Chasing Down The Muse: You can count on death, taxes and change

"The only things certain in life are death and taxes."

— Benjamin Franklin


Certainties. So many folks say blithely that death and taxes are the only ones. I beg to differ. What about gorgeous days and joy and exhilaration and, well, just the pure fullness of life?

Monday being the day our income taxes are due, this seemed a good time to throw in my 2 cents about certainties.

Sure, the world is filled with uncertainty. I don't think many folks know that better than I do. I can understand the cynicism that begot Ben Franklin's words. Still, I believe there is a balance, or pendulum swing, or dichotomy — whatever you like to call it — that provides a form of certainty. Whatever today looks like, soon things will change. That's certain!

As I sit down to write this after one of those stunning sun-drenched coastal days, a trio of mockingbirds warbles on into the darkness. Their song is lovely, a paean to the glorious day that has been. The past days have brought rain and wind and bitter cold. Now this. Change is the certainty here.

Surely, tomorrow will bring with it yet more changes. Sometimes, we rail at the changes. Quite often change is the good news.

I had set a day for studio time, time to be creative at last, to do what I wanted. This was to be a day when I would break out and make art for the first time in weeks. It would be art that had no parameters on it other than completion.

Ha! Nothing was working — nothing. I stuck with it. The time was not to be wasted. Still, nothing but failed attempts. Did I have preconceived ideas about what the pieces would look like? No, that wasn't it. It just wasn't my best day.

And then I remembered. Just do it. Learn from it. Tomorrow will be different. It will change. Today, failure. Tomorrow, success. The revolving door of change is like that. What the heck, there's always a quick coat of gesso if there is no hope at all. That's for certain! Or not.

And, as I stepped out the studio's back door, the sparkling blue of the distant sea twinkled up at me; the birds sang their songs from the gently moving leaves of nearby trees. The sun shone down on the new leaf and flower buds and warmed my skin. Perhaps the only certainty is this moment, whatever it holds. Perhaps this moment can be filled with the gratitude it deserves and we can enjoy each precious nanosecond of it. It is what it is and it will change soon enough.

The sun will fade away. The birdsong will cease soon enough — well, maybe not the persistent mockingbird who sings long into the night, mocking us all. The cool breeze rustling the leaves of the tree may change to hot wind or stillness. We cannot know for certain. But change they all will.

Knowing that all of this is certain — death and taxes included, of course — I choose to embrace the myriad moments of joy, to fill myself up for the certain change that is to come.

Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, "The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away."

Everything changes. The certainty is that this is so.

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

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