With incense burning around them, nine Laguna Beach residents sat in a circle at sunrise Thursday and meditated, uttering "om" as cars zoomed by on nearby Laguna Canyon Road.
"From this day forward," artist Gene Maslow told the group, "our lives will change, our earth will be renewed."
They gathered to observe an auspicious occasion: It was the sixth day of the seventh month of the 89th year. In the United States, it is noted as 7/6/89. Elsewhere in the world, it is marked as 6/7/89.
Such sequential order on the calendar happens only once every 11 years, Maslow said. Those at the sunrise meditation hoped that this would mark the start of 11 years of new environmental consciousness around the world. Thus, they and other groups in several other countries have declared the date "Earth Rise Day," targeting it as the dawn of an environmental turnaround.
As the sun started to peak through the typical morning fog, Maslow, the director of Artists for the Environment in Laguna Beach, recited several lines from "Savitri," a 23,000-line poem created by a language expert from India.
"I saw them cross the twilight of an age," he read, "the sun-eyed children of a marvelous dawn."
Participants, dressed in jogging outfits and saris, sat on sheets of white paper. One man played a flute. A red-bearded man with a headband clutched crystals in both hands. A barefoot man with his knees and face on the ground grasped fistfuls of sand.
Wendy Milette, 30, her daughter, Lani, 8, and their friend, Diona Alonge, 17, concluded the meditation with a dance they created called "Prayer Dance for the Earth."
The gathering was only one event that was held at "The Tell," a 600-foot-long, 28-foot-high photo mural along Laguna Canyon Road that was created by area artists. Thursday evening's events featured dances, music and mimes.
The mural has become a meeting place for artists and environmental activists hoping to preserve the area from developers who want to build new homes and widen roads. But the participants used the occasion to focus their energies on recognizing what they call Gaia, or the female aspect of the Earth.
"As people focus their understanding on what should happen, they awaken their inner life," Maslow said after the event. "We are all, in this day, working for this, the sun-eyed children."
Dr. Rose Marie Seaney, an area author and activist, said that the energy from Earth Rise Day would be transferred to others through such meditation. "There is a heck of a lot of energy," she said. "People gather together and get this energy. It will certainly go toward the environment."
For Maslow, it was not his first celebration of what he believes to be a numerically significant date. Maslow was in India on May 4, 1967, or 4/5/67. He said thousands attended a silent vigil there with The Mother, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, an Indian environmental activist he said was "the most dynamic representation of the mother force on earth. With her special power and force we all opened to a new consciousness."
While he was in India, Maslow was one of the original settlers of Auroville, a township that now has 600 inhabitants. A celebration was also scheduled to take place there Thursday, he said.
For those in the United States who marked the date on June 7, 1989, their celebrations were premature, Maslow said.
"There's a warp on that one," Maslow said. "The proper, official one is happening today."