Starry nights evoke awe and joy from coffee companions

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 19, 2013

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Lori Craig’s star-studded story in last week’s column, with reference to Don McLean’s “Starry, Starry Night” musical tribute to Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” is generating some heavenly responses. Here are just a few; more to follow.

Robin Roome, holidaying at her secluded beach cottage in eastern PEI, has given van Gogh’s painting “the place of honour” above her headboard, she wrote.

“Even better still, there’s a large skylight in the sloped ceiling right above my bed. Often, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I see millions of stars among the Milky Way and rush out onto my deck to take in the whole vista. Thank you so much for reminding me again why this special place is so vital in helping me to embrace the joy of life. I know I am truly blessed!”

Rich Mercer, of Calgary, had just returned from a fishing trip in the BC interior when he wrote. He’d been enjoying the night sky from an elevation of 4,700 ft. (1433m), where he took in nebulae, galaxies and the Milky Way with the aid of a fishing-buddy’s telescope.

As he watched the heavens, he thought of the awe expressed by the author of Psalm 8, he said: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

That was certainly the sentiment of two of our other readers. Springbank resident Ralph Dubienski emailed us all the way from remote Ethiopia. A Calgary dentist with a passion for that country, he was there helping out briefly on a humanitarian project through Hopethiopia, the humanitarian outreach he founded to bring hope to orphaned children and the homeless (

“Ah yes, a starry sky,” he wrote. That’s what he experienced recently at the project site, 8500 ft. (2600m) elevation. “I was staying in one of our newly built children's homes and decided to take a walk in the dark. No light pollution and a crystal-clear sky.

“It is amazing when you can view the vastness of what is before you and appreciate the billions of stars that make up the Milky Way.”

Then, still on the other side of the world, there was this note from Raj Patwardhan of often-hazy Mumbai, India.

He said Lori’s starry-night column “made a lasting impression” on him. It reminded him “that in our quest for material riches we often overlook the abundance of simple natural things which come with almost no price tag, especially for those who have an eye for it.”

In fact, the column even moved him to write a poem as part of his response, he said. Here’s his poem:

A Million Stars Embrace
When I look above in awe
Fanning the embers of my soul
With eclectic joyful warmth

Such abundance of riches
You bestow upon us
Blessed are we
For giving us sight

What arms can't reach
My eyes behold
O Lord! I am humbled
To be alive. Amen!

Well, this past week something more down to earth fanned the embers of my own soul: a harbinger of fall in our foothills town.

I’ll conclude this column with what my camera saw the other day. Yes, as Raj says so joyfully about the stars, the gift of an autumn arboreal moment, too, filled me with awe, and I was humbled to be alive.


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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