Roadside beauty invites us to open hearts to humble places

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 4, 2014

Late-summer day along west side of Hwy 22 between Fireside turnoff and Bow River, clockwise from top left: summer greens welcome autumn golds; pond invites reflection; grass waves to travellers; cattails at attention.
Photos by Mary Anna Harbeck
Click for a larger version

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places, where other people see nothing,” said the 19th century Danish-French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.

That quote was brought to my attention by Calgary reader Robin Roome. She was responding to last week’s column on how I saw a raspberry ruby in something as humble as a glob of jam.

But how about seeing beauty in humble places such as the growth along the roads we drive by daily at highway speeds?

That was certainly my wife Mary Anna’s afternoon experience this past Labour Day weekend. For years she’d been tempted to take a late-summer photo-walk along the west side of Highway 22 as it descends into Cochrane from the south. She finally yielded.

While others were taking in Cochrane’s action-packed rodeo, Mary Anna talked me into driving her to one of her favourite stretches where she would rope some great images.

“Each year as we drive along the highways near Cochrane in the late summer,” she explains, “I look out the passenger window of our car and admire the changing colours and textures of the foliage and grasses along the road.

“I've kept promising myself that one day I would take my camera and walk along the road and capture the beauty I was enjoying. But every year before I got around to it, a road crew would come along and mow down the gorgeous grasses.”

So, obedient husband that I am, especially when it comes to indulging my wife’s amazing imagination, I drove her up the hill south from the bridge over the Bow River. Part way to the crest, she had me drop her off. I was to drive a little further and wait for her at the turnoff for Rolling Range Dr.

It was a glorious day: puffy clouds near the horizon, blue sky overhead, the gentlest breeze, comfortable temperature. Summer greens were yielding to autumn reds and golds, cattails were standing at attention, and foxtails were taking a bow along with waves of knee-high grasses, only a few paces from the road.

“I snapped pictures to my heart’s content,” she says.

And then there was that poster-perfect moment of reflection by the pond just across the road from the old River Heights Dr. intersection.

Yup, beauty in humble places so easily overlooked in our fast-paced lives.


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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