Chasing Down The Muse: End of summer signals shift in priorities

"These images remain,…though we are caught by time, by time estranged."

—May Sarton


The first Monday in September signals the end of summer here in the United States. It has ever since 1894, when it was selected by Congress as a special day to celebrate the dignity of labor.

As families and friends plan outings, picnics and barbecues, a shift seems to take place. The end of summer means a flurry of last-minute vacations, and back-to-school shopping becomes the new focus.

Almost like the New Year, Labor Day now marks a time to look forward and back. It is a time to note what was accomplished and what was left not done. For me, as with the New Year, I find myself filled with resolutions for what is to come.

As festival season wraps up, there is a thirst in me that cannot seem to be slaked. I find myself enjoying an abundance of good summer memories and yet contemplating all that was missed. As May Sarton says, there are the images, but they are somehow estranged by time.

The first "missed" item is the wonder of nature as it exists here in Laguna.

Of course, I have been sitting in nature all summer in the form of the beautiful grounds of the Sawdust Art Festival, but it is just not the same. It is, first of all, not the glorious experience of alone time in nature.

After all, the festival experienced increased attendance this year, and I was constantly surrounded by a bustle of humans.

The festival season is good for our town and yet we all look forward to this time when it ends. What I now resolve to enjoy before the season changes and the days shorten is time for the long vista, the solo contemplation.

I am called to sit beneath a tree and look out across the canyon as the early evening light moves and casts an orange glow on the green. I look forward to the cool evening breezes across my skin and the loud call of crows to their brethren as the days end.

There is a longing to walk along the beach with scurrying shorebirds just past dawn, gentle waves lapping at my feet, the occasional castoff sea glass beckoning. The joy of isolation on the sand, often shrouded by morning fog, is one of the blessings that I seek in the slower time of fall that is coming.

Oh sure, for a while, I will miss the clang of the trolleys, the buzz of the crowds and the bustle of focused intention as each day begins. I doubt, though, it will take long to revert to the enjoyment of silence or of leisurely time spent with friends and family.

Soon, the clang of the trolley will be replaced by the horn of a school bus rounding a bend in the road. The buzz of the crowd will be exchanged for the gleeful sound of children at a bus stop. Focused intention will simply shift to other things.

There is also that persistent tapping on my shoulder of my personal muse. I have for too long forced myself to reluctantly shove these tappings off to the side in order to focus on the business at hand. Shrugging off the call to create is one of the most difficult of my summer tasks, but one I will no longer drive myself to do.

Luckily, I have made notes and sketches that time will soon allow to come to fruition. Chasing down my muse can begin in earnest again.

Thus, Labor Day is welcome in my life so that I can once again enjoy the blessings of living here in Laguna Beach, as I have for so many years. The lure of long afternoon light, the soft sounds of a less-populated shoreline, time for focused creative energy and enjoyment of friendships — the day is a celebration of labor, but also a time for shifting to a bit slower, less hectic pace.

No longer estranged by time, the muse and I are ready. You probably are, too.

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

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