Chasing Down The Muse: Canyon artists are down, but not out

With every loss there is some gain; with every gain some loss.


The tag from the tea bag hung over the side of the steaming cup in front of me. I could not help but see the wisdom in the words. They come at such an opportune time, as these things so often do.

The day was spent sorting through things, tossing out soggy papers, books, and other supplies just not worth salvaging any longer. As I worked in my studio, I could not but help thinking of Olivia Batchelder and Marsh Scott, friends who have lost so much in these recent rains. As I struggled through my own cleaning, I wondered how they could even begin the clearing of their own far greater messes. And what gain could be found from their disastrous losses?

Other artist friends, too, especially those in Laguna Canyon, have suffered losses — some just as severe; others not so much. When it is your own loss it is always a great challenge to surmount. Again, though, what is the gain?

Can an outpouring of love and assistance from friends and strangers alike count as gain? I suppose each person must decide this for themselves. I think so, though. The support has come on so many different levels, too, from shoveling mud to money and storage space and beyond. Good people have come forward to help. Definitely a gain from a loss in my book.

Is the clean slate at the end of the cleanup enough to erase or at least ease the pain of loss? Fresh eyes without prior agendas are often a wondrous tool. But, again, is this enough? And, again, I suppose it is up to each of us to make the decision as to how we are to view this tool.

I think of how the people I know are handling the loss at its onset with pluck and determination, even as they are struck "numb" by the monumental tasks in front of them. There are wonderful, hopeful little stories that echo back from the devastation in the canyon.

Tearing off the somehow surviving edges of destroyed art works is one artist's way. She sees these small shards with an eye to future possibilities of a collage telling the story of this horrific event.

The finding of odd bits of glass and other detritus from a long ago dump conjures up creative possibility for another artisan. The mud and silt seems to hold new treasure for some of the beholders.

As friend Suzette and I sift through wet but otherwise relatively unscathed bits in my own studio, she spots something I am dropping into the bin, seeing it in a different light than I do. I retrieve a small piece she has tossed as no good.

Losses and gains: how will they be tallied in the end? Much of the accounting will not be found in the numbers, but in the hidden things. Even much of what might in the end count as gain will come with its own kind of loss perhaps down the road a way. The scale shifts and wobbles. It is all a beautiful balancing act. Those with the ability and the spirit to pull up out of the mud will do so with plenty of gains, I suspect. I believe that the vast majority of the artists and artisans who have suffered loss in Laguna Canyon are to be counted among those.

At the end of the day, another cup of tea, another tea tag. The beauty in you is your spirit. I sip this cup and toast Laguna's down but definitely not out artist. Here's to a bright and beautiful new year to you, one and all!

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, counselor…always fascinated, inspired, and titillated by the myriad mysteries of life. She can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745-9973.

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