Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Farewell to a Wilderness Troubadour

Walkin' Jim Stoltz
June 1953–September 2010

We can't afford to lose people who are passionate about wilderness and its preservation, planetary stewardship, and all things wild and free. But we do. With the death of Walkin' Jim, an important voice for the Earth has gone too soon, but his message and his memory lives on through a legacy of music he left with us.

And what a voice! Deeper than a shadowed mountain valley, headlong as a mountain stream, that voice rattles your bones like a blast of high-country wind. The wild wind he celebrated his whole life. I urge you to experience his songs yourself and see just why this advocate will be missed so much by those who loved him and all who knew his music. Listen, and consider buying a CD or download to remind you of the Forever Wild his life celebrated so well... Like the buffalo, his spirit is still on the run.

The message in my inbox said it all: "Legendary American Folksinger, Backcountry Traveler, and Wilderness Advocate James "Walkin' Jim" Stoltz Returns to Earth." A "troubadour," Webster tells me, is a "class of poet-musicians... whose major theme was love." Jim's love of Earth was his guiding principle and the focus of his lifework. Live each day like you mean it, he said, and he did.

I've been the lone wanderer, ramblin' free,
But there's more to this life that I want you to see,
For around every bend, a kind thought and a friend,
Has been there uplifting me.

It's the good hearts that spring from the salt of the Earth,
They inspire and brighten my days,
And I owe it all to the spirit of love,
And the friends along the way.

-- from "Friends Along The Way" on The Long Trails CD

This life is so rich I can taste it,
And I’ve given my heart to the wind,
And when the rain falls down,
And the sun rolls round,
I’ll be thinkin’ like a mountain once again
—from "Thinkin' like a Mountain" on The Vision CD

Like Loren Eiseley, he "loved the Earth but could not stay."

Photo above: Jim (right), with my friend Eric, another defender of wilderness, at Red Rocks in March 2006. When Eric died in June 2008, I wrote Jim to ask to use his songs in a tribute. Typically generous, he replied:

...another good man gone too soon. Yes, please feel free to use any of my songs or lyrics in any way you see fit. I'd be so honored if they were used to celebrate him in some small way.

I send my sympathies to you in this time of loss. Time to sing to the mountain and listen for that echo...the spirits of Eric and all wilderness defenders reminding us to keep on.

Despite cancer, Eric and now Jim kept on... Let's make sure something wild outlives them, outlives all of us.

1 comment:

Joe Todd said...

A beautiful tribute