Chasing Down The Muse: In the midst of joys and sorrows

“Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished...”

— Mary Oliver

Spring has sprung! At least it feels so as I write on this lovely post-weekend morning. As pale blue light fills the eastern sky, the sounds begin. First, I hear the mourning dove’s call.

”So, who are you?” he asks. I wonder what he really wants to know.


Then, “quick! quick!” sounds the chirping of finches as I sit down to my morning journaling.

“First, breathe,” is my unspoken response as I pick up my pen and begin the dawn ritual. Just then, a last wailing howl is raised by hillside coyotes as if to make sure they are noted too.

The sweet scent of orange blossoms floats on the still morning air — air that has the smooth softness of cashmere at this early hour. The strong aroma comes drifting, not from orange trees, but from the pittosporum trees that are in full bloom and that later in the day will be filled with the buzzing of bees as warmth reaches the Earth.

I love this time of morning as the world seems to begin to wake up. Though I know this is not truly the case — as the soft “thunk” of the Los Angeles Times and the purr of the delivery truck engine remind me just then — it is true of the immediate world surrounding me in this moment.


Early Monday morning is a time that I use to sort through what matters most and set priorities and goals for first the hour and then the day and week ahead. It is a time for reflecting, for gratitude, for grace.

After another wonderful weekend of teaching art with Suzette Rosenthal, my mind had turned often to reflection. There we were playing with mixed media with 12 other women in the relaxing and yet stimulating environment of the Sawdust Art Festival grounds.

These women were and are unique and filled with vitality. I am grateful for these opportunities to do what I love with people like this. It fills me up. And yet too many unsettling things had shown up in the previous week. They disturbed my peace of mind.

I am saddened by the recent loss of another unique and delightful woman I had come to know — Jody Hoy. As mothers so often do, Jody and I first bonded over her son, Josh. Over time our relationship had extended into many other areas, however. I will miss her tiny but mighty self.

In her photography, she captured the essence of so many of the things in people and nature that I love and admire. The gift of life has been paid back by the gifts she has given.

Life is like this. In the midst of enjoying it — as we should — there is all too often sadness over its many losses as well. We go on. Still, at this early morning hour, with the fullness of life all around as the day wakens, I find myself pushing pause in order to acknowledge my own gratitude for all of it, for as long as it lasts. And so I reflect.

The plaintive bleating of goats echoes across the canyon to break my reverie. Again, I hear the finches’ call to speed, to move on. Time’s a-wasting and there is so much to see, so much to enjoy, in all this fullness of spring.

And I hear in my mind more of poet Mary Oliver’s words, when she continues to write about her work, “…which is mostly rejoicing …which is gratitude….” She is thankful “to be given a mind and a heart … a mouth with which to give shouts of joy.”


So am I, Mary…so am I.

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer and counselor who seeks to enjoy life to its fullest…through optimism, curiosity, creativity, play, and, above all, gratitude. You can reach her by phone at (714) 745-9973 or e-mail