Chasing Down the Muse: We all have our personal ode to joy

March 13, 2014|By Cherril Doty

"Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…" — Rodgers and Hammerstein

Amid the morning bird chatter, my mind retrieved a conversation from the day before: At the end of the telling of an inspirational story, my friend Suzette had said to me, "I asked myself, 'What things bring me joy?'"

I kept returning to her self-question during the day, and now here it was again. And it had arrived right in the middle of one of many things that bring me joy — waking to the sounds of a new day.


I often muse on the fact that it is a good thing that Laguna Beach is a bird sanctuary. Birds seem to play a huge part in my own joy. From the onset of twittering birdsong at dawn right on through midnight hooting of owls or the crazy trill of a nighttime mockingbird nearby, I am filled with joy at it all.

Then there is the soft cooing of doves, the laughter of gulls, the scurrying of shorebirds, the near-constant caw of masterful black crows and the shrill, harsh cry of the scrub jay in a nearby flowering pittosporum.

And flight — what of flight? We have soaring hawks on alert for prey in our canyons. My heart seems to soar even as I watch their graceful path. Evening brings a migration of large numbers of crows up through these same canyons. Increasing numbers of brown pelicans either swoop low over the ocean or fly in formation high above the cliffs, then comically dive with a graceless splash as one spots a morsel offshore.

Occasionally, I have been lucky enough to see a roadrunner clump along quickly before catching a current to ride down canyon. Anthropomorphizing, I think what a thrill this liftoff must be for them. And what of the rapid movement of those territorial hummingbirds as they greedily seek to stave off any intrusion on their perceived territory?

Each year, I eagerly await the somewhat rare sighting of a pair or two of black oystercatchers with their red-orange bills and loud, piping call. The arctic tern, occasional osprey and so many others also make their appearances here along our shores.

As I watched a flycatcher flitting about in a nearby red-flowered cape honeysuckle, I could not help but be reminded of Suzette's question.

There are so many opportunities for joy in a given day if we only look for them.

Lately, I seem to be a little obsessed with birds, but there are so many joys.

What of a child's easy laughter? Or the baby's soft skin, the very miracle of its being? The sound of water gently rushing over rocks or lapping at the shoreline is a joyful music. The mysterious beauty at the very center of so many flowers and other joys found in nature's bounty are wonderful surprises.

I guess I need not go on. There are just too many joys to enumerate. As the song says, "These are (just) a few of my favorite things."

And so I will pay Suzette's question forward. What brings you joy?

CHERRIL DOTY is an artist and writer 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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