Readers discern opportunities for joy in foggy moments

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 29, 2012

The response to last week’s column on my wife’s foggy photo of Bryce Canyon is nothing less than phenomenal, and readers were quick to share some of their own insights into life’s journey. Their comments resonate well with Mary Anna’s experience of unexpected goodness that emerged from what at first seemed so disappointing.

You’ll recall that she’d been looking forward to seeing the canyon’s spectacular red-rock spires aglow in the morning sun, but instead found her view obscured by fog – a very different view which on later reflection revealed important lessons about looking beyond the visible and transitory scene to discern a greater beauty.

From Bow Island, Fred Monk, former pastor of Cochrane’s St. Mary’s Church, wrote:

“How true! So often, with hindsight, we are able to see the disappointments – the trials, the crosses we carry – as blessings. We would all do well to keep in mind the biblical words from James 1:2: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” 

Along the same line, Cochrane artist Dawn Piche wrote:

“I am in awe of the beauty and meaning of the image captured by Mary Anna. It is so wonderful when we discover that, no matter how long we have been on this planet, we are always provided new ways to be enlightened, if only we open our eyes and souls and trust that inner voice.”

From Canmore, renowned photographer and anthropological filmmaker Susanne Swibold wrote:

“Right on, Mary Anna! That's the nudging of the Holy Spirit to drop the ego expectations and let go-for-it. Nothing happens by chance. Witnesses appear at their appointed time. What we can't see saves us. Thanks for the image.”

From British Columbia, healthcare professional Karin Henderson wrote:

“I love the lessons – real, practical and everlasting! I would like to expand a little on lesson 2. Our life is strewn with all sizes of problems (pebbles), many of them, and yet they make up the form and foundation of the path, with beauty and uncertainty as scenery along the way. It’s those experiences/pebbles that lead us to the chosen end. And I use the word ‘chosen’ quite deliberately, because I feel so many of us just drift along, not realizing we have the choice of what the end is like.”

From Medicine Hat, former Cochrane newspaper editor David Forbes emphasized the importance of being sensitive to the fleeting beauty of the moment:

“Your comments reminded me of a frosty autumn morning drive with my nephew on our way to Morley as the sunshine burst through the clouds around the McDougall church. The lighting was just right; all the elements came together: the stark whiteness of the church, along with the golds, yellows and browns in the trees, and the sharpness in the light mixed with the frost and foggy background adding that sense of mystery to the scene.

“And I said to my nephew as we slowed down through this area, taking in the beauty of the moment: ‘We will never see that very scene again. It would not be there if we turned around to take a photo, or came here at the exact same time tomorrow or another day.’”

Then there’s this note from Helen Hare, our 89-year-old coffee companion from Oakville, Ontario:

“That was a great story, very potent for someone like me who nears the portal with much anticipation; it is wonderful.”

In addition to these email responses, there’s a further emphasis I’ve picked up in Cochrane coffee shops over the past week: the importance of seeing the beauty in each other for what it actually is, and not just for what we expected it to be or think it should be. We aren’t here to impose our designs on each other.

Rather, like Mary Anna’s foggy photo, we have the privilege of discerning and celebrating each other’s unique gifts and goodness, and perhaps even see our own uniqueness in a refreshing new light.


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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