Jazz, deer and gratitude for simple things

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 28, 2004

Last week I wrote about the harmony in our human relationships that flows from our mutual experience of the music that throbs deeply in our hearts. This evoked some powerful New Orleans jazz memories from one of our newest e-mail coffee companions.

Edmonton writer Barbara Stevens was told of our weekly "coffee klatch" by longtime reader Winifred Schroer, who has been passing on some of our columns to her. Barbara wrote me to say how much she enjoys the "colorful words and descriptions coupled with compassion" that characterize our weekly chats.

She asked if there was room for her to become a regular at our table, and I said, sure, and she should bring along some of her own stories, too. And she did. She wrote:

THANK YOU FOR the story which brought back memories of our trip to New Orleans in October 2001.

We spent five of our six nights at Preservation Hall – the one night was spent listening to Pete Fountain. We have attended the Preservation Hall concerts here in Edmonton, but there is nothing like hearing them in the place where it all began.

Each evening, several musicians showed up at Preservation Hall. When I spoke with one of them, I learned that they do not rehearse with each other. For each evening, there is always the requisite number of players who are available to play.

There was never the exact same group of musicians two nights in a row, and yet they played as though they had practiced for hours. Each of them knew the music, knew the rhythms, and because they were playing from their hearts, the notes blended together.

The music tugged at my heartstrings and often I had tears in my eyes from memories or from sensing the sadness with which the music was written.

This was an experience that will always be treasured.

This was one month after that fateful Sept. 11, and the people and musicians needed to be joined together in a healing process through the music that was played. Truly, this was sharing music from the heart.

—Barbara M. Stevens, Edmonton

WELL, BARBARA, I know firsthand what you mean about the Preservation Hall experience. I was in New Orleans myself some years ago, and that soulish sound tugged at my heartstrings, too.

Another writer who has recently entered actively into our table discussions is Angy Moessmer. Angy approached me at Cochrane Coffee Traders the other day and invited me to join her and her husband, Horst, for lunch at their woodland home up the Grand Valley Road northwest of town. She wanted me to experience firsthand a different kind of music, a music that beats to Nature's rhythm and calls us to gratitude for the simple joys of life.

I accepted and soon understood what she meant, as I watched five deer grazing among the trees outside their dining-nook window. In a short reflective essay entitled "Gratitude," she captured the experience:

IF WE COULD only be grateful for the little things that life grants us, we would be much happier.

Focussing on little things allows us to stay grounded. A beautiful piece of music, a bird singing, the wind blowing, the little spring splashing – what wonderful moments of serenity we should be grateful for.

Those are the things that really have meaning in life!

Not the career, the new car, the friends in high places or the new diamond – those are artificial joys without depth and meaning. They don't allow your soul to vibrate, but instead leave you empty and cause you to look for more and yet more. They will never give you the satisfaction you long for.

So by learning to be grateful for the simple joys of life, we find fulfillment.

—Angy Moessmer, Cochrane

THANK YOU, Barbara and Angy. Your words have become memorable phrases in the song of our common humanity.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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