Chasing Down the Muse: This year, give the gift of learning

"They know enough who know how to learn."

— Henry Adams


On a cloudy Monday morning our new resident owl hooted in a nearby eucalyptus tree as dawn brought gray light to the sky. The sound haunted me, reverberating in my mind as I rose to begin my day and this column.

The owl is sacred to the Greek goddess of learning, Athena. Since learning, with all its possibilities and opening opportunities, had been on my mind as I drifted between sleep and wakefulness, the waking call seemed more than fortuitous.

This holiday season arrived with the economy still struggling along, and at our house a new roof and other high-dollar necessary home repairs. I sought to find gifts for my family that could open minds and hearts and give them that special gift of knowledge. And yet not cost too much.

What could be better than the gift of learning? Any way you look at it, learning is a win/win. Being open to learn something new at any time is such a special blessing. Even if one does not have a natural curiosity but can still manage that openness … wow! The possibilities are just so endless.

Always one to wonder "What if…?", even my daily journal is peppered with this question. Sometimes there is no answer readily apparent. The quest for knowledge — however fleeting — is then on.

New and different ways to do things — especially if they upcycle materials — intrigue me. When I can pass the quest on, I am a happy soul.

The past weekend was filled with learning opportunities for me. I relished them. As I partook of Maggie Spencer's fused glass class at the Sawdust Studio Art Classes, the "what if…?" kept popping up as I sought to use cast-off shards of glass.

While watching students in Erin Elowe's water casting class play with a myriad of possibilities, the question arose. Each piece created seemed to open up to evermore potential.

In another of our Sunday studio workshops, Suzette Rosenthal and I encouraged our students to stretch, to try new ways, to learn. And, as usual, they challenged us right back to do the same. The win/win of learning was abundantly present.

How could I find ways to gift members of my family with the same kind of opportunity? The evolving list was filled with possibilities — classes, new tools to try, a recycled wooden box filled with recycled supplies, books filled with ideas. Prospects were infinite. Now I could hear Buzz Lightyear replacing the hoot of the owl with "To infinity and beyond!" This was fun.

As I moved on to gather the bits and pieces needed for these gifts, I once again counted my blessings. And I realized there is one gift perhaps more valuable even than learning: family together for the holidays.

May your holidays be joyous, safe, filled with incredible imaginings and the gifts of learning in the warm circle of your own family and friends.

Hoo-hoo! To infinity and beyond!

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist, writer, counselor and manager of the Sawdust Studio Art Classes in Laguna Beach. Always fascinated, inspired and titillated by the beauty and the ever-changing mysteries of life, she can be reached at or by phone at (714) 745.9973.

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