Jack radiated hope like raspberry ruby

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 12, 2021

Raspberry ruby at Jack Tennant’s table pointed to how he brought out the best in others. Photo by Warren Harbeck

Last week’s column paying tribute to the late Jack Tennant on the 20th anniversary of the Cochrane Eagle, the newspaper he founded, drew some truly grateful responses.

“How blessed you were to have known a man of such wisdom,” said Ottawa reader Ros Weeks.

Fellow columnist Ron Gobeil, of Parksville, BC, agrees. “You must find it special to have met people of that calibre, who leave an indelible mark which never seems to fade,” he wrote.

Well, Jack sure left an indelible mark on aerospace industry leader Sandford McLeod.

“Jack Tenant was a true giver,” he said.

Sandy had met Jack some years ago while running as MLA for Banff-Cochrane. Jack’s on-the-streets experiences as an alcoholic “gave him so much human understanding,” Sandy said.

“Jack interviewed me twice and we reminisced about that time in his early troubled youth. He knew Vancouver very well, especially the down-and-outer Water Street area,” which Sandy also knew well from his social work studies. “Jack’s life journey is a truly remarkable legacy reflecting the very strong, committed journey, prominently giving all he had in and around Cochrane.

“It’s the frontline hitters like Jack that make the difference.”

And speaking of making a difference, it’s my own experience that even just being in Jack’s presence could make a difference – sometimes in serendipitously delightful ways, as, for example, my encounter with a raspberry ruby at his table seven years ago. (See my Aug. 28, 2014 column.)

Jack was visiting with fellow photographer Stirling Clark at the A&W.

But what really caught my attention as I approached their table wasn’t so much the topic of their conversation as the beautiful red gem between them on the table. It was only about a centimetre across, but as the sun hit it, it glowed. Was it an . . . uncut ruby?

Now, rubies have held a special place in my imagination ever since I read the 13th century Persian poet Rumi’s piece, “The Sunrise Ruby.” It’s a conversation between lover and beloved. As preserved in Coleman Barks’ translation (The Essential Rumi), the lover says:

“I’m a ruby held up to the sunrise…. The ruby and the sunrise are one....”

For me, Rumi’s reference to the ruby and the sunrise being one had become a metaphor for our lives in this world as gems through whom the Sacred gives beautiful expression. No, we are not the sun itself, but we are the instruments through whom the sun beautifies the world around us.

So, about that ruby on Jack’s table. It was sitting right there in the bright morning sun. It was glowing gloriously in the middle of Jack’s otherwise empty paper plate. But neither Jack nor Stirling seemed to pay any attention to it. For all they cared, it might as well have been just a glob of raspberry jam.

And you know? That’s exactly what it was: just a glob of raspberry jam! In the eyes of many, it might seem totally insignificant, just like you and I may feel at times in this life.

To me, however, it was a raspberry ruby, an instance of sacred serendipity in the midst of life’s journey, and an example of the beauty that Jack radiated among all with whom he associated.


© 2021 Warren Harbeck

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