Saturday, October 30, 2010


Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins. Tricks or treats on our doorstep. Yes, Halloween is here!

This holiday has its origins in the ancient Celtic observance of Samhain (pronounced SAH~win), a festival celebrated to this day by Pagans of every hue in honor of the turning of the seasons. As Christianity spread into northwest Europe, Samhain became entwined with Roman Catholic traditions. Those who’ve passed from this world into the next are remembered on All Saints’ Day, November 1st, and All Souls’ Day, November 2nd. La Dia de Los Muertos~~The Day of the Dead~~arrives this week, also, a gift from the Aztecs of more than a thousand years ago. Deceased loved ones are honored with much fanfare over the course of several days.

Similar observances are found throughout the world, whenever autumn dances with full abandon. Like now. Trees glow in radiant colors, while the sun slips a bit lower in the southern sky each day. The last of the apples, squash, and assorted greens have been harvested just ahead of a hard frost. And as my father recently commented, “It sure is getting late a lot earlier these days.”

What is it about this time of year that stirs us so, that elicits a response so visceral that it sparks festivals across cultures and religions? We watch as life around us withdraws into cooling soil, nestled snug within root or seed. Leaves drift to the ground~~or are blown by a biting wind~~with more branches bared each day. Long gone, it seems, are the days of flowering plenty. We feel winter’s chill in the air. Death, it seems, is everywhere.

The wisdom of the earth, as these seasonal festivals and observances remind us, can help enlarge our vision. Writing of La Dia de Los Muertos, journalist Carlos Miller notes that, “unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it.”

Our small human lives reflect the universal cycle of birth, maturation, death and rebirth. As the earth faithfully and endlessly teaches, nothing truly dies, but only changes form. Garden becomes compost and compost becomes garden. Cloud becomes rain, and rain becomes plant or river. Plant bears life~giving fruit, while river transforms into lake or ocean to rise as vapor and become cloud once again. Nothing ends. Nothing is lost. Remembering this allows for a gentler letting go than does the view of death as endpoint.

Indian~born philosopher, writer and spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti, tells us that, “to live every day as if it were a new loveliness, there must be a dying to everything of yesterday. Otherwise,” he writes, “you live mechanically, and a mechanical mind can never know what love is or what freedom is.”

Living everyday as if it were a new loveliness? Sign me up!

Yet to live poised in this moment and no other requires practice. Opening to the lessons of this season can assist us. As we watch leaves drift to the ground, we can, tree~like ourselves, release that which has served its function in our lives. As the natural world slows, we can turn inward and rest as well, nestled in our own nurturing soil~~that Consciousness that supports us all~~while new seed germinate within us and our roots do the silent prep work for the new fruit that will appear with the continued turning of the Great Wheel.

And as costumed children grace our doorsteps, we can see through the costumes we all wear, and the illusions that separate life from death, one living being from another, and this very moment from the next and the one that went before.

It is all Now, all a web of interconnectedness. And we are part of it. Each moment is, indeed, a new loveliness. We need only remove the masks from our own faces and see.

I wish you a new loveliness, this day and always!

Loanne Marie

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Habit of Joy

My father began walking the Appalachian Trail after retirement. He learned to play tennis in his seventies and cleared noxious plants from State Parks into his eighties. He traveled by bike, car, train, boat and plane until a series of falls confined him to a wheelchair and a life so much smaller than it once was. He is now consumed by what he has lost and has difficulty recognizing the good that does remain.

What can I learn from my father’s suffering? Many things, but a prime lesson concerns the importance of cultivating the habit of joy. I like that phrase~~the habit of joy.

Our attention is a sun warming and enlivening whatever it falls upon. We can choose to shine this light on our capacity for happiness, thus growing the tendency into a steady habit. Why not do so now, while things are so much easier than they might one day be?

Certainly every life has its challenges, with some seeming to contain more than is fair or reasonable. Still, most of us live lives of luxury compared with our ancestors of even a few generations ago or with the majority of the world’s population today. Even on our worst day, there are many who would trade places with us in a New York minute. No, make that a Darfur, Laotian, or Afghani minute.

We have no bombs exploding around us and most of us are not scavenging for food. If our days were filled with such grim realities, how we would rejoice simply to wake one morning to their absence! And yet this very experience greets us daily, though we seldom notice.

In addition to such good fortune, we also are given quieter, more subtle pleasures. Like this very moment. Perhaps a loved one is nearby as you read this, or sunlight streams through the window to fall across a hardwood floor. Maybe you’ve just finished a satisfying meal or bathed in heated water that came from just a turn of the faucet. Or perhaps simply breathing life~giving air on a small blue planet is miracle enough for today.

I can’t know what delights surround you, but you do~~or can discover them with just a bit of effort. Perhaps you can stop right here, right now~~yes, in mid~blog~~to recognize the sweetness of what is. And if you find little to brighten your day, please look again.

As we strengthen our capacity to open to joys, large and small, each moment becomes enchanted. We also grow in our ability to consciously choose where to invest our precious energy, thus reducing negativity’s hold on us. By choosing wisely again and again~~throughout this day and the next, and the one that follows that~~joy and gratitude can become habitual. We then more consistently carry this perspective with us out into the world, hopefully softening the way for others.

As for my father, a weary man who seems unable to cultivate such a habit at this stage of his life, I make this promise. I will do it for you, Dad. I will gratefully accept the genes you have passed on to me, and I will regularly bathe them in joy. In your honor, I will grow this habit and weave it throughout the life you have given me, nurturing it consistently while transforming my own negativity.

And I will not wait another minute~~New York, Darfur, Laotian, or Afghani~~to begin.

May we all cultivate, like good little gardeners, this habit of joy!

Be well,

Loanne Marie

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Night Sky

I’m in the midst of one of those hectic times~~lots to do at work and at home, while readying myself for a trip back east to spend time with my 91~year~old father. Near~constant motion has been my mode for days, with a to~do list reminiscent of horror films in which every downed beast is promptly replaced by two others.

Thankfully, the items on my list are not monsters nor are they the slightest bit bothersome. They are all things I want to do, things I do gladly. They just look to be in boundless supply. Writing this essay is on that list. But this is a crafty item that morphed into two without my ever having had the satisfaction of crossing it out first.

Before the writing, you see, one needs an idea. I had none.

Most of the time, potential topics tumble over themselves vying for my attention. Like eager first graders, they jump up and down, shouting “Pick me! Pick me!” This week, however, it seemed that I was the one doing all the hopping about. Ideas might be there, but I couldn’t catch one with a first baseman’s mitt. Obviously, I needed to quiet myself. Be still. Listen.

And with that realization, my friends, an idea appeared. Yep, a theme nosedived right into that mitt o’ mine.

I waited until the sun set on this gorgeous autumn day. With a waning moon and no clouds sidling in to mar my view, I knew I would be gifted a ring~side seat at one of the most spectacular of mountain skies. So with my husband as my willing companion, we set out for a high spot beyond the reach of artificial lights. We wanted only the luminous glow of stars amid galaxies and the glimmer of our own small sun reflected off nearby planets. Finding the perfect place, we spread a blanket over the rapidly cooling ground. We stretched out, earth below, infinity unfurled above.


When I look up into the inkiness of a Colorado night sky filled with untold points of dazzling light, everything stops. Small thoughts and plans and worries and, yes, to~do lists all evaporate with a single upward glance. The sky fills me and I surrender into it. I’m instantly brought into balance with the cosmos and my place in it.

I’ve heard others describe how such a scene makes them aware of their teensy smallness, and I guess the same is true for me. But what seems truer is that all distinctions drop away. The boundaries between me and everything else vanish or, more accurately, are recognized as mere illusion after all. The notion of a separate self dissolves. All is immeasurable spaciousness, including the galaxies swirling within the neurons and molecules of my own body.

So, we rested within a sweeping Milky Way and gazed into stars light years beyond ours. We bid a silent greeting to Jupiter, and gasped three times as shooting stars graced the sky. As we stood to fold the blanket, the first radiance of a rising moon streamed out from the east.

I’m back home now. As I peck out these pleasing but wholly insufficient words, I’m reminded of a quote, author unknown, that I saw on a piece by Colorado fiber artist, Robin Richards. “The soul needs a daily dose of Vastness.”

Pencil in hand, I reach out now and check three things from my to~do list: an idea for a column, the column itself, and my soul’s daily dose of Vastness.

Wishing you each your own daily dose!


Loanne Marie