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In the Harry Potter panoply, one character stands out.

She is by far the most unusual of the whole Hogwarts gang. Introduced to us in the 5th Harry Potter book and movie, The Order of the Phoenix, Luna Lovegood is an outcast even in the wizarding world. In love with the mysteries, she shows affection for creatures invisible to most: muggles and wizards alike and knowledge of things beyond even the “ordinary” Potter world.

In the movie we see Harry and his gang wandering the halls of the Ministry of Magic. It’s the middle of the night. They’ve broken in. And as far as we can tell, they may be about to face the Dark Lord himself—or at least his henchmen. Not just any old folks—these wicked wizards are responsible for the torture and murder of several parents among Harry’s crew. They are not the sort of people whom you would wish to see on the street in daylight, let alone in the middle of the night virtually on your own.

Yet through all of this we watch Luna Lovegood on the screen wandering around these dark halls as though she was in an amusement park. The underlying emotions betrayed on her face are amazement and curiosity, never mind that she may be about to die at any moment. Watching her absolute calm in the face of what would make anyone shake, I thought to myself, “Now I’ve got to get me some of that.”

It’s true Harry Potter has courage. But Luna Lovegood has something even rarer. She is so completely at home with the mysterious that she faces the unknown with unabashed composure. She is neither ignorant nor afraid.

Watching her peacefully navigate a terrifying situation was, frankly, awe-inspiring to me. Her equanimity exudes a conviction that the unknown is not frightening and a confidence that suggests she’ll do the best she can no matter what happens. Fear looks like an emotion that doesn’t even occur to her.

This utter fearlessness in the face of the unfamiliar is certainly not something that has always been obvious to me. I was once standing in a forest in the Rocky Mountains eating a hard-boiled egg when three Ptarmigans approached. They stood there watching as the crumbs fell from my hands, and before long they began to go for them. Gathering courage, they were snatching up crumbs practically off of my feet.

Their brazenness made me think they might even eat out of my hand. I put some crumbs in my right palm and held it out—in a matter of moments there was a grey and white bird flying straight at me. My heart beat so quickly at the last second I jerked my hand away. Three times this happened. I was afraid. Actually, I was petrified. Visions of puncture wounds from bird claws flashed through my mind. I saw the gaping hole that the beak was sure to leave in my palm as it grabbed the egg white.

But standing there with the blood racing through my veins, I realized my own fear was robbing me of what could be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I heard the words of my meditation teacher flash through my head saying, “A yogi is not one without fear but rather one who stares fear in the face and watches it back down.”

I took a few deep breaths, planted my feet on the ground, stared straight ahead and held out my arm. The bird flew in this time landing to grab the crumbs.

For fifteen minutes the birds landed on my hand, staying longer each time. They began to eat standing on my palm, not even bothering to fly away to swallow their treat. By the end they were perching two, at a time silently taking in long drinks of my appearance.

A few hours later, as I packed up, I returned to the same spot and opened up my empty hand, this time with the attitude of Luna Lovegood: curious and unafraid. Almost immediately the birds answered my call, their soft feathery touch alighting on my palm. Beady bird eyes met human eyes once more as we watched each other for several long moments.

“Now this is the kind of moment fearlessness can get you,” I thought as they flew away— the kind of experience that Rowling’s Luna Lovegood appears to live. It’s an untouched calmness displaying curiosity rather than panic, demonstrating fear as powerless in changing the unfolding unknown. What a quality to have.

True, she may be quirky. But the next time life sends me a situation that seems frightening because of it’s unfamiliarity, it’ll be Luna Lovegood I hope to channel. Perhaps it will help me remember, life really is just one big department of mysteries— nothing to fear.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007- Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber

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