Serendipity’s friend

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, January 19, 2023

These columns thrive on serendipity. And fortunately for us, many of our readers delight in their own encounters with unexpected moments of beauty and happiness. Such is the case with Marlis McDouall, and like myself, she has a constant companion to help her remember those moments. In word and deed, my mentor in German language and culture told me about her recent serendipitous pleasure.

Marlis joined me at Cochrane Coffee Traders the other morning to bring me up to date on life as she sees it. And indeed, “as she sees it” was central to our conversation. She experiences the beauty of life through her cell phone camera, much as I do. So, we shared images and memories.

That evening she emailed me a photo she’d just taken.

“I took this photo about 20 minutes before sundown this afternoon,” she said. Inspired by our talk that morning, she’d gone looking for the beauty of our foothills. “I went to Ghost Lake. Moments after I took the picture, the sun disappeared behind the bend of the river.”

This was a vivid experience for her while she waited for the sun to disappear. It evoked in her the memory of a choral rendition of a piece of German folk music she’s long loved: “Es löscht das Meer die Sonne aus, “The sea extinguishes the sun” (

The first verse of the love song translates: “As the sea extinguishes the sun, / Cooling moonlight is awakened. / And the golden eagle tiredly leaves her domicile / To the silver swan of night.”

While larger cameras might be elsewhere just when needed, Marlis’s cell phone is always with her, she says. “It gives me the opportunity to capture many such unexpected yet worthwhile moments.”

“Why are such cell phone photos so important to you in the long run?” I asked her.

“Looking at photos that we take along life’s path always jolts our memory,” she says. “It gives us the ability to remember and relive happy times with our children when they were young or our parents/grandparents/loved ones who have since left this world, as well as places we have visited” (such as the attached Ghost Lake sunset moment).

“They are never just our pictures. They are our stories and emotions – our stories, our emotions that may very well have been long forgotten were it not for the photos.”

Thanks, Marlis, for this serendipitous visit.


© 2023 Warren Harbeck

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