2011 was a year filled with great coffee conversations

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 28, 2011

The photo of a rainbow over Big Hill and Glen Eagles in the “Coffee with Warren” column for June 8 was readers’ favourite for 2011. May 2012 be a rainbow year blessed with hope for the whole world. Photo by Warren Harbeck
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The year 2011 for “Coffee with Warren” was filled with many captivating conversations with our coffee companions near and far.

Topics were wide-ranging: e-mail etiquette, listening hearts, souls and soles, tiny nearby things like red blood cells and giant distant things like star clusters and Lunar eclipses.

Most of the ideas had their start around café tables right here in Cochrane. But soon our e-mail readers from around the world joined in, adding their wisdom for embracing life’s fascinating journey.

As I’ve reflected on the past year’s conversations, several things have especially stood out.

One of my favourite quotes, for instance, was something composer Allan Bell said at Cochrane Coffee Traders while commenting on my series on the listening heart. I had written about the American composer John Cage’s piece featuring four minutes 33 seconds of silence. Cage’s point was to make audiences mindful of the ambient sounds of their environment.

“All the world is my score,” Allan said, referring to the inspiration for creativity that comes from everywhere, if only he is attentive to it. And this, of course, is really what I hope my columns are all about, too, and you, my readers, are my mentors.

Speaking of all the world, one of the biggest surprises for the year for me arrived just before Christmas. It was a pair of CDs from Wales, one of them, 20 Uchaf Emynau Cymru (“The Top 20 Best-loved Welsh Hymns”), filled with those rich choral tones that have made Welsh music so memorable.

The CDs were a gift from a group of our readers in Wales, connected to our local tables by one of our Cochrane coffee companions, Shirley Jeffries, who, unbeknownst to me, has been forwarding these columns to friends in Wales for some time.

These columns depend very much on reader responses. Based on those responses, here’s a list of the seven most popular topics for 2011: art and beauty, listening hearts, life and death, faith and religion, human rights, natural phenomena, and my own life experiences.

The five columns to which I received the most responses are, interestingly, all on some aspect of faith:

 “Wisdom from the dying for life in the land of the living” (Aug. 31). Jack Layton, former leader of the NDP, had just passed away. At his state funeral he was remembered with something he said when becalmed while out sailing: “You can wait forever for perfect conditions,” he said, “or you can make the best of what you’ve got now.”

“Sunset sings ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’” (Sept. 14). The column was a reflection on a magnificent sunset I experienced once from Ghost Lake Village, a reminder of God’s protective presence.

“Letting go and letting God brings resurrection-peace” (Apr. 20). The Easter column featured a lesson from pilot Sandy McLeod about letting airplanes do what they’re designed to do when encountering difficult conditions; and so with faith when people face life’s turbulent times.

“A faith that fits like a comfortable pair of shoes” (Sept. 28). Based on wearing shoes appropriate to my age, this column was about what my sore feet taught me about the distinction between childish and child-like faith for engaging an adult world.

In first place for the year was “A rainbow toast for Thomas, my graduating grandson” (June 8). Thomas was finishing high school and about to enter university. I’d taken a photo of a rainbow over Glen Eagles and offered it as a blessing: Where there’s despair in life, may you bring hope.

Coincidentally, that photo received the most reader comments of all the photos I ran with my columns for the year. I’ll conclude with it as my New Year’s wish for all our coffee companions:

May 2012 be a rainbow year for all of you, a year blessed with faith, hope and love.

© 2011 Warren Harbeck

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