Columnist’s wife sees with the heart

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 16, 2019

Beyond the visible… 'What is seen is transitory; what is unseen, eternal.' —St. Paul

Mary Anna Harbeck shares her journey toward seeing with heart through a camera lens. Photo, left, by Fred Monk; right, by Mary Anna Harbeck

My amazing wife Mary Anna shared the honour of receiving the Rotary Club of Cochrane’s Integrity Award for 2018 at their annual Integrity dinner at the Cochrane RancheHouse this past Saturday. The award was partly based on the inspiring beauty of her photography. In her thank-you speech, she spoke of her journey toward seeing with the heart through a camera lens. Here’s what she said:

MY FIRST IMAGES of Warren are of him walking around campus back in our college days with a large camera box hanging from his shoulder as he documented events for Houghton College PR (public relations) publications to put himself through college. And, even after we left Houghton, photography was an important part of his life. As they grew up, our two boys even became interested.

So with all those photographers in the family, I didn't feel the need to get involved. One weekend a few years ago, though, Warren and I visited another photographer friend, Fr. Fred Monk, after he had moved from Cochrane to another parish in Bow Island. He’s with us here tonight. The three of us went out for a "shooting" day. In order not to be left out, I took along a small digital Kodak of Warren's.

While the two men played with their big cameras, I looked in different directions to find things they weren't noticing. When we got back, the two were amazed to find out that I could "see" photographically, too.

Next thing I knew, Warren bought me my first "point and shoot" digital camera, and I've been having fun ever since. I still don't know all the technical things, but I enjoy myself as long as I can capture the image I see.

I love to look for the unnoticed details, such as small flowers in the grass, a spider that has landed on the windshield after we've been parked under a tree, or a police car moth resting on a daisy in my garden. Sometimes I find a ladybug or a beetle crawling on a leaf.

Fortunately for me, an old apple tree grows outside our bedroom window. I leave the apples on it so that in the spring the migrating birds will stop by and eat their fill. We've left the screen off so that I can gently slide open the window and capture images of robins, scarlet tanagers, and even a Baltimore oriole unawares. Once I caught a neighbourhood cat in the tree looking angrily at me lest I chase away the possibility of his dinner!

Warren has encouraged me by publishing some of my photos in his weekly columns, and some of my photos have found their way into other publications, as well.

One summer my sister Rhoda and I travelled from Alberta to Phoenix. On the way we stopped at Bryce Canyon, eagerly anticipating the classic view of all those spires in bright morning sunlight. However, we encountered rain and fog.  I took just a few photos, one of an arch as the fog appeared to be lifting.

When I talked to Warren that evening, I told him what a disappointing day it had been. Days later after we were home, Warren began looking at my photos on the computer and discovered the mystical beauty of that fog-enshrouded arch. He made it into what became a very popular poster. Toward the top of the poster he placed the heading, "Beyond the Visible...". Then he quoted those famous words from St. Paul, "What is seen is transitory; what is unseen, eternal." (II Cor. 4:18)

With that foggy image still in our thoughts, then, I'd like to conclude with the reminder that, no matter how foggy life's trail gets, we live by faith and not by sight.

THANK YOU, MARY ANNA. May all who get to know you likewise experience seeing with the heart life’s beautiful integrity that invites us to persevere by faith when life’s trail is foggy.


© 2019 Warren Harbeck

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