Monday, April 15, 2013

Buffalo Continues to Manifest

As one gets older, and comes closer and closer to facing the inevitable nature of mortality, there are many variables that come into clearer focus. The coincidences that occurred in the past, become less and less amusements, but in fact, expand to become something that one begins to pay acute attention to.

About three weeks ago, I wrote a poem to many of you, (and will repost), BUFFALO HEADING NORTH, that came in a mad flurry of words and thoughts that expressed the way that I was feeling, that nature was running its course, and that there was indeed an inevitability of the break down of the body and mind. Through the poem, I realized that as is the nature of the animal kingdom, the herd would either cull out the blight, or protect it, depending on how important the herd deemed wisdom over physical break down.

For several days, I was obsessive about the poem, because it expressed so much of my frustration and fear of losing my place in the herd. With buffaloes, as it is with many herd animals an injury can mean certain death, and often does, if the injury becomes a liability.

For many years now, after I had my hip operated on, I have felt the gradual pain and break down of both body and mind, watching a limp grow more pronounced, feeling my back begin to also carry pain, and not knowing what was happening. Although now I understand more of what was happening to me, instead of finding my place in the herd with shear physical energy, I have sought to make a transition into becoming important to the herd through finding the wisdom of experience. The first traces of isolation, however, occur because those with physical prowess are going to continue doing so, those with health are going to pair up with the many that can run with the wind, and those without slowly begin to find themselves falling behind. An injury that doesn't heal itself becomes a liability, and the situation is compounded if you were one with once great physical energy, that you did in fact, once lead with the same prowess you now only see in others.

In my case, since I never had children, (but always wanted them) the instinctual loyalty and closeness one gets as a result is not available to me, so I have to rely on family members that are still amongst the living, but even that closeness begins to subside. And that's just the point of fact, EVERYTHING begins to subside. How could this happen to me? How can I even begin to explain? 

Opting to begin making music as a way to counteract my ability to physically work all day and night, I am also realizing how very precarious that is as well, even though I can do it for a few hours a day, it is not exactly optimum pay, especially when one has fallen so far behind. Still, I really do enjoy it, and most recently, I found the perfect place for me, and, I have to tell you, it is the BUFFALO who is leading me.

It is very odd how sometimes the very obvious, right there in front of us, is so often lost as well. I started a job at a large and beautiful restaurant and saloon, Bill Johnson's Big Apple, but before I started, I had been in there many times to look at the saloon, noticing all the old photos and posters on the wall, etc. How odd now to realize that the place I picked to put the stage was right beneath a great buffalo head, however, I didn't even notice it there, even though I noticed everything else in the place! In fact, I built the stage, placed the stage and played for two nights before I DID notice it, and that because someone posted a photo of me playing, with buffalo head above me! Why I did not make this obvious connection, I don't really know, other than perhaps some kind of denial that it existed and was pointing me in the right direction. As I said, the obvious is sometimes lost to us, and in my case, as lost as it could be. Then people started saying, "Wow, Raymond, look at that buffalo right above your head!" Perhaps my reluctance to notice it was also to enhance the impact it would have when I did notice it.

So, writing a poem, BUFFALO HEADING NORTH, and then re-writing compulsively on the poem until present, and then getting a job where I am playing music right beneath a giant buffalo head, well, coincidence? See what I mean? How readily we are to deny and somehow explain away its existence. How do I explain away this great coincidence? How do I get around the fact that there are plenty of places in this world where I could have found myself playing music that did not happen to be below a buffalo. See what I mean? It isn't scary really, its more of a how do I honor it? How do I explore the depth of its meaning?  Shall I start the religion of the Great Buffalo? Well, some of this is worth looking into—I started by reviewing the poem and what I know about buffaloes.

Symbolically, its probably the most revered and meaningful of the animals in North American, and much of that because of its history. Without writing about its history, (most people know that) I will write, however, about my own history with the buffalo.

I think my connection with the buffalo started as a young child. In Boulder, Utah, the town that my family is from. I was always mesmerized by The Henry Mountains, a mountain range west of Boulder. I remember looking at the mountains as a child, and was further intrigued when I discovered that The Henry Mountains was the home of a buffalo herd, one of the few places where a buffalo herd could be found. The other thing I learned about the Henry's was a gold strike that occurred there in the late 1800's, for a child, buffaloes and gold strikes do all kinds of things to the imagination. Over the years, my intrigue with the mountains maintained the posture, they were like the mountains that watched over Boulder.

(flash forward to four years ago)

There were three sightings of a buffalo in Boulder. One in Salt Gulch, one in Upper Boulder, and finally, one in The Draw, which was on the other side of town. I remember being instantaneously empowered by the story that was told around town by the people. A story of a buffalo sighting spreads fast in a small town. And then, when I found out the buffalo was killed by the local police and the game warden, I was devastated. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm sure that I wrote about it, but this morning, I could not find the post over the two hundred and sixty that I have posted here. But I know its there. There is more history of the buffalo and my life, but for now, I will tell you that the symbol of the buffalo has great significant meaning. I do remember telling people as a playwright, the one person show, the one person play that a playwright must write sometime in his life is called The White Buffalo. It is the play that is the hardest to find and to write. The buffalo has always turned up symbolic in my vocabulary, it's' meaning and the 'why' sometimes a mystery, but it is there.

Now that I know how to do links and am incorporating them into my posts, rather than explain the symbolism of the buffalo, I will let a link do it for me, Buffalo meaning and symbolism, but I will post the re-written poem of BUFFALO HEADING NORTH. In my search for meaning and survival, the universe has given me many things to contemplate in my quest, but can I hang onto this? Can I begin to teach others how to find spiritual significance in the sometimes vagaries of life? Perhaps my prayer and my way to recovering my health must be given to the buffalo. I've never been one to give into the pretentiousness of latching onto a philosophy that belongs so completely to Native Americans, but how can I sit here and deny this path? How can I deny that I once directed Jere Luis's play, THE LAST BUFFALO and connected to it so completely that I actually believed I  became a shaman for awhile to get people into see it on the side of the highway? I need to start paying closer attention to the buffalo, perhaps many of us should, for me, it may be life or death. I recently read that "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…" Perhaps the teacher has appeared, perhaps I will follow the buffalo and become one myself as I seem to be manifesting.

Come, buffalo, come…

Buffalo Heading North

By Raymond King Shurtz

I. Introduction

I could not rise today.

I felt so good the day
before I even climbed  
the mountain!
I was manifesting foolish
youth, striking stars
with sticks, laughing
like Butch and Sundance
on the rocky trail
pulling iron on old bones
roping mesquites 
with simple ease
I secretly carried
the bottle of lightning
in my pocket I took
from storms long ago—
capturing them in the
that place between
life and death.

I was a buffalo then—
but then you think 
me foolish to play 
upon these eventide
words of yesterday—
the truth is in the story 
my friend, and stories
are never free. 

I will tell you of my buffalo days. 
I smile to myself in my own 
Recollection—but truth is a 
flighty lover at best. 

II. Buffalo Days

Ten years hence 
I climbed and leaped
like my brother
the fleet footed gazelle
muscle memory
took me to the top!
The wind had cleared!
The sky nary a cloud!
The color of the bluebird,
floating on late winter
breezes for me! For me!  

I looked to the The North!
The North! And Summer! 
Where the grass is thick!
Where the Henry Mountains
loom like the horses of
giant Paiutes riding 
for the hunting grounds! 
Where the snow water melts! 
Aaah, the cool taste of life
where the calves bellow
The sweetness
of new born breath.

But I have walked in to many snows.
And there was the three days
stuck in barbed wire
the deep hole I didn't see
the twist to free myself
the showdown with Gorr of
the Canadian heard,
another blow to the leg and shoulder
and,then, the fire, Oh, the fire! 

This morning did I sleep? Did I dream? 

Pain shot down my leg
Like the jack I wanted
To throw back
In my dry throat
with the cold spring water
of my wild days
to lessen its fire
to make me forget, 
the human part of me

I dreamed it during
The night, it burned
going down, as if I was
one of the ancient ones
of my collective ancestors
feeling the sting

of the fire water

Pain is not a cover
Pain is not a lover
Pain is a price of
A life lived like 
a young buffalo—
much too reckless
taking chances,
fighting with vigor
that was never asked
of me—but Oh!
I had wings on the wind
I had strength in my legs
I had my Grandfather
who stood in the sacred circle
A stoic who would die 
The natural death
protected by the young ones,
never to be left behind.

It was the last trip North
I faced the stumble
the withering of flesh
Oh, God! forget me not
lest I feel the
deep pain,
the gradual limp of doom.

When the limp arrives
nature whispers,
as if the news were 
part of living, part of dying
part of buffalo words

danger has arrived too soon.

The eyes of
my comrades gradually
begin to look away—
retreating from the
sparkle that once
peered into my soul.
"Sorrow,"my brother,
we know. "Fear". 
We will do what we can.
We cannot make
promises though,
what can we do? 
Shall we hold vigilance
this winter? 
Shall we buy you some time
in wooded thickets? 

Maybe I'll head to
The summer pastures—
I smile, I look towards 
the great Navajo mountain
I think—maybe the green
grass will keep the wolves
At bay, perhaps they will not 
notice the wound
as I stand solemnly
in the thicket

I'll find some cool mud
To stand in, maybe I'll
Smile and tell stories
Of a hundred moons
To the young ones

Perhaps I'll survive there,
Until the snow comes
And the stories end- 
when the calves 
spring 'neath mothers
steamy haunches
for the rocky trails

Aaah, maybe one more
season,  maybe two,
with luck and the
random notes
of nature. But
I'll not pray!
prayer is for the
great bear, the eye
of the eagle-the corpses
of bones along the 
brush of trails.

If do survive, it will
be because I've rested well
or because I still know things,
things that only one buffalo
could possibly know.
Or if one, just one, will 
knock at the door of 
kindness with mid-life
strength, and I will tell 
this one story that 
will remain in a buffalo's

Will that be enough for
Other buffaloes?
The young ones?
The weaker ones?
The ones who lost
both mother and father?

I will make it a glorious summer,
I will touch the small ones
And if it's there I'll leave my seed
to an old sweetheart, perhaps start a
family I once longed for between
my singular journeys.
Why did I stray so far from the herd?
Why did I feel so different,
after all, wasn't I a buffalo too?
I'll romance this year, hide my leg with
charm and wisdom, maybe we will find
each other after so many years.

The Wolf is so near, he has
been watching me for years. 
all he needs is for me
To run out of independence—perhaps
I'll stay in the middle of the herd,
perhaps I can control my longing
to be alone. He and I have been
playing this dangerous game
for so many years.

Neither of us forget.

The wolf does not care for my stories,
perhaps he does have empathy
for my pain, and he will relieve
My suffering—and maybe he will
render my end with a short bite
To my neck, it could be worse…
Yes, It could be worse.

2/28/13 copyright by Rshurtz 


Gerry said...

I did think it was pretty strange for you to go north to play music under the majestic head of a real buffalo after writing this poem obsessively...

Bohemian Cowboy said...

So do do I...

Ann K. Reynolds said...

Did you hear the story of the big bull buffalo on the Henry Mt. that would charge honking trucks or cars? People had to have them towed. Mother and Dad went and were warned repeatedly. The big buffalo was in the road when they got to the Henry's. Mother told Daddy not to honk...don't honk. don't honk. So they stopped and the bull came right up and nudged the truck, but didn't charge. Mother said it took forever before the bull wandered off. They did not start the truck for some time, then went slowly on out of range. I like that story!
I am listening to the bombings at the Boston Marathon...the world is not safe...I'd rather face the buffalo.