Moondance inspires eye doctor to prescribe seeing with heart

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 27, 2017

Dr. John McWhae had planned on photographing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The eyes of his heart led to his photo, Moondance on the Ridge.
Photos by John McWhae

He had set out to photograph California’s iconic Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. What the eyes of his heart saw, however, captured his imagination.

This past weekend, Calgary ophthalmologist Dr. John McWhae paused from one of his all-day bicycling excursions through the foothills to visit with me over coffee in Cochrane at The Gentry Espresso Bar. I see him periodically at the Rockyview General Hospital, where he checks on the vision in my right eye. But this visit was about a different kind of vision.

In addition to his medical practice, John is an accomplished landscape photographer. We got to discussing the impact of two prints, in particular, that I first encountered in an exhibit of his artistry.

In February last year he, together with a group of other serious photographers, gathered in Yosemite National Park just before sunset to photograph the legendary Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, pictured here.

Half Dome, black and white

He and the others had carefully set up their tripod-mounted cameras in preparation for the precise moment when the late-afternoon shadows would etch the features of Half Dome to perfection. That moment would be exactly 6:27 PM that day. Nothing was to distract them from keeping their eyes fixed on Half Dome’s face.

Nothing, that is, until just 12 minutes before the much-anticipated event. That’s when the nearly full moon broke above the ridge to the left of Half Dome, and John allowed himself to be distracted.

“Seeing the moonrise over the ridge, I realized the beauty of the moon itself, and was prepared to ignore one of the most beautiful mountains on earth for a short while,” John says. “I grabbed a shot with my second camera. I call it Moondance on the Ridge. Those trees are having a good time up there.”

His celebration of that moment reminds me of a song I used to hear when I was just a kid – Kate Smith’s theme song from her afternoon television variety program: “When the moon comes over the mountain, every beam brings a dream….”

Yes, the vision specialist’s experience was about dreams and imagination – about seeing not just with the eyes of the head, but with the eyes of the heart, too.

“Sometimes we miss something important when we are doing something else important,” Dr. McWhae says. “Seeing through spiritual eyes may help lessen this.”


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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