenity of the turquoise.

—Samantha Mozart

XCIII. Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2012 — My book presentation yesterday went better than I expected. I was surrounded by a small group of friends, all sitting in the back of our local Atlantic Apothecary, in the somewhat secluded waiting area. No strangers/caregivers came to hear the presentation, although the owner of the Apothecary had well publicized it on his website, Facebook page and Twitter. Nevertheless, my friends and I enjoyed lively conversation about everything from the use of commas to the impermanence of life, they bought books, and occasionally a customer waiting for a prescription to be filled sat among us joining in our talk. We all (six of us) had such a good time that we stayed beyond the two hours scheduled for the presentation. Emma’s amazing healthcare aide at the end of her life, Daphne, phoned me this morning to thank me for the wonderful time and special friends. To the event she brought me a fruit basket that she had made herself. She’s very creative and has become a very special friend.

Sunday afternoon I went to the home of a friend in a historic oystering town where my friend Michael Oates, Emmy-nominated video documentarian, showed his new documentary, on which he has been working for at least 10 years, “White Gold”, about Delaware Bay oystering, the history, the present and the future. Our gathering were a small group of friends, nine of us (I’m the odd one without a spouse) plus Sidney, the black cat, in an over 200-year-old-home, warmed by the flame of a small gas heater, tea, coffee, pecan pie, pumpkin roll, cheese and crackers, and camaraderie, as the late afternoon sun set embracing us in the darkness outside the windows.

All of us have been friends for about a decade, and have been involved in one aspect or another in this story. I appeared in a couple of cameo shots, pen and pad in hand, as the journalist; but Jean and Thumper and their historic Maggie S. Myers Delaware Bay oyster schooner (1893) played the lead.* Jean and Thumper had the best lines, and Thumper’s sea chanteys provided the soundtrack. The peak scene of the movie, I thought, was the Maggie returning home from the boatyard with her new, restored, mast, under sail, white sails on the gray-green Bay, in a moment of complete silence — Mike had turned off the sound. Pure gold. The next day one of our friends emailed me saying that on the way home he and his wife commented on what a diverse and special group of people we are and how thankful we are to have such friends.

We are extraordinary. Such extraordinary talent you’d think would be surfeited with funds from each one’s many achievements; but no, not in this new economic age. These friends, most of them, struggle to make ends meet; these friends do many things to help others for free, for no thought of return. We just do it. That is how life is supposed to be: the true human condition – an exchange of information and ideas, helping one another. What place has greed in all this? Even the turkey you will eat on Thanksgiving offered its life so you may fill yourself and go help others maybe less fortunate.

Tomorrow I go to another friend’s home for Thanksgiving — Jackie, who used to own The Gathering Place (herbs, teas, oddities, local lore) downtown. A photo I took of Jackie’s storefront at this season currently appears as the header on my blog. Jackie and I held wine and cheese receptions at her store promoting the work of some of these “Maggie Myers” friends.

And then there are all of my Linkedin writer caregiver friends, that special dozen of us we call the Roos. We call ourselves the Roos, because some sponsored kangaroos, and now each has chosen a color: I am Turquoise Roo. I started this discussion group in March 2012 to provide a forum for caregivers. We have received responses from around the world, from places such as Cameroon. And the 12 of us have become such close friends – in New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Canada, and across the United States – that we are amazed. How synchronistic that we have come together at this time. What special friends we are. What would I do without each of them? How would I have gotten through these months following Emma’s death and the birth of my book, Begins the Night Music, to publication, sending it out onto the market.

These are my thoughts and greetings for this Thanksgiving, to each of my family members and my friends, even to you who don’t commemorate our American holiday, who live in those exotic places across the sea that I want to visit one day. These are the blessings I give thanks for.

These friendships, these moments are to be cherished, for they give hope.

My Linkedin friend Linda tells us her husband says, “If life hands you lemons … just add vodka.” Linda and her husband rescued two elderly neighbor couples from Howard Beach, Queens, New York, where they all live, in the face of Hurricane Sandy, driving them in two vans to the home of Linda and her husband in the Catskills only to learn, once they got there, that their own Howard Beach home and entire neighborhood had been devastated, where today still they have no electricity. They have a whole neighborhood without stoves. So, they and their neighbors have tanks of propane and with a barbecue from upstate New York, will roast nearly a flock, it seems, of turkeys.  I wish Linda and her family, friends and neighbors a plentiful supply of vodka to go with those lemons and wash down those turkeys.

Happy Thanksgiving!

*You can read my Maggie S. Myers stories here on my blog – I think if you search Maggie Myers or Thumper, the stories will come up. One, of course, is The Low Whistle of the Wind”, and there are the July Fourth on the Maggie stories. You will find these stories also in my book, Begins the Night Music.

—Samantha Mozart