People can choose to be beautiful 'brushstrokes'

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 29, 2004

"Brushstrokes of joy, love and laughter" – this saying by Cochrane art-supply merchant and artist Marie Sigurdson is one of my all-time favourites. She had in mind the creative process of painting. It seems to me that it can also apply to good quotes, as response to our last column strongly suggests.

Last week Cochrane bank manager Rob Rollingson allowed us to peek inside his personal journal of quotations from clients and staff - a treasure chest rich with "words that make us think forever."

Upon reading about Rob's journal, Calgary coffee companion Ron Nowell, a media executive and ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, contacted me and suggested a better word than "journal" might be "commonplace book." He also shared one of his own favourite quotes. "It comes from St. Francis de Sales," Ron said, "and has brought me peace and comfort on many trying occasions over the past few years":

"Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings."

Ron was just the first of many, inside and outside of Cochrane, to comment on Rob's wonderful book. Several here in town mentioned they might even start up their own book of quotations. Others approached me over coffee and quoted back to me – from memory – sayings from Rob's book that appeared in last week's column.

Calgary writer Debbie Faulkner was so taken with the bank manager's passion for beautiful words, she wrote:

"That is so cool – like apples of gold in settings of silver. His business may be money, but his vocation is helping people realize they are already rich."

From India, Raj Patwardhan, a regular at our table by email, wrote to say that "another good thing about quotes/proverbs is that they are mostly universally applicable to humans" regardless of color, class or creed. He sent a quote that has had a major impact on him:

"Experience is a tough teacher. She tests you first and then gives you the lessons."

From Smokey Lake, Alberta, Winifred Schroer wrote very affirmingly of Rob's collection of quotations. She said:

"As always, the column has come to me at just the right time in my progress through life. The quotations put concepts we all have, though perhaps vaguely formulated, in our minds. When someone who has done the work comes along and puts these very great realizations into concise language, I have a feeling of elation and kinship with the 'speaker' which is difficult to describe.

"This is a column," she said, "which I will share with many via email and 'snail mail.'"

So, once again I say thanks to Rob for getting us to take more seriously the beautiful thoughts we hear and read every day.

But you know, nature keeps a book of beautiful words, too. And this week, any of us living in the Alberta foothills had the thrill once more of enjoying some of her words – autumn words, to be exact.

I realized the other day that the leaves on the trees had reached their colourful peak when they were as brilliant as the flock of brightly-coloured paragliders and hang gliders soaring above Cochrane Hill at Muller Windsports.

It was time for my wife Mary Anna and me to take an afternoon off, hop in the car, and enjoy the autumn leaves in Kananaskis Country. This has been an end-of-September tradition of ours for years. And this time we were in for a truly special treat.

The golds, oranges and reds were more vivid than I can remember in years against the blue sky, snow-frosted mountain ridges, and evergreen-forested slopes.

These were God's "brushstrokes of joy, love and laughter."

And in a world so tortured by violence, hate and disaster, the words that are whispered to listening hearts by autumn leaves are good reminders that we too, as human beings, can choose to be "brushstrokes of joy, love and laughter" for others on the canvas of life.

© 2004 Warren Harbeck

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