I first glimpsed Peter Butala in the small grocery in East End. It was as if a mountain had walked into the store. He was wholly unlike any other person I have met in my life--and I have met many fabulous, startling individuals. I had no idea who he was, but I knew that if there was one person I had to meet while in Saskatchewan, it was him. A few days later I ran into him again, and a few days after that there he was at the door of Stegner House coming to escort me on a tour of the Old Man on His Back, the 11,000 acre chunk of land he had recently given to the nature conservancy of Canada.
To call Butala a naturalist is to simplify the relationship of one person to himself, and his surroundings. To call him an environmentalist is again, to assume a thinking that is limited to a contemporary, defensive position. I'm not sure how I would describe Butala outside of the inadequate terms we have to discuss such consciousness. He was an inspiration. And a quiet place of beautiful thinking.