Small town, small world, and small Mars too

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 10, 2005

In this shrinking world we are indeed sanctuaries for one another even when separated by oceans and continents. A case in point is a letter I recently received from Raj Patwardhan, of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.

Raj is the coffee companion who suggested in last week's column that harmony should be added to love, peace and hope as qualities that characterize our homes and lives as we offer each other refuge amidst the storms of life.

Aware that his own city was under siege by a literal storm, I enquired of him how things were going. His response was enlightening not only about the storm in India, but also about his awareness of events back here in Canada. He said:

SO VERY KIND of you to express concern about the unprecedented rainfall in Mumbai – in fact, a deluge, 38 inches in 24 hours, which I learn is a world record. . . . There has been a lot of suffering and nearly a thousand deaths in and around Mumbai. Fortunately, since yesterday (Aug. 2) the situation has changed and the city is slowly limping back towards normalcy (though it will take a lot of time and money to be close to normal).

I am fine but feel sad for those who have suffered. I learnt that passengers aboard an airliner which overshot the runway while landing at Toronto Airport had a narrow escape earlier today.

Wish this finds you and your beloveds in the best of health and good cheer.

—Raj Patwardhan, Mumbai, India

THANK YOU, Raj. You know, it never ceases to amaze me how this little column based here in small-town Cochrane, Alberta, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, has become a bit of a hub for such global sharing. Topics that arise in Cochrane coffee shops become opportunities for connection among many who have never even visited our community, but would love to.

Take Helen Hare, for instance. She's one of our Toronto-area e-mail coffee companions. A regular at our table for the past year-and-a-half, she recently wrote: "You always make Cochrane sound like such a haven of peace and security and happiness. I sometimes envy . . . ."

Helen is a senior citizen recovering from hip surgery complicated by a recent fall in her garden. In spite of this, she continues to reach out to others in their distress. Through our correspondence, I've come to know Helen as a person who really listens to the wisdom the rest of you have been sharing. Responding to our current theme, she sent me a note of gratitude that rightly belongs to all of you. She wrote:

THANK YOU for such a series of inspiring contributions on love, peace and hope. The three elements can be found in every situation we live through, and your columns continue through the year to cheer and exude the three elements each time any of us is privileged to receive them. So many of your pieces have given me comfort and solace when pain or other problems rear their heads. I am grateful to be on your e-mail list and feel you can never be thanked enough for the joy you spread.

—Helen Hare, Oakville, Ontario

NOW ON TO an entirely different topic. There's been a false rumour going around lately about the planet Mars. The Red Planet, as the hoax goes, will appear as large as the full moon the end of this month.

The reality will be quite different. Though Mars will be passing unusually close to earth in the coming months, it will still be so far away that it will appear no bigger than a spectacular speck of dust against black velvet as from the southeast it mounts the midnight sky. For the full story, go to

Speaking of spectacular specks of heavenly dust, the Perseid meteor shower will be putting on its annual display this week, reaching its peak in the wee hours of the morning of August 12. The best viewing will be outside of town, away from artificial lights. If the conditions are right, we may be treated to as many as a meteor a minute.

© 2005 Warren Harbeck

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