Friday, December 14, 2007

No Time For Sadness


When Charlie Russell was an old man,
you were an infant
sitting in swadling clothes
beneath great cat's eyes
and cougar fangs,
with death's fetid breath
on your child's brow.

That mountain lion
could have swooped you up
and rushed into the timber
with your head
in its mouth,
and it could have had
your tender young flesh
for breakfast;
but that was not to be.

Your mother turned
and leaped upon the lion
like a she-bear;
death fled,
and you were spared.

You have fallen off buildings
and trains,
been soaked in gasoline
and totally aflame,
been shot at,
and discriminated against;
yet the green kid
that rode the cowcatcher for fun
is now the man
who stands perched
over eight decades
like a Colossus of the Columbia.

these days
when the path behind
seems longer
than the road ahead,
and you feel that sometimes
you could reach out
and actually touch
the horizon;
when you sit brooding
in your garage studio
for your next vision,
please remember
the feel of a fast horse
beneath you;
Eunis that ran like the wind
only for you;
the complete comradeship
of a collie,
listening attentively
to your dreams and aspirations,
during those long summer evenings
on your dad's ranch;
that old wood stove
that was worshiped in winter,
and the peppery smell of pitch and pulp
as you chopped the firewood;
the six miles to town
that you often ran on foot,
pumping your arms,
as a preliminary
for the 200 mile trek
along the Salmon River,
that you loped over like a stag,
your lips chiseled out of rock,
your muscles like wang-leather,
your eyes clear as an owl's,
pausing only to eat fish,
kill a charging black bear,
steal a chicken
and a can of peaches;
the buckboard rides with your dad
into town,
the wagon overflowing
with ripe watermelons;
those nine kinds of apples
that you grafted and grew
on one tree;
all there in your heart
and mind,
in many colors,
tastes, and smells.

Remember also
the first time you saw an Indian,
a car,
a plane;
your first gun,
your first kill,
your first kiss;
those initial tentative talented scribblings
and crude cartoons
on scraps of paper,
in the sand,
and on trees,
making your teacher angry,
that metamorphed into paintings,
and prophesy;
those 20,000,000 brush strokes
on the sides
of thousands of buildings,
gas stations, towers, and bridges;
that made a living,
and fed your family,
helping to pass the years
it took for you to transition
from rancher, farmer, timberjack, sign painter, and dreamer,
to become
the undisputed
Master of the Skies.

You are an artist,
and so much more.
You create images and perceptions
that embrace life,
and capture it,
in paint.

Your paintings illustrate both the rose
and its thorns,
sharing with those
who can not smell
and can not feel;
for a simpleton can stand in the forest
and love a tree,
but only a select priviledged few
can recreate that tree
and that forest
on a canvas,
so realistically
one can bite the bark,
hear the wind in the needles,
and drink in a deep whiff
of sweet grass and wildflowers.

So, grandfather of mine,
banish discord and sadness
from your heart,
you have no time for it.

you are in the winter of your life,
and although
you often feel the dampness and cold
of the season you inhabit,
what you manage to do
for the rest of us
is paint
the summers and springs
that you fondly remember,
and we lovingly bathe
in the warmth
of your memory.

Your art will outlive you,
so please contine to paint
for all of us
soft-bellied, plastic, and poisoned people,
who will undoubtedly some day
have to dig out old copies
of Arizona Highways,
and yellowed prints
of Sky Carpenter paintings,
to remind us what
a tree,
a cloud,
a sky,
a fence post,
and harmony
was all about.

Glenn "Butch" Buttkus 1977

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