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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

Where Did January Go?

Longing for spring
Yesterday, it was December. It was another year. Glamour and glitter filled our early darkness with the promise of festivities and the huge twinkling tree in Rockefeller Center dominated skaters twirling on the ice below.
This week, the gorgeous snake I had spotted wrapping sparkle around the Bulgari storefront on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-seventh street is still making me catch my breath in delight as I hurry past, but how can it be that the calendar is spilling into February next week? Where did January go?
We have not had our major winter snowstorm yet, the one that makes people slip and slide on black ice hidden under the slush of neglected pavements and swear that they don't know why they live here, in this teeming Northern city with its thrum of constant energy, its terrifying highs and lows, its captivating diversity and challenging architecture. The city has been chilling down into the worst freeze in seventeen years, and my head is spinning cabin fever, guilty to be warm when so many have been deprived of their homes by Hurricane Sandy. I have lost moorings, drifting in the grim glaze of winter days, longing for spring. Friends have fled to Florida where sun and sea await them. They are just a phone call away, but it feels like the distance to stars the grey skies hide from me.
Yesterday has vanished, and tomorrow is almost here. As long as there is tomorrow, there is life, and as long as there is life, there is hope, lifting the heart.
And did I really notice tiny buds breaking through the dry skin of branches on city trees?
Soon. Read More 
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Reflections on a brave new year

Winter again. Below freezing and mighty winds but a crisp blue sky that belies the knife-like slashes at any visible skin.
This demanding year is winding down and hope lurks hidden in the dawning of a new year. My life has been moving ahead at warp speed for years, while behind me trails a twisting stream of unfinished things, damaged minutiae in need of repair, repainting, refinishing; mountains of photos in need of order; books cascading unopened through the interstices of past years. This is the year for me to grasp time with both hands and pull in the slipstream so that I can evaluate it and discard or complete. I hear the rumble of the winged chariot. I hear it as a call to order. I hear it as the opportunity to examine stray filaments escaped from so many past years, and to consolidate the roving elements of this design I live.
Closure calls and time slips past its bounds and beckons from the unknown. I pray for health and clarity. I pray for strength and joy. I pray that the coming year will give direction to me and mine and grace to the architecture that together we create.
2013, here we come.  Read More 
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A life

I wear two hats. One propels me out into the world to do battle for others. The other sits silent on my head in a corner of a room and weaves words. Both hats fit well and are often admired. One slept in my heart for decades while the other spun circles over my head, sent chariots to the sun, and reached for the stars.
When I am wearing neither, I knit, or bake, I love, listen, sing or sleep, read, or hug children when they stray close enough and belong. I am happy and I am sad. I string years into a necklace and wear it proudly. Sometimes I wonder, but most often I put one foot in front of another and advance, leaning into the future and taking comfort from the past. The world is always ancient and always new. Time is evanescent. Loving is everything.
Sighing, I reach for a hat. The weaving of words makes a pillow for my heart. The hat sits neatly where it has always belonged. I will eschew battle for a while, or two, or three. I will let my head fall back and see if there are stars. I will see if I can weave the cloth of life with words. Read More 
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After The Storm

New York City has slowly lumbered to its feet after the most devastating storm to hit the Tri-State area in living memory . Power is back on in most areas of Manhattan, and shivering New Yorkers are exhaling gratitude and delight as they stand again in hot showers, eat hot food cooked in their own kitchens, and find many buses and subways running to take them about their daily tasks. Being able to charge electronic devices in one's own home has begun to feel like a luxury not to be taken lightly. Televisions are casting their light into living rooms, and computers are knitting the world back into a pattern it has learned to rely on. People fitting awkwardly into the lives and homes of friends and family during the crisis have moved out of these makeshift communes into their own familiar environments, thankful for the shelter and power, even more thankful for a return to privacy and familiarity. Most kids are back in school, although the city had to undertake a tremendous clean-up operation to ready school buildings that had been used as shelters for days, and one has to wonder where all those unfortunate people have gone, who are now homeless for an indeterminate amount of time until their houses and apartments are restored to them.
Today, I am thinking of the time, many years ago, when I saw John Geilgud in King Lear. He was a force of nature as he echoed Nature's force in Shakespeare's words:

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!"

I think of Lear today because Nature has once again unleashed its full powers outside my window, albeit less furiously than Hurricane Sandy. Powerful winds are swirling over Manhattan with gusts of over 60 miles an hour, sleet and wet snow are driving sideways, assaulting anything in the storm's path. Mayor Bloomberg again has cautioned everyone to stay indoors until this Nor'easter has stopped shaking us like dead leaves in a gale. Winter has come roaring into my world, leering at departing autumn, catching trees still heavy with their glory of color and hurling them to the ground.
I am so grateful for shelter, and heat, and good books to read. I am grateful for life, and all those caring hearts. I am grateful that President Obama won a second term. I have hope for the future and pleasure in the past.
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The Perfect Storm

The fury of Hurricane Sandy
So this is how it was, deep into the night as we listened to the raging monster hurling itself at our quaking windows from the challenged safety of our apartment building, electric lights still on, food in the refrigerator, bottles of water in a neat row on the kitchen window sill. We knew her name, Hurricane Sandy, joining forces with a cold front from Canada and some other stalled weather system, swollen by the tidal excesses of a full moon, surging over walls, into tunnels and basements, hurling houses off their foundations, whipping ancient trees out by their roots. Nature's unleashed fury reduced humanity's swollen ego to a speck, as we watched scenes of unimaginable devastation unfold on television, checking that the slow-burn candle was in place as lights flickered and somehow held, grateful that we could still hear the voices of our loved ones on the phone, that Nature 's excesses would sweep on past us and be gone - for now...
Somehow safety lost meaning. Strength was an illusion. With Sandy's departure came the chilling realization that when she willed it, Nature could blast us all into oblivion with one fierce breath. Of course, we always knew, subliminally, and doubtless the knowledge will again vanish deep into the collective psyche as we go about our self-important lives, certain that we are the ones in control. Read More 
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Fall Reflections

Fall vistas upstate
Outside my city window float memories of London long ago. How did so many years speed by since my student days? Youth is a superb state. I do not remember, then, seeing the weather as anything more or less than challenge or delight.
A mild rain drips everywhere out of a leaden sky today. I have become addicted to the bright blue skies, brisk chill and flamboyant vistas of glowing leaves of my many years here in New York. Wisps of cloud-fog creep over rooftops I can see from my terrace, casting a film of unwelcome melancholy into the day. This was always my favorite season, more bite and brilliance than spring, and definitely to be embraced over the excesses of winter and summer, bitter winds or heavy humidity endured in the deep canyons of Manhattan.
I find myself wondering what the weather is like in all the places where my children and grandchildren are busy living their lives. I wish them weather to float their dreams and to streak flame colors everywhere to illuminate their days.
Now, as I confront the reality of autumn inside and out, I lose myself in a miasma of memory, nostalgia and gloom. Geography has become a state of mind...
The weather channel promises better weather tomorrow. I'll wait this out with a good book. Read More 
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Echoes of a past and intimations of a future

My parents on their honeymoon in Luxor in 1937
In 1937, my parents, Guido Mosseri and Joyce Smouha, were married in the Nebi Daniel synagogue, in Alexandria, Egypt. The synagogue was ablaze with flowers and candles and packed with relatives and guests. So it was with a gathering sadness that I read a recent blog in Tablet Magazine (see my biography page for the link) and learned that a handful of elderly Jews -all that was left in Egypt from a community 80,000 strong - will in fact be deprived of a rabbi and cantor and do not have enough men for a minyan as we approach the High Holidays. Rosh Hashana services will not be performed in Egypt in 2012, probably the first time in 2000 years.
As Egyptians riot in self-righteous clamor in the name of insults to their faith, and Libyans commit murder in the name of outraged religious fervor, I am struck by the irony lived by the Egyptian Jews, last guardians of their past, elderly, vulnerable, and unable to rise above the menace that surrounds them.
And what of the Coptic Christians? They who claim to possibly be descended from the Pharaonic splendors of old? Their churches are burned and their populations suffer silently in fear of exile from the only country that holds their roots.
Why is there not more clamor? Human values are at issue here. The Middle East hosts a war that destroys history and leaves the Arab lands in economic chaos, unable to fill the void they themselves have caused. This virus will not die, and it will compromise everything we hold dear unless an antidote is found soon.  Read More 
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1956-2012: We meet again in London and remember.

56 years later, Jean signing Brian Massey's book in London
Lost in wonder, we talk about the days when he was an earnest small boy, and I was his teacher, in a world we all invented to guide us to unknown worlds that lay ahead. Brian also brought a book about heroes that I had given him as an award for hard work, and he told me that it had been one of his favorite books growing up. I looked at the message Jean Mosseri had written carefully onto the flyleaf of his prize, then at his smiling face, then at the words Jean Naggar had just written into his early copy of SIPPING FROM THE NILE that had brought us back together after all these years, and I marveled at the ways of fate and destiny. Read More 
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Once Upon a Time

In 1956, Jackie Frescoe, Brian Massey and Susan Mosseri stood in a garden in Cairo with their teacher
In 1956, I took the teaching of three nine-year-olds very seriously, and filled the year when none of us could attend outside studies with cultural tidbits, general knowledge, spelling tests, and as much discipline as I could muster.
I never heard from Jackie Fresco or Brian Massey after we all left Egypt and settled in various distant countries, while our parents tried to darn our lives back into meaning.
Many years later I wrote a memoir for my grandchildren. It grew wings and flew out into a wider world, and on its travels it came into the hands of an attorney living and working in London, a grandfather himself.
One thing led to another, and finally to a memorable meeting in London in early August of 2012, where my husband and I spent three days on our way back to the States after a magical 50th anniversary trip that began in the Florentine hills of Italy.
Brian Massey, his little sister Corinne and his lovely wife Lili met with us at our hotel, and we wondered at the twists and turns that our lives had taken to bring us to this moment. Read More 
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The last Seder in Egypt

SEDER NIGHT in Egypt, 1957

The preparations for Passover went on for days as they had done for years in our large echoing house in Cairo. Carpets were marched out to the lawn outside the dining room window and beaten with flat bamboo beaters to eliminate the last crumb. My aunt Helen wielded her cane and her stentorian tones, berated the butcher, raided the store cupboard to make our traditional family haroseth, pounding nuts relentlessly into powder with mortar and pestle. We scoured our upstairs nursery rooms, emptying every closet, dusting every book and toy, knowing our rooms would have to pass our mother's eagle-eyed inspection. Read More 
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