Colleen Hannegan

Finding the words....and the perfect pair of glasses.

Where We Find Us~~

marriage, Adventure, Love, Travel, Spirited LifeColleen HanneganComment

We met on a dirt trail. Me in a dirty heap, with blood oozing down my left arm, my thumb hanging by its tendon. Gravel and more dirt ground into my hair, across my legs, my bike in a heap next to me. Strangers had helped me remove my bike helmet and encouraged me to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out. I was making some jokes about my state of affairs as the crowd grew around me. Wondering, no doubt, how I could have crashed on this really flat spot of the mountain bike trail.

He stood quietly nearby, his mountain bike and his riding buddies watching over me until the paramedics arrived to cart me away. He saw me but I didn’t see him. We formally met each other two months later when I returned to the trails to ride with his group. He rode at the back of the group with me and taught me how to ride, be safe, and shared the pure joy of playing outside again with me at 50 years young and him at 58.

We fell in love while we rode into new wilderness places together or hiked new trails he introduced to me. We got married 10 years later. Third time was a special charm for both of us. Riding and hiking into out sunset years, welcoming mature love into our last chapters, we return as often as possible to wilderness places to find ourselves again and again. The best part of us. The honest, forever young, happy, spiritual seekers we recognize in each other…. out there. We always find it and return refreshed.

Last week-end we headed out to Palm Springs for a sunny pool retreat. We included a hike up the North Lykken Trail above the city. I’d been up on the trail on two other visits to P.S. I was anxious to take Al up there, knowing he would love it’s wild, rugged, winding trail and the vast view it offered of the desert floor below.

The craggy rocks and bold boulders, the zig zaggy trail required us to mind our footfalls and stay focused. Our hiking poles were keeping us well balanced. The early morning sun was warm, not hot, yet. The trail rose quickly but spread cool shadows across us, carrying us up and up. We paused to catch our breath now and again and for a chance to look how far we’d come. And to look up at the merging of bright blue above and the determined, jagged silhouette of this mountain that held us.

Hiking PS.jpg

Al always wants to go farther. I’m usually the one that says, we need to turn around now. The sun was hotter, our water supply dwindling, and knowing our knees would require patience on our part to hike down, he agreed. One hour out, would be one hour back.

On our descend, we both commented on the special feeling this trail had, how it seemed to draw you up and in it, and that only the hearty hiker would be moved to be up on this mountain as every step required attention.

Four days later, back home, we were still talking about the magical feeling this trail offered. And why it felt like I sensed a presence around us. I’d kept looking around on the way down, wondering if I heard or saw something. A coyote watching? A snake? A Native spirit? A ghost? (Albeit a good ghost.)

Al finds his confidence and identity out there where nature brings out the best of us. A quiet man, he chooses his words carefully. If I want him to talk to me more, I invite him out to the nearest dirt trails to hike or bike together. It loosens up the tightness that suburbia delivers.

He had something to share with me. “ I think that hiking out in the desert, on a trail like this, with no trees, low brush, mostly rocks with all life very close to the ground, allows our own spirit to be free. And that what we sense around us is actually our very own energy flow, our own spirit. That when we hike in a forested area, or even the other desert trail we’ve hiked surrounded by palm trees, we are aware of the energy of those trees.”

He continued. “Trees and all life have energy and we’ve never hiked such a sparse trail like this before. There are usually trees and canyons and more plants. But out on this trail our body energy was able to fly freely about, unobstructed by trees or larger boulders and such. I think we became aware of out own energy flying about us. I thnk that’s what you heard; what you sensed. And I did as well.”

And so it is. Me and Al finding us. Out there. And by the pool. And the hot tub. And the cozy, private room that afforded us a lovely leisure and resbite from the noises of a busy world.

“There, up there, that’s where we gotta go!”

“There, up there, that’s where we gotta go!”

Whew! What a summer......

FearlessnessColleen HanneganComment

Fires, fires and more fires. Record breaking size of fires. And smoke, everywhere there were fires and even where there weren't. And heat and humidity. For us Southern California peeps we cried and cried about humidity. Looking over the West Coast maps that showed where fires were burning all at once, gave me an Armageddon kind of feeling. Like when I used to believe in Armageddon. Now I believe in good people and not good people and try to stay clear of the not good ones.

The beauty surrounded by the prickly.

The beauty surrounded by the prickly.

The signs in the heavens; the eclipses and retrogrades and meteor showers, blood moons, big moons, solar flares, earthquakes, landslides, floods, news that the polar caps had record heat days and then to see Hurricane Lane and it's 160+ mph winds making history and messing with the Big Island that was still reeling from volcanic eruptions and lava flows. I could see and feel the anxiety that affected my work in retail. People were ultra sensitive and sometimes easily upset.

No wonder. I was happy not to go anywhere but to work, then home. I avoided crowds and too much direct sun. Thank heavens we have a/c at work and home. I might have had a few too many vodka tonics over these past three months but I chalked it up as holy water that blessed me and then maintained my low profile.

Last week, I went for an overdue haircut and encouraged Joseph to cut off three inches. An inch for each of the past three months that seemed just a bit too much! For two days I regretted the extra trim, but now it feels good. 

This big, blue, beautiful marble that spins us 'round and 'round and holds us down and feeds us and breathes for us, has its own agenda and simultaneously tries to handle all the shit we throw at it everyday at the same time. I see how we've collectively taken for granted all its majesty and have far too long, ignored our increasing human footprint and handprint. I'm confident enough of us are working together to repair and more closely address our earth home's needs, knowing we can better take care of ours at the same time.

Earth and its wonders reminds me to be more flexible, to make good change as needed, be aware of my neighbor and fully stop at all red lights. Try and slow down a bit.

Last evening I made plane reservations in October to travel to a place I've been wanting to visit for a long time. It seemed like a positive action after so many months of feeling fear and staying so close to home.  I went to bed and promptly had a nightmare that when we arrived, fires had just broken out and the sky was filling with smoke and clouding out the blue above.

Gee, I wonder why?






A Father's Day Story

Colleen Hannegan3 Comments
A visit with Pops in San Clemente 2011

A visit with Pops in San Clemente 2011

Theodore Wayne Hannegan

His eyes would light up when any of his children entered the room. This was the first time he’d been hospitalized since 1944 when he was treated for malaria.

My dad was dying.

The doctors were amazed at how healthy his heart was; all channels clear. “Ted”, his doctor comments as he looked up from the monitor. “Your heart is beautiful.” 

HIs lungs were not. Seventy years of smoking had shredded his lungs. Pneumonia was settling in and gaining ground; slowly drowning him.

He was 87 years old and still funny as ever, trying not to laugh at his own smart remarks he loved to make. I can’t recall his comment, looking back to my visit with him to his doctor. But I remember his belly laugh. It would start deep inside him and gain momentum and shake his body and have anyone in the room laughing with him. Even in the midst of his own bad news, Dad made a joke about his failings and had us laughing again.

The laughing starts the coughing. He grabbed hold of the bed frame and doubled over in pain.

The coughing, he said, feels like he’s getting beat up. HIs face reddens and he gasped for air. The portable oxygen tank that he always carried with him now, helped to  force more pure air into his lungs but he was fighting a losing battle and he knew it and we all knew it. 

He shook his legs in response to his suffering.

I laid next to him in his hospital bed and held his hand and pet his head as he’d done for me when I was a child, sick in bed, and waited with him while the spasms subsided. Yesterday hadn’t been this bad. But today he was much weaker.

I got up to straighten his blanket and get him a drink of water. I place my hands around his ankles and feel the love energy transfer to him immediately. “Oh honey”, he says, “that feels so good.”

My sister Molly was with me on this visit. She held Dad’s hand, petting his arm, tears in her eyes.

He had us in giggles moments before and now we were trying to calm him, sooth him, his body, fighting for air, fighting for life.

In between his coughs and laughs, he answered his calls from a few of his twelve children, all sending love and checking in on his condition. There’s the shy son who can’t handle the thought of losing Dad, and the angry son who calls to comfort. No man could be a perfect human being, a perfect father, a perfect husband. But what I knew of TW in my lifetime, his mistakes were few and and his attempts to shower us with love were many.

All of us and his fifty grandchildren are praying to keep Dad with us a bit longer and somehow ease his pain and suffering with a phone call, holding his hand and rubbing his feet.

Mom died two years previously. Not one of us were prepared to be on this planet without a mother or a father. 

Our dad was a father who loved unconditionally. He was always available with a warm hug, a visit to our bedroom with a good night wish or a check in to see how we were. He could open one bedroom door and be greeted by two to four of his children at once. All happy to see him, feeling this love and humor and knowing we were each special in his eyes.

From my Dad, I was shown how to talk with people and represent myself, but even more importantly, I was taught how to listen. Dad was a listener. He made his living as a salesman but what he really brought to my world was his kindness and patience with people and his humor in so many moments. While Mom was the stricter disciplinarian, Dad was the warm hearted listener. I never saw him get angry. I’ve been told of his anger from an older sister in regards to one of of my brothers. Dad had confessed he’d always regretted losing his temper. A father of six daughters and six sons would no doubt have had tough moments with any of us.

I recall when he tried to talk me out of getting married at 17. It wasn’t an easy talk for him but he made a serious effort to change my mind and really consider what I was deciding for myself. There would be no changing my mind. I was set on my plans to get out into the world. I was not shamed or talked down to. I married despite his talk. The marriage didn’t last but it did bring my beautiful daughter Leah into this world.

There were years inside my second marriage where I was trapped in a psychologically damaging marriage and had been persuaded to stay away from my family. Dad tried to reach out to me. He never judged me or turned away from me. Both the strong love my parents and my family had for me, brought me out of that abusive life and back to my family, My Dad treated all his children with all encompassing  love. He knew who we were. 

And now I watched him slipping away. I felt desperate to keep him here always. To lose my Dad was to lose an anchor that kept me in a safe place. I was not ready to see life without him in it.

I had a few moments alone with him in the hospital room one evening during a visit.  Dad had been extra talkative for a couple of hours. He’d been sitting up comfortably and able to walk on his own to the bathroom.

We sat together on his bed, holding hands. I was getting ready to head home.

“Dad, I want you to tell me something and I don’t know what it is.” 

He turned his full attention to me. “What can I tell you?,” he said.

“I don’t know. I need something. Tell me something.”

Without hesitating further,  he answered. 

“Honey, don’t wait to do something you really want to do. Go places you really want to go.” He went on to tell me about a golf trip he’d wished he’d taken with his golf buddies. 

“And why get married again? Just love the man, have fun, keep your space when you need it.   That way you can still go out on  a date and it keeps things fun.”

He squeezed my hand. “That way if you want to watch “All in the Family” and they want to watch something else, then, well, you don’t have that problem.”

I guess dad had missed a few episodes of AITF. 

“Tell me everything’s going to be alright, Dad.”

“Oh, everything’s gonna be great!”, he grinned. “I’m gonna be okay and your life is going to be wonderful.” His eyes filled with tears as did mine. We both sat quietly together for a minute and took turns with the tissue box.

My Dad’s love was always true and honest and available. He had a way of making all of his twelve children feel better just being with him. No matter who we are, where we’ve been, or what we’ve done or not done, Dad was there to cheer us on and support our ideas.

He confessed to me at one point, that he regretted not getting a college education. He felt he’d failed and should have been less selfish.

“You’re all so smart!”, he beamed.

“Dad you gave us love; a college education doesn’t teach anybody how to be a father. You gave us all what we needed most Dad. All your children love you and respect you.”

“Well, I love all you kids.”

“We know, Dad.”

We know.


Before my Dad died, he was able to say goodbye to all his twelve children, his innumerable grandchildren and great grandchildren. Dad never knew a stranger and made friends everywhere he went. He left no unfinished business.  

I was with my Dad when he died at my brother’s home where he came to live and finish his last two years of life. He had been making sure he phoned any of his children who lived away and couldn’t be at his death bed.

He had visiting grandchildren up to the last few hours before he died. No one missed out saying their I love you’s and goodbyes. He’d made sure, as hard as it was for him, to rally at the end.


It had been important to me I was by his side and helped him cross over. I was holding his hand, and whispering that he was loved, we were all going to be okay, it was okay for him to leave now. His breath struggled in his chest. Death had come and was taking away his soul from his body. It was beautiful as it was mysterious and powerful. 

A few deep sighs, as his body held on for a moment’s struggle, then he was gone. After spending the last two days making sure he stayed awake and aware to visit with his children and their children, he waited until they’d headed home to sleep and it was just he and I in his room when he decided it was time to fly away.


It was Dad’s final gift to me. He showed me something I didn’t know what it was. In telling the story now, four and a half years after his death, I know what my final lesson from my father was.

He taught me how to die if one is lucky enough to have the hours to do so. How to say goodbye and let your loved ones share those last moments, those last days so that the words could be said. That saying goodbye is something we should consider in our living every day. 

Dad had always shared his love for us throughout our lives, but he didn’t shy away from sharing the intimate moments that brought death to him. He wasn’t afraid. He made jokes and made friends with the nurses and staff who cared for him.

By  sharing Dad’s farewells, he left all of us a wonderful example of courageous dying. 

Only when we have truly loved our lives and the friends and family it has brought to us, can we be fearless in facing and embracing our final farewell.

Yesterday after I’d pulled into my parking spot at work, I found my farewell poem I’d written for him and shared at his funeral and photo of “Pops” on a sheet of paper I’d forgotten I’d tucked into the back of my car seat. It was a wonderfully warm feeling to see him smiling back at me. 

Wishing you another Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you for reminding me you still watch over me.

Love you! 


Change of venue.

Colleen HanneganComment

There are no pixs to tell this short story. Because mostly it's about food and fun and I'd prefer you'd use your imagination than have to look at one more photo of someone's plate of food.

If you follow me on FB you can see some nice shots of the Anza-Borrego desert and my happiness at spending a day and a night out there getting wowed by the amazing landscape and all the elements that greeted us for our hike and stay over. 

If you've never been and you would enjoy desert hiking in the spring, AB is a must. Nothing out there but everything wonderful about natural beauty, unspoiled by sprawling suburbia. You drive through town in less than two minutes. Some nice places to eat and stay and this was a treat  also. The desert beauty is quite stunning in its own very special way.

But my post here is about the simple pleasure of getting away from routines and work and ruts, seeing something new and getting recharged and wowed by nature because nature knows what we need and when and how to break off our crusty shells and open us up like brand new kids all over again.

Nature humbles us with its powerful views, scents, plant life, rock formations, dramatic  and undulating forms that relate to us on such a deep level, trying to describe the feeling is inadequate. Nature's grandeur was here before us, will be here after, it knows all and tells us everything we need to know and it waits to be discovered and appreciates our company if we come to it with respect and an open heartedness. We give to nature in return if we can experience it in this way. 

The next morning as we got ready to leave, my husband suggested heading home the back way out of town, through the Yaqui Pass (another beautiful landscape) and into the town of Julian for breakfast. Julian is known for its apple pie and a stop off for Pacific Crest Trail hikers. 

Meeting interesting new  people along with new places is especially appealing to me. In Julian, we discovered Soups and Such Cafe for breakfast. The ambiance inside was delightful as soon as we entered. Our waitress Beatriz was sweet and full of smiles. She seemed genuinely happy to meet us.

I'm a breakfast snob away from home. But this time our delicious egg and potato breakfast was made so perfectly, I had to meet the owner/chef and thank him personally.

Ibrahin was born in Argentina and fed well by his grandmother, he explained. His friendly face and fab smile expressed well, his passion for his cooking and his cafe. HIs wife Lani is a florist and sells her bouquets there.   They met in NYC, got married and moved to Julian where Lani grew up. Ibrahin explained he'd been so spoiled by his grandmother's fabulous cooking that he had her teach him long distance how to prepare food as she did. 

"When people order I have to explain at times to relax and enjoy, because I don't hurry in my cooking. Everything is prepared when ordered." I told him his over-easy eggs were the best eggs I'd ever eaten away from home. The coffee, the bread, the cafe easy- listening music playing, and the local art that decorated the walls created a special place to put on our list of places to return and people we'd love to see again.

"If you enjoyed his breakfast, wait until you try his lunches!" our waitress said as we said our thanks and goodbyes.

Getaways don't have to be faraways. Two hours from home and a new nature experience and Ibrahin were there waiting to be discovered. If you just take a drive and look for a change of venue, things can shift in such a positive light.








Some things never change~

FeaturedColleen HanneganComment

It's springtime in Southern California. I know this for two reasons. I'm feeling better energized each morning and I want to make pretty in my container garden.

Seasons here are scant imitations of the dramatic seasons in the eastern and northern states. This year the southern states were besieged by hefty weather storms also, and caught many by surprise with the cold temps and snow. I admire the hearty souls who know how to drive and survive in snow and ice conditions. But I'm terribly grateful  I live right there. The one winter I lived in Seattle, the snow  showed up one afternoon and I had heart palpitations having to drive my car up a slippery slope on the way home from work.

I'm strong in many ways unique to my own personality and ways of being in this world. Living in one digit climate is not one of them. For those who do live where chains are required, I admire you very much for your stamina.


The saying, "The only thing constant, is change", is true for so many turns in our lives. But as I consider working with my hands in soil, and feeling renewal of spring's song and the rhythm my body tunes into these mornings, I realize nature can be counted on to follow it's course around the sun. And we follow right along with it. 

There's a time to plant and a time to sow. And what we choose to plant and sow is always the change. After 62 winters I finally understand. Springtime will always return and I will always want to dig right in.

The happiness that comes to me in welcoming spring and planting beauty to surround me every morning keeps me grounded. 

And that will never change.

Ready for Spring!

Ready for Spring!