Eagle’s eye view
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
One of our newest coffee companions raised the topic the other day about how The Cochrane Eagle, host newspaper for these columns, got its high-flying name. Well, I can’t resist retelling that story once more.
The late Jack Tennant, founder of the newspaper in 2001, was chatting with me over coffee about his vision of what the paper should be. It would be easy, he said, to just focus on the negative news, but we need a better way – a more positive way that, without ignoring the negative facts, sees them in a larger, hope-filled context. It should view events very much as an eagle does when soaring above our beautiful Bow Valley, seeing both the good and the bad. Ah yes, he realized, that’s what we should name the paper! And thus was born The Cochrane Eagle.
Upon further reflection on the name, I was reminded of a photo given to me by my Stoney Nakoda friend, the late Gerald Kaquitts. At the time, much of what was happening around me just made no sense. I felt like I was in a waterless wasteland. Gerald was sensitive to my needs and gave me the photo to help me maintain my sanity.
The 16×20-inch black and white image is of a desolate summer scene near Gerald’s home not far from the entrance to Kananaskis Country. A dried, treacherously cracked earthscape dominates the lower three fourths of the print. The fissures look enormous. Who could ever cross this hostile terrain? Yet, far off in the distance are the familiar mountains with slopes moist from melting snow nourishing the forest at their feet.
In reality, the seemingly unreachable mountains were almost at Gerald’s doorstep, and the parched wasteland was merely a dried mudhole only 20 feet (6 metres) or so across, easily traversed. Gerald had photographed the scene with an ultra-wide-angle lens from a point just a hand’s breadth above the “threatening” ground. Being so close to the mudflat magnified it to despairing proportions.
But, as Gerald pointed out to me, if the scene could be viewed as an eagle sees it when soaring high, hope would return. For what is viewed from close up as insurmountable becomes but an insignificant speck in the grander scheme of things.
No matter how despairing things look, looking at life from the right perspective can restore the beauty of the journey, Gerald was saying.
For the previous months of his life, Gerald had been very close to a difficult mudflat in his own journey. But now, like the eagle, he was soaring into greater understanding and peace.
Thank you, my friend, for being there for me in this nîbi ptenâ ne – in this all-too-short life. As Bette Midler put it so movingly in one of your favourite songs:
“I can fly higher than an eagle,
And yes, it was Jack’s intention in founding The Cochrane Eagle to provide an eagle’s eye perspective on news and views in and around Cochrane.
© 2023 Warren Harbeck