Love passed, the muse appeared, the weather
of mind got clarity newfound;
now free, I once more weave together
emotion, thought and magic sound.
Throughout history a muse has traditionally been identified as female. In ancient Greek mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses who symbolized science, literature and the arts. Each presided over a particular sphere in which she possessed artistic talent; all were gifted with great beauty and allure. Their role was to relieve the world of its sorrows and serve as inspiration for poets, musicians and painters.
My muse, however, is a man; a man who unknowingly gave me a gift more than four decades ago. His gift wasn’t tangible like a ring or a book; rather, it was a gift of love and inspiration. We met on a sweltering day in a thousand-year-old fortress in Salzburg. Like the Muses of ancient mythology, he was artistically talented, and he radiated sensuality. When his eyes first met mine in an intense gaze, I was overcome with unexpected emotion.
Recognizing that he was almost twice my age, I told myself to stay away. Not only was he going to be my painting instructor for the coming month, he was, I soon learned, married with a mistress. Yet one magical afternoon led to another and soon we were lovers. Still, I did not plan to fall in love. I was in Salzburg to study painting for just one month. At the end of that time, I would return to New York and he to London. We might never see one another again, he reminded me. I told him I didn’t care.
When we parted at the end of that month, he promised to write. I was madly in love, and naively hopeful. We saw one another again twice and corresponded for several years, but our letters arrived, and were answered, at longer and longer intervals. Eventually they stopped altogether.
In the ensuing decades, I would occasionally re-read his letters, along with my journals from that summer. I would play the music we listened to and cry. Always, cry. What was I so sad about—a lost love? No. I knew early on I could never fit within his life. He was obsessed with his personal freedom and while he was honest with me about it, nothing stopped him from doing whatever he wanted. He was well educated, well read, and a well-respected painter. He was also a thinker and a philosopher whose convictions enhanced my own nescient beliefs. We spent hours in bed, making love and having long discussions that often lasted until dawn. He listened as I spoke and, when he responded, it didn’t matter if he agreed; he always took his time to explain. He was, I realized later, instilling confidence in me, as well as the powerful belief that I could do anything I put my mind to.
More than four decades later, I heard a song that triggered a memory of the moment I met him. At that point, my professional life was slowing down and, for the first time, I was unsure of where I was emotionally and with my painting. Although I’d been a creative artist all my life, I had always identified my creativity in terms of art. Yet when the song ended, I realized I not only had the name, but the first page of a story. I ran home, put my work aside, and looked at my computer. Could I write my story, a story I had never told anyone?
As I sat down, the words began to flow, and I was almost unable to stop them. I was so consumed with writing that I barely ate or slept. As I wrote, I was suddenly twenty again, infused with emotion, with love, and with a renewal of energy I hadn’t experienced in decades. I also returned to painting. It was as though, after forty-five years, my creativity had been reignited.
Three years later, 31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction was published, and I’ve been writing and painting ever since. This man’s gift continues to fuel my creative inspiration. Even in death, he remains my love, my muse.
Marcia Gloster is the author of 31 Days: A Memoir of Seduction and I Love You Today, both published by The Story Plant.