Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Wandering Buddha

May 23, 2014

First posted 7/27/12


Not long ago Mrs. C. and I decided to visit The Portland Japanese Garden. Portland’s climate is similar to Japan’s and our garden is considered one of the best in the country. We visit every few years and try to time our trips when the cherry trees are blossoming. Helpful guides are on hand to explain the history of Japanese landscape design and the evolution of a garden which was once the site of our zoo’s elephant house. We’ve always preferred wandering around on our own, but this last time a tour was departing as we entered. We joined it.


I snapped dozens of pictures; as usual I never fail to be rejuvenated by the garden and inspired by Japanese culture and their love of nature. Toward the end of our tour we paused to take pictures. I noticed a knee-high stone carving of the young Buddha a short distance from the path we’d been following.


“What can you tell us about this sculpture?” I asked, pointing at it.


Our guide scratched his ear and ran a hand through his sparse hair. “I can’t tell you much,” he said.


This seemed out of character; until now he’d been a font of information, a botanical and cultural encyclopedia.


“I’ve been a volunteer guide here for about twenty years,” he explained. “This statue of Buddha turned up a few months ago. We have no idea where it came from or how it happens to be here.”


The tour’s curiosity was piqued and cameras clicked like a swarm of cicadas.


“We’ve researched the statue and learned that it’s approximately a hundred and fifty years old, but we haven’t managed to learn anything more. We’ll never know for sure, but it’s possible it came from a temple and was taken as a souvenir by an American soldier during the war.”


That didn’t explain how or why the Buddha ended up here. When the tour was over Mrs. C. and I returned to the statue so I could take a few more pictures. The Buddha wasn’t all that massive, but it had to weigh close to thirty pounds. Heavy for a war souvenir. Had it sat in a GI’s garden until he grew remorseful and decided to return it? Curious since Portland was a long way from Japan. Of course it might not have been a GI at all. But someone managed to breech security and lug it through dense foliage and twisted uneven paths.


Secrets and mysteries are said to be the domain of sphinxes, but here in Portland we have a mysterious and enigmatic Buddha. Perhaps one day our Buddha will open his eyes and let us in on his secret. Until then, someone had better keep their eyes on this guy. He wanders.



Old people are known to get senile and start wandering off. This seems like a case of constructive vandalism.
By: PT Dilloway on May 23, 2014
there's a story here- I just know it! Have a memorable weekend!
By: Kathe W. on May 23, 2014
This is just the fodder my imagination needs to keep going all day, thinking of this.
By: Shelly on May 23, 2014
Don't you just love a good mystery? I expect the answer to be 'legendary'!
By: The Broad on May 23, 2014
There's a great story in there somewhere. Can't wait to go check out the Buddha.
By: mindy on May 23, 2014
i love it. :)
By: TexWisGirl on May 23, 2014
Perhaps the Buddha swam across the Pacific and wandered into the garden to get dry?
By: Eva Gallant on May 23, 2014
Oh, I remember now. It's MY Buddha that must have been stolen, and, boy, will it ever look good back in my own garden.
By: Snowbrush on May 23, 2014
"cameras clicked like a swarm of cicadas." That's so funny! The whole thing is funny and a little weird, huh? I bet there's a great story there...too bad we'll probably never find out what it is. :)
By: Lexa Cain on May 23, 2014
There is a story here. Put that fertile mind to work Stephen.
By: Akansas Patti on May 23, 2014
Sooooo interesting. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on May 23, 2014
what a nice mystery that is and would make a good story. i recently visited our adelaide japanese garden which is quite small but very beautiful.
By: Fran on May 23, 2014
I love gardens of any kind, but Japanese gardens seem to have an extra dose of calm and serenity. Great mystery about the Buddha!
By: Pixel Peeper on May 23, 2014
Maybe someone just couldn't keep it any more, and brought it without saying anything first because it's usually easier to get forgiveness than permission.
By: mimi on May 23, 2014
If only he could tell his story!
By: red on May 23, 2014
Fascinating story! I'm really curious as to how it got there! We have a beautiful Japanese garden near us too--Morikami. One of my favorites places to visit.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on May 23, 2014
So are you going to make up a story about why he's there? I wouldn't have a clue where to begin.
By: LL COOL JOE on May 24, 2014
The day will come when I will beat PT Dilloway to the punch!
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on May 24, 2014
I suggest it's a mystery better left unsolved. I think it would spoil it if you knew the story behind it. Just enjoy it for the beautiful object it is.
By: Scott Park on May 25, 2014
I can't imagine how someone could lug that heavy thing into the garden unseen, but however it got there, it does look right at home!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on May 25, 2014
Ok Buddha Ninja, you're holding back on us. It's time to come clean.
By: Daniel LaFrance on May 26, 2014
What a fascinating mystery!
By: John on May 28, 2014

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