Cups of light for dark times

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, February 17, 2022

Sun’s rays, refracted through syrup dispenser, cast smile onto table top. Photo by Warren Harbeck

The other day I was having my weekly coffee with friends at Smitty’s Restaurant in Cochrane when the sun spoke to us through a dispenser of maple syrup, giving us wisdom for positive living in these dark times of pandemic, economic hardship and international tensions.

My friends were having pancakes, and on the table between me and the window was a glass dispenser of maple syrup. The sun was shining brightly through the window, onto the dispenser, and through the maple syrup onto our dark table top.

That’s when I noticed the background shape of a frown in the base of the dispenser (the dark curved line across top left in accompanying photo). But the sun’s rays passing through the syrup were projecting a bright smile onto the table (lower right).

What at first served merely as a dispenser of taste was serving now as an agent of hope and light through the magic of refraction. It was, for me, another Cup-of-Light moment.

You may recall my first lesson in Cups of Light just over seven years ago. As I approached the counter at Cochrane Coffee Traders one morning, the server asked me what I’d like. “A cup of light, please,” I said. Immediately Eric Bourchier, the husky fellow at the front of the line next to me, overhearing my order, said in a very gloomy tone of voice, “Oh, I need a cup of light, too.”

With a bewildered expression, I looked directly at my normally positive friend. He explained that life was pretty dark for him that morning. He had just lost his job in the oil patch, another casualty of our province’s economic crunch back then.

Over the next few days, he told me more of his sad story, and in lending him my listening heart, he cheered up. Ever after, whenever we see each other, we hold our hands up to our chest, thumbs up, as if holding a coffee, and say: “A Cup of Light, Eric!” and “A Cup of Light, Warren.”

Our readers can well identify with Eric’s thirst for an uplifting Cup of Light in today’s distressingly dismal times.

But Cups of Light are being served in many ways. For me, one cup in particular is the memory of Lamplighter Luc , who passed away 23 years ago this coming week.

Lucian “Lamplighter Luc” Kemble was a Franciscan priest who served for many years at Cochrane’s Mount St. Francis Retreat. He was also a celebrated amateur astronomer for whom part of the starry sky is named: Kemble’s Cascade. He left a legacy of wonder and awe at simple beauty. He’d have gone into near ecstasy over sunlight refracted through that maple syrup dispenser at Smitty’s.

And when anyone came to him feeling as insignificant as a speck of dust, he had his special Cup-of-Light response: “Insignificant? I don’t think so. You may be made from dust, true – but it’s star dust!”

Coming back to the maple syrup lesson, we, as channels of light, can sweeten dark frowns into bright smiles. As a verse from that popular hymn The Prayer of St. Francis pleads:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness only light
And where there's sadness ever joy.


© 2022 Warren Harbeck

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