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Mocha Musings: To open new doors, step outside your own

I recently signed up for a class called Beginning Blues Harmonica at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), one of the many gems Ashland has to offer. I always thought it would be cool to be sitting around the campfire at night with friends and be able to play a harmonica. You know the scene: there’s one hip guy with Jackson Browne long hair strumming a guitar, gazing thoughtfully into the flames, while the rest of us, bundled up in our Patagonias and REIs, sing along slightly off-key trying to remember the words to songs we haven’t sung in years. And then, as my personal fantasy goes, I reach into the back pocket of my jeans and oh, so casually, play a few riffs on my trusty blues harp.

Yeah, well, turns out it’s not quite that easy (or everyone would be doing it), but this class is a tribute to just how quickly we can learn in certain settings if we put our minds to it. After just five group classes, we were all wailing away on our harmonicas and having a great time; in no small part due to the enthusiasm and skill of the teacher, the incomparable Irving Lubliner (who, by way of being cool, has performed on Bourbon Street in New Orleans).

Which brings me to the essence of my thought today: the importance of learning for the sake of learning. Learning for the connections we make with others — and with parts of ourselves that perhaps we’ve never had the time, or the opportunity, to get in touch with before. What about learning just for the fun of it?

And here is where the thread of life takes off on its own little riff. A classmate and I decided to go out on a limb and perform a solo for the final class. As we were practicing in the band shell at Lithia Park last Sunday with two bored mallards as our only audience, we suddenly heard a male voice. “Hey, can I video you guys for my blog?” There stood a man in his early 60S. Seems he and his dog, Montana, are on a road trip, travelling to the Dakotas, then on to wherever the road will take them. He liked what we were doing, so, of course, we said, yeah, sure, go ahead. We chatted some, and then he left. But not before inviting us to come visit him on the beach in California someday for some of his home-baked waffles.

The way I see it is this: the adventure begins by stepping outside your front door. It doesn’t have to be a big, expensive trip or a cruise. It can be as simple as signing up for a class you’ve never taken before. It begins with waking up to a fresh, new day and saying to yourself: Today, I will do something different, whatever that might be. It might be meeting new people, sharing common interests, or creating some new ones; by taking risks, enjoying life, and appreciating the people around you ... and by doing something just for the heck of it.

Just like with my harmonica class, the fun is in the doing, not in how accomplished you are, or aren’t, at the end of six classes. You can teach an old dog new tricks and if you don’t believe me, ask anyone involved with animal rescue.

The simple act of staying involved and connected, of continuing to grow and learn and seek adventure: this is where we will find our wellspring, and that is where the true fountain of youth is to be found.

Award-winning author, TV presenter and world traveler Susanne Severeid is an Ashland resident who enjoys making time for the important things in life — including mocha. Read more of her columns at bit.ly/adtssmm. For more, go to www.susannesevereid.com. Email her at susannewebsite@olypen.com.