Bluebirds bring hope and happiness to a winter-weary world

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 26, 2018

A Mountain Bluebird, freshly back from winter holidays in warmer climes, fills Walter Fankhauser’s GlenEagles yard and heart with springtime happiness. Photo by Walter Fankhauser

They’re back! Yup, it’s enough to make a columnist wax poetic: He looked out his window and what should he see, but a bluebird of happiness perching in his tree.

For folks up and down our Bow Valley, Mountain Bluebirds are cups of light for our winter-weary souls. But this is especially so for Walter Fankhauser. Last week when the GlenEagles resident looked out his window, he immediately took the accompanying photo to share with us. On Apr. 15 the first male Mountain Bluebird of the season was blessing his yard with his fluorescent beauty.

Walter has enjoyed a special relationship with these colourful creatures over the years. As a member of bluebird societies in Alberta and B.C., he’s been responsible for as many as 48 bluebird houses at a time.

What’s so important about bluebird houses? They’re designed with holes just the right size for bluebirds, he says, but small enough to keep pesky sparrows, starlings and barn swallows at a safe distance!

I have my own special relationship with these ambassadors of happiness. Their arrival fills me with music – and two songs in particular.

There’s Jan Preece’s classic number from back in the 1940s, Bluebird of Happiness, for example: “And when he sings to you, though you’re deep in blue / You will see a ray of light creep through / And so remember this, life is no abyss / Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness.”

The other bluebird-inspired song?

When Mary Anna and I first moved to Morley over 50 years ago to work with the Stoney Nakoda First Nation on language-related projects, the first song we learned in Stoney was taught us by some very happy school kids: Thikta ton, chuwaba en îgen, chuwaba en îgen, chuwaba en îgen; / Thikta ton, chuwaba en îgen, mîjahiyanâ.”

I think most of us know that verse in English: “Little bluebird in the tree, in the tree, in the tree, / Little bluebird in the tree, sing a song for me.”

Actually, there’s a third song these ambassadors of happiness bring to mind. And it’s related to the theme of this year’s World Religions Conference, 7:00 pm, Apr. 26, at the Cochrane RancheHouse. The Ahmadiyya-sponsored free public event will feature panelists from several religious traditions addressing the topic, “Fundamentals of Establishing Lasting Peace.” I have the privilege of speaking from a Christian perspective.

Oh, and the song? It’s all about how we as individuals, each in our own small way, can be bluebirds of hope, healing and happiness in a world wearied by winters of ignorance, fear and conflict: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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