Colleen Hannegan

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

medicine cards

Girl On Bike Chapter 1

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Girl On Bike, What the Boys Taught me about Love, Life & Mountain Biking

Chapter 1 Damsel In Distress

It was 7:30am on a gorgeous July morning when I rode into the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park in Aliso Viejo, Ca. The sun was rising over the hills surrounding the park, into a cloudless blue sky above me. It’s warmth on my calves hinted of a perfect weather day ahead. One of those oh so perfect southern California summer days that whispers, “Yes, you do live in paradise you lucky girl.” My bike rolled over crunchy parking lot gravel as I steered it towards the dirt trail.  I had planned on completing a two-hour loop before the sun made things a bit too hot for comfort.  My ride in had been smooth, but energetic; the gentle uphill gradient of the fire trail was especially satisfying.  I was feeling very energetic and, admittedly, hot. Not hot as in the morning’s 80+ temperature, but hot, as in the opposite of homely.  Not even a year of weekly rides and I was already feeling like one of them. You know, mountain bikers. One of those ultra fit girls — and guys — who had passed me by so many times looking so confident and at one with their bikes. I was savoring the Zen of it all as I pedaled back towards the park entrance — having allowed myself a short break at the end of the 4-mile fire road loop. I was picking up speed on a lengthy downhill grade and feeling euphoric — the breeze was whooshing by, my shoes were pushing hard against the pedals, and I was enamored of my breathtaking surroundings.

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I distinctly remember every detail of that velocity-fuelled high — the heat of the earth crunching beneath my tires, the coolness of the two creeks through which the trail snaked, the clickety-click sound as I crossed the wooden bridge, the glimpse of the old corral as I rounded a corner…

I thought to slow down as I whizzed past groups of incoming riders. But I just couldn’t. The speed was like a drug that was making me feel omnipotent.

A couple yards shy of the entrance, I entered my last turn. It wasn’t at all difficult or dangerous. But I had created a most difficult and dangerous situation. The speed at which I was traveling, coupled with my inexperience as a cyclist and a bike not designed for this kind of terrain, spelled disaster. My front tire skidded in the sand and I lost control. In a split second, my bike and I came crashing down. I slammed hard onto the ground — my head and right shoulder absorbing the brunt of the impact — and slid across the trail before finally coming to a stop in the dirt. Dust was swirling all around me; it felt like the aftermath of a car wreck. I lay there for a moment or two, stunned, then tried to get up and disentangle myself from my bike. Despite being dazed, and in shock, I had the clarity to know that I was lying in the path of oncoming traffic — any number of bikers might at any moment turn the corner and plough right into me. As I tried to stand, I was overcome with dizziness, so on my hands and knees I half crawled, half dragged myself and my bike to the side of the path. Once safely out of harm’s way, I lay back on the ground to catch my breath and access the damage — to bike and girl.

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My legs were wet with the trickle of blood and my mouth was dry with the taste of dirt. I brushed it from my lips and tried hard to concentrate on the task at hand. Luckily, I hadn’t taken anyone down with me; on that busy morning, on a trail packed with riders heading in and out of the park, I was so grateful I’d hurt only myself.

Only a few moments later, riders traveling in both directions did turn the corner to the sight of a bleeding girl sitting in a dirt bath — covered from head to toe in dust, with blood oozing from her wounds, looking spaced out and war torn. In a matter of seconds, a large crowd had gathered around to check out the accident scene. A wonderfully kind and sweet girl named Mary and her riding companion Brad, immediately dismounted their bikes and knelt down, one on either side of me. The sun was in my eyes, yet I so clearly remember looking up and seeing all these people, pausing astride their bikes, to gaze down at me as Mary and Brad gently talked to me and checked out my injuries. One of the onlookers, a guy, asked if he could remove my helmet and examine it for serious dents, which would indicate head trauma. As I raised my arms to help him unfasten it, I caught sight of my bloody right arm and elbow, which was so badly grazed, there was very little skin left intact. I made an “injured girl” sound. Another guy took off his Camelbak, which is a back pack filled with water and supplies. The drinking hose attached to the Camelbak crosses over one shoulder and has a nozzle on the end for easy drinking access . He reached inside and produced a gauze bandage and antiseptic ointment and handed them to Brad to apply to my elbow. By now, a group of about 15 to 20 guys had encircled our makeshift “camp” and were surveying the scene; no doubt wondering how the hell this girl managed such a crash on such an easy

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stretch? “Damn,” I thought to myself. “This dirt is stuck to my lip gloss — I must really be a ridiculous sight.” And boy what a sight I was. A dirt freak — my face, my sunglasses, even my hair was coated with a thick layer. I took off my sunglasses and tried in vain to wipe it from my eyes while Mary kindly helped brush my tangled hair back from my face.

At Mary’s suggestion, we removed my gloves, which were also filled with soil. The group gasped as the left glove came off and revealed the biggest casualty of the collision: my thumb tip had been bent sideways, then forward, and was frozen in that seemingly impossible position; a gaping hole behind it revealed an exposed tendon and joint. I was a regular Girl Frankenstein.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhh,” escaped my lips as I almost passed out in disbelief. Which is when I heard a guy with a Russian accent say, ”OK, time for the paramedics,” as he pulled out his cell phone. That’s how I met Edward Bederov, a trail assistant for Aliso Woods, who had just ridden into the park along with his cycling crew.

“Can I take a shot of the weirdest thumb I’ve ever seen?” asked another bystander, who had already whipped out his camera. “Geez,” I thought. “He’s excited. What kind of world have I ridden into?” But I smiled, and gamely held up the dislocated digit like it was some kind of bloody badge of courage and, at that moment, I found myself accepted into some kind of brotherhood… or something like that. The girl clearly had a sense of humor, so the guys felt comfortable enough to start cracking jokes. They could see I was going to be OK. All the same, Mary wisely took out a hankie and carefully covered my thumb to keep me from staring at it.

If you wish to read the next 4 pages of Chapter One, please leave a comment below and sign up for my blog updates to the right of this column, and I’ll send it right over….and maybe Chapter 2!

Thank you!

Please let me know if it doesn’t arrive in 24 hours…still working out the kinks here. Mucho thanks.


Soul Healing through the medicine of animals

Featured, Spirited LifeColleen HanneganComment
Spider, weaving the patterns of life.

Spider, weaving the patterns of life.

Our Native American brothers and sisters have shared the teachings of the medicine power in animals with all of us in order to bring healing to the mass consciousness. Medicine, in the context of power animals, means finding and deepening our closeness to the Divine Mystery. And in so doing we open our hearts, minds and spirit to higher levels of strength, spiritual power and a clearer understanding of our personal role in the ultimate creation of life. Not a small thing, indeed!

I have been studying the Medicine Cards and Animal Medicine for five years. My soul journey lead me to these Power Animals and their desire to assist me, through an auspicious dream. The dream came to me the evening after my sister Molly and I had spent an afternoon out running in the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness park in Aliso Viejo, CA. It was dusk as we finished the run, heading back along the fire trail. We had a conversation about wild things in the wilderness and what would we do if we encountered a big, hairy beast? We laughed about it and then ran fast to leave the park before the sun slipped all the way behind West Ridge and stranded us in the woolly and wild darkness.

In the dream I woke up and found a big black cat sitting on my bed and staring at me. Jumping right up, I shooshed her out of the bedroom, asking her “Where did you come from and what are you doing in my home?”

I followed her black slinky body out into my living room and discovered a menagerie of every kind of wild beast, bird, critter and creature filling the room and all talking at the same time. A lion strolled through the dining area while birds were chattering and flying above. Creepy crawlers were taking over the floor space moving alongside all sizes and shapes of four legged wilderness animals, each one trying out all the chairs and sofa. I had walked into a dream jungle in my little apartment at 3am. I began swinging my arms over my head and telling all the wild ones they could not be here, they had to go; out! out! out! I managed to make my way to the front door, opened it wide and started insisting they all leave. No animal was eager to move out. None were aggressive, nor did I feel the least bit of fear. One by one, however they flew out, crawled out and stampeded their way outside. I recall the noise of it all! One of the last to leave was a badger. Before obliging me, he lurched towards my open left palm and bit down, drawing blood. It was the same spot where I had seriously injured my thumb in a recent mountain biking accident. The dream was so real in every sense, I knew deep meaning lay hidden within.

Aggressive Healer

Aggressive Healer

I phoned my sister Karen for her spiritual wisdom and sage advice. “Study the Native American teachings of power animals. The badger biting your injury and drawing blood is very symbolic. The animals are calling out for you somehow!”

So began my journey into exploring and understanding the healing and insight gleaned from a spiritual opening to calling in my totem animals. When I began my Shamanic studies  two years ago, my practice with the medicine of power animals and using the oracle cards to further my understanding, had well prepared my path to my totem animals; Spider being my main Power Animal.

Spider speaks to us of the infinite possibilities of creation. Her eight legs represent the four winds of change and the four directions on the medicine wheel. Create! Create! This is the message Spider brings when she comes crawling along, spinning her stunning web of delight and wonder.

Badger carries aggressiveness in his long claws and sharp teeth. He will fight for what is right. Many powerful medicine women carry Badger medicine. They are the finest healers because they never give up on the seriously ill and will seek all methods of care to insure better health.

We all have access to the amazing personal power assistance that is available in the animal kingdom. They each have a special gift to offer us. All we have to do … is dream.