Refusal to give up reveals beauty of nature and life

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 29, 2007

Wonder and beauty are recurring themes in discussions among our coffee companions. Marie Sigurdson in particular has made me especially aware of these timeless qualities through her paintings and poetry.

Marie is co-owner of Rustica Fine Art Gallery and Paintbox Artist Supplies in Cochrane. She is also an outstanding artist in her own right. Her style is contemporary, luminous with iridescence and shimmering metallics in her interpretations of transcendence and identity.

Back in June Marie exhibited several of her paintings at Cochrane’s Foothills Art Club show. Hers are among the first works I regularly seek out when attending these exhibitions. There was a surprise in store for me at this year’s event, however.

Marie had put words to her images.

Take her mixed-media abstract Wonder, for instance. Next to the painting she had written:

If one can see things
thru the delightful eyes of wonder
one can find beauty in the commonplace
excitement in the ordinary
enchantment in the smallest of details
and amazement in the vastness
of nature’s grandeur
Wonder allows one
to see the divine thread
hand-painted thru all of life
Wonder allows one
to be amazed at the beauty of all
Wonder allows you to see the secret hidden
in all of creation . . .

I could have just as easily included this poem with my July 25 column, “Photographer/priest sees the sacred in the everyday,” a tribute to Father Fred Monk, who sees everything through “the delightful eyes of wonder.”

Marie’s business neighbour Bruno Struck, proprietor of High Country Framing and Art Gallery, and I were speaking at some length about this very emotion just the other day. He was lamenting the loss of a sense of awe and wonder in our increasingly high-tech, high-speed society.

Bruno would agree with Marie that “Wonder allows one to see the divine thread hand-painted thru all of life.” But in our haste to arrive or acquire who knows where or what, we fail to smell the roses. And more importantly for Bruno, we deprive ourselves of experiencing “the secret hidden in all of creation.”

Beauty, of course, is a whisperer of this secret. Back to the Foothills Art Club show, Marie included the following note on beauty with her painting of a butterfly:

“If one learns to behold beauty in the small and seemingly simple things in life – like the pearlized glimmering of the inside of a seashell freshly washed over by a gentle wave, or the symmetry in a fresh-scented pine cone, or the perfection of a single dancing snowflake, or the immaculate blossom of a flower bursting forth in the spring, or the delicate, exquisite beauty of a butterfly wing, then the beauty inherent in the world at large begins to shine forth . . .”

The appreciation for such “beauty in the commonplace,” if we will only put our hearts and minds to it, ultimately brings us to a fuller appreciation for each other, for as Marie wrote concerning another of her paintings:

We are all divine vessels –
Created from the same stardust . . .
alive with the same glowing spark
of eternal light
dancing in the tapestry
and adventure of this life –
Divine . . .

This understanding of our true identity, informed through beauty, awe and wonder, leads us to wisdom – that quality that flows from the harmonious integration of all things worthy of our humanity. Marie engages wisdom through her artistic gifts. I strive, by way of the canvas of this column, to engage wisdom around many cups of coffee with you, the readers who have become for me “divine vessels . . . dancing in the tapestry and adventure of this life.”

As Marie so well put it with reference to her painting Wisdom:

We learn wisdom from our experiences in life
We learn wisdom from the people who walk
thru our life
We learn wisdom from nature in all its
variety and glory
We learn wisdom from our animal friends
We learn wisdom from living
We learn wisdom from the spirit within
And with wisdom we learn how to fly . . .

In awe, then, of the beauty and wonder of what Marie and the rest of you bring to me cup by cup, I thank you for helping me, like the butterflies in Marie’s paintings, to “learn how to fly.”

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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