Sunset clouds, greatness of the Creator, and earworms

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 21, 2011

Last week’s Ghost Lake sunset column closed with what was, for one of our Springbank coffee companions, an irresistible earworm.

Christa Bedwin wrote that she just couldn’t get the tune of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” out of her mind after reading the column at work. She finally had to shut her office door to keep her singing from disturbing others in nearby offices!

There’s a related tune that has been a real earworm for me over the years. But more about that after a few of the many other responses I received to the sunset column.

“Your words painted an image that I was able to easily create in my head, and it felt good,” wrote Jack Blair, one of Cochrane’s newest residents and a serious photo-essayist of beautiful moments (see my July 13, 2011 column).

As much as I love photography myself, I’ve often sensed that the right words can transcend the limitations of a photograph, as longtime Cochrane financial advisor Gerry Miller said in his response.

“The basic desires of human contact start with communication and being touched by all of our senses,” he wrote. What he experienced from the column was “being touched by way of reading and assimilating your words, and being able to feel what you felt at the time.”

A touch of nostalgia, mingled with awe, characterized notes from two former Cochrane residents now living on Vancouver Island.

“As I sit here sipping my morning tea and savouring your column, my heart feels full with gratitude and love,” wrote Liz Giles. She’s familiar with the view of the lake and mountain setting I wrote about, and has paused many times in her travels along Hwy 1A where it follows the escarpment to take in the beauty and grandeur of the panorama.

“I have often felt moved to prayer,” she said. “Your words served to lift me up and remind me of what is most essential.”

Charlene Pickard, reflecting on her own panoramic sunset views from her home along the Strait of Georgia, added: “Yes, our Lord does have the whole world in His hands. Praise His wonderful Name.”

Back in Cochrane, writer Pat Verge agreed. “I could picture the views you were describing and related with my heart to the image of creation as a reflection of the attributes of the Creator.”

Which brings me to an especially encouraging e-mail I received from Lori Craig, Human Resources Director, Stoney Tribal Administration, Morley. Lori wrote from Vancouver, where she was chairing an aboriginal human resources conference with participants from 20 First Nations from across Canada.

She opened one of her sessions with the part of the column that spoke of Stoney Nakoda traditional teachings on the sacredness of the creation as celebrated in that Ghost Lake sunset.

“It was very well received,” she said.

In my replies to our coffee companions, I referred to one of my all-time favourite poems from the Bible, Psalm 104. Its vivid imagery awakens in me the earworm of that popular hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”

Of God this amazing psalm says, “You stretch out the heavens like a tent.”

On the canvas of creation it depicts the mighty oceans, and the streams that descend from towering mountains to quench the thirst of every animal and support the vegetation that is home for the birds that sing among the branches and where “the stork has its home in the fir trees.” The high crags, too, become home to wild goats and a refuge for rock badgers.

Moon and sun mark seasons and days. Darkness and daylight allow for the sharing of the land between human beings and the other inhabitants of the creation. “You make darkness and it is night, when all the animals of the forest come creeping out. . . . When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens. People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening.”

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season,” the prayerful psalm says. “When You send forth Your spirit/breath . . . You renew the face of the earth.”

For me, the image in the third verse stands out from all the others in its harmony with the sunset of which I wrote last week:

“You make the clouds your chariot, You ride on the wings of the wind.”

Yes, as the psalmist concludes, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all.”

This brings me around to the earworm that fills my heart and mind this very moment:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul . . . .

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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