Canyon inspiration for COVID times

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 13, 2020

Foggy experience in Bryce Canyon offers lessons for life.
Photo by Mary Anna Harbeck

Recent visits to Cochrane’s Route 22 Artist Collective Gallery have reminded me of a special gift such agents of beauty bring to our world: seeing beyond life’s disappointments. With my wife Mary Anna’s birthday only days away, I thought I’d revisit a column I first published on Aug. 22, 2012.

All her life Mary Anna had longed to see the canyon country of the American Southwest, but she’d never had a chance. So, when her sister suggested Mary Anna join her on a car trip to Phoenix with brief visits to Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks, she jumped at the chance.

Their first stop was Bryce Canyon, legendary for its towering red-rock spires aflame in the morning sun. It was there that Mary Anna took a photo that has left me in awe, a photo which at first she considered a symbol of her disappointment – but she took it anyhow.

All those magnificently etched hoodoos she’d expected to see were veiled in fog. The most she could hope to capture on her pocket camera were some nearby formations. I spoke with her by phone that evening, and she was clearly disheartened.

Upon her return home, we downloaded her photos to the computer and enlarged a few, including the one in the fog at Bryce Canyon.

We stared at it and quickly realized there was a lot more there than first met her eyes. To me, this was one of the finest photos she’d ever taken, and it began teaching us three very important lessons about life.

The first lesson was obvious. You don’t need great cameras to take great photos. My bulky pro camera was back home, while her purse-friendly camera was busy doing what all cameras should do: taking great photos. Go with what you’ve got!

The second lesson? When conditions don’t match up with expectations, enjoy them for what they are – anyhow! We might be surprised.

Mary Anna had come to Bryce Canyon expecting one kind of sunlit view, but not finding it, was sad. Accepting the fog-shrouded view for what it was, however, she took a photo anyhow, and only later discovered its mysterious beauty.

The third lesson quickly found its way into a poster Mary Anna and I designed and am running with this column. Her image shows a journey over rough terrain into a subtly brighter, more-inviting mid-ground before we pass through a stone arch into the foggy unknown.

That’s like life’s greater journey. Others have told us of the beauty beyond the portal, but we cannot yet see it clearly ourselves. Informed by their witness, however, we are drawn by our own inner longing for the Light in the enduring spirit of faith, hope and love. We have an inkling that those things visible for now just might not compare with the unseen glory beyond.

Moved by that realization, we included on the poster a line from St. Paul: “What is seen is transitory; what is unseen, eternal.”


© 2020 Warren Harbeck

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