The raspberry ruby: seeing beauty in sacred serendipity

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 28, 2014

Barely a centimetre across, the red gem celebrated the morning sun’s rays with radiant refractions that spoke of the sacred serendipity of hope-filled beauty around us and through us.  Photo by Warren Harbeck

Have you ever seen a raspberry ruby? I certainly hadn’t. Not until the other day, that is. And in a most unlikely setting. Let me tell you about it.

But first, two responses to last week’s column on Stirling Clark’s photographic encounters with owls.

You’ll recall that I featured three of Stirling’s photos of owls all staring intently, as owls are prone to do, at the guy behind the lens.

Okotoks coffee companion Tami Anderson, a human relations consultant, picked up on my closing line, “You learn a lot by watching.”

“We do learn by watching,” Tami wrote. “We learn as we watch people process through their pain while holding a space. It allows us to participate with our own pain too so we can heal.” That is, through observation we learn love – love for self and love for others.

Then there was this response from Stony Plain reader Jack Popjes. He was commenting on a private note I’d sent him about the beauty of sacred serendipity – the delightful moments of experiencing an owl’s wink as well as other surprises along life’s journey that really make our day, surprises such as the raspberry ruby in the photo I sent him and am including with this week’s column.

“Sacred serendipity? Hmm,” he mused. “It’s a lot like the game we used to play with our kids on long boring car trips. ‘I spy with my little eye, I see something . . . red!’ And next thing you know, everywhere we looked we saw ‘something red.’

“And so it is with those who have the eyes of faith. ‘I spy with my little eye, I see something . . . . sacredly serendipitous!’ And next thing you know . . . .”

Which brings me back to how I came across that raspberry ruby and encountered the sacred in the ordinary.

A couple of weeks ago I was just finishing my usual early morning coffee at the A&W when I noticed that Stirling and another of my favourite photographers, Jack Tennant, were talking shop at the sunlit table across the room. I joined them briefly.

But what really caught my attention wasn’t so much the topic of their conversation as the beautiful red gem on the table between them. 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. . . . . Completely become hearing and ear, and wear this sun-ruby as an earring.”

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. We become channels of faith, hope and love in serendipitous encounters with others – unplanned moments of delight with no other agenda on the table than being present so the Sacred can radiate through us.

So, about that ruby on Stirling and 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 that only moments earlier had held his breakfast.

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 that had landed on Jack’s plate.

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.


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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