My mother's seed and bulb catalogs come several times a year, and I search through them the way a lost child looks down store aisles. But of all the exotic images that come bursting off the pages, nothing compares to the Creme de la Creme phlox flower.

The Creme de la Creme phlox is a thing of floral wonder. A ballad, in pink and cream petals. I turn the pages quickly until I find it, then in my thinking voice I hear, we are not what was intended; I hear it as if a switch was thrown.

Both our horror and our wonder seem captured in those words, and I can no more tell you why they come at such a moment, than I can explain the mystery that is Sarah L. Winchester. 

In 1884, after her husband died, Sarah Lockwood Winchester, of Winchester Rifle fame, moved from New Haven, Connecticut to San Jose, California. There she built a seven-story mansion

Legend has it that for more than thirty years, workers were routinely hired and then fired. Consequently, the Winchester House is something of an architectural anomaly; windows look out to windows, stairs lead to ceilings. Doors, open into nowhere.

It is said of Sarah Winchester, that she believed in ghosts; supposedly, a medium advised her that as long as she kept building, she was safe from the spirit world

For all its idiosyncrasies, however, the Winchester House isn't that much different from a heart-shaped river rock, or a nativity scene formed in a stalagmite.

We are beautiful and violent, as intended as any flower

Or we are doors that open nothing, and steps that go nowhere.

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