Thoughts on roots and heritage lead to Christmas reflection

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 22, 2016

A snow-covered statue of St. Francis in our garden stands as a reminder of the hope-filled heart of our Christmas heritage. Photo by Mary Anna Harbeck

Last week’s column on an Aboriginal artist’s reconnection with his cultural roots got me thinking about my rootedness in the meaning of Christmas – a lesson that was standing right before me in our garden.

In that column we visited with Ryan Jason Allen Willert, one of the Blackfoot artists featured in Diana Frost’s book, Colouring It Forward. He had stressed the importance of being deeply rooted in one’s familial and cultural heritage in order to stand strong like a deeply rooted tree that can withstand the storms of life.

Responding to that column, Cochrane writer/photographer Jack Blair agrees on the importance of family heritage. As the oldest surviving member of his family, Jack realizes he is singularly the trustee of memories to be passed on to his sons and grandchildren. “I was left very little by my parents except for oral stories,” he says. “I want to do more.”

About his cultural/historical roots, Jack is of two minds. Yes, when it comes to the family name, “I think my bridge to my Scottish roots is clear,” he says. “My Dad’s name of Blair is about as Scottish as you can get, and my Mom’s – Scott – well, what more can I say?”

He’s not interested in perpetuating the bitter memories of historical injustices and conflicts of his Scottish heritage, however. “Surely it is up to the fathers and mothers in this shrinking world to set the past in the past and help their children discover the possibilities of what can be for them.”

Our South Seas coffee companion Linda Kavelin-Popov celebrates a more positive view on reconnecting with one’s cultural heritage in her latest book, A Scent of Sage (

In this engaging novel, the founder of the Virtues Project tells the story of Kate Mackenzie, the identity-confused daughter of an Aboriginal mother and a non-Aboriginal father, as she journeys from alienation to forgiveness and hope through re-engaging her ancestral roots.

But what does this have to do with an appreciation for my rootedness in the significance of Christmas? We don’t have to look any further than my wife’s garden for the answer.

There, even on a cold, snowy winter day, a statue of St. Francis stands guard. Amidst the well-rooted plants, he speaks of the deeper rootedness that gets to the very heart of our shared identity.

His example of humility, simplicity, poverty and prayer springs from his rootedness in the One born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago who through His life willingly chose poverty that humanity might find true wealth, and who journeyed to the cross and beyond to show that we need not be intimidated even by death in embracing our true identity as images – and imagers – of our Creator.

With Christmas only days away, the snow-shrouded statue of St. Francis brings to mind the last line of that beloved carol, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.” With its words I will wish you all a blessed, deeply rooted Christmas:

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild, He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King.


© 2016 Warren Harbeck

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