An Extraordinary Gift

Kingsgrove, NSW

There is a joyfulness attached to both the giving and the receiving of a gift. Sometimes this exchange of gifts between two people goes beyond the ‘ordinary’, the birthday or the anniversary for example, to become a milestone memory. I recently received such an extraordinary gift. What made this benevolence even more unique was that it came not from an old friend but a new one. [1] Benevolence is from the Latin benevolentia, literally “good will”. Is there a nobler motivation for the giving of a gift?

The iron oxide cross tilting and fading in its dark but paradoxically illuminated background reflected much of my life. It was one of Chick’s largest oil paintings [1350mm x 1700mm] and it hung in the corner of his busy workshop. [2] It drew my attention and transfixed my spirit every time I would visit. I could not ask my new friend if this awe-inspiring piece of art was for sale. What price could either one of us put on it? And yet from that first encounter I was convinced that one day, this magnificent work would come home with me. I would later also discover that the canvas was sprayed with salt water and so resonating with even more symbolism.

Around a month ago Chick [Charles Butcher] invited me to look at the draft layout of his [and his partner’s Cobi Cockburn] upcoming exhibition. Once more through the adept use of mixed-media he was investigating that thin nuclear line between the material and immaterial worlds. My first movement was towards the painting. Again I was spellbound by what it was whispering to me from that high place where it hung: that however deep the surrounding darkness Endurance is never wholly extinguished. And I would recollect one of my favourite lines from the noble but unsung Russian poet Olga Sedakova: “For ages I’ve known/ that all creatures with wings are blind, /and that’s why birds cry, ‘O Lord!”


“Michael… I want you to have it.”

“Thank you, Chick… I had been waiting.”

From the most unexpected places come our sorrows and our joys. From a friend the arrival of an arrow and from a stranger a great delight.


[1] I had known Chick (Charles) Butcher for some time before. Our two boys played together in the local football team. But it was only later during a conversation at Killalea State Park that we started to forge a friendship. We would discover some strong similarities in our thinking and were surprised to learn of each other’s “hidden” identities.

[2] Chick shares his workspace with his partner Cobi Cockburn who is also an award winning and internationally recognized artist.