Marje Treff earns the chance to learn pipemaking from an Italian master
by Stephen A. Ross
As a professor of adult education and instructional systems technology at Indiana University, Dr. Marjorie (Marje) Treff encourages her students to always be on the lookout for opportunities to learn new skills. She urges them to show up every day, be fully present in all that they do and be open to new challenges. So, when Roberto and Silvana Ascorti offered to host Treff for a few weeks in Cucciago, Italy, to learn pipemaking, Treff jumped at the chance.
The Ascortis had traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, in May to attend a pipe trunk show at The Briar & The Burley, where Treff sometimes pitches in as bartender to help host events. During a late-night dinner after the event, Treff, an amateur woodworker, made an offhand comment about how nice it would be to travel to Italy to learn pipemaking. Without hesitation, the Ascortis extended an invitation. Though she was pleased with the Ascortis’ generosity, Treff didn’t take the invitation seriously. After all, it had been a long day, and a considerable amount of wine had been consumed by everybody. While it would be fascinating to learn about pipemaking, Treff imagined, neither Roberto nor Silvana could have been serious.
Or so Treff thought. A few weeks passed, and then one night while she slept, she received a text message. “Who could be texting me at this hour?” Treff thought as she rose from her bed to check the message in case it was an emergency. The text was from Silvana, confirming the invitation to come to Italy to learn pipemaking and urging Treff to let her know when she would arrive in Milan so that the Ascortis could pick her up.
“That’s when I discovered they were serious,” Treff says, beaming as she recalls that 3:30 a.m. text message. “I couldn’t believe it.”
While it’s a little surprising that the Ascortis would make such a generous proposal, the path that led Treff to receiving the invitation in the first place is an even more amazing tale and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of getting out of your own way and letting yourself flow into opportunities that arise.
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