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...Meanwhile, the foxes, true to their names, Kit Fox, Vulpes velox, dash here

And there, circling the mulberry tree, bushy tails shining in the rising sun.

Their leaps behind what seem to be feline smiles are marked by high twists.

Their dances one of winter’s joys, a happy performance for grandfather sun.

They note that our beleagured two-legged world can battle all it wants,

But the rest of nature prefers other rythmns, the flow of two foxes dancing,

Or the steady drumbeats echoing in my heart across the snowy pueblo plaza.

—Carl Hertel
Yucca Valley, CA, 2003

Mask portrait of Carl Hertel, by his former art student Ari Bawa, of Bali

Mask portrait of Carl Hertel, by his former art student Ari Bawa, of Bali

Perspective in Passing

Kristen Hertel

In the days since Carl Hertel’s passing it has become increasingly clear just how far his sphere of influence went.

The fingertips of his spirit reached around the world. From the aged to the babies, the people in the city to the mountain folk—all distinctly part of the puzzle that made up his world, each with a different perspective on who he was.

He was a scholar, a husband, a dad, a teacher, a student, an equal, a brother, an authority, a lover, a painter, a son, a story, a friend, a poet, a traveler, a great grandfather, an environmentalist, a writer, a critic, and oh so much more.

He was my grandfather.

As a child, I would often brag that my grandpa was better than any other child’s because he looked like Santa Claus. Unbeknownst to anyone, I often carried his picture just in case I was accused of lying.

Another favorite boast was that my grandpa was a famous artist.

As I grew a bit older, I began to see a larger picture of the man I called Grandpa. I became curious about his passions. I pondered his political views. I marveled at his travels. I felt safe in the knowledge of his love for people— his family in particular.

And now, as I have begun to wet my feet in the world of adulthood, I see a whole different side. He wasn’t just Grandpa who sent the coolest Christmas presents. He wasn’t just Grandpa who wrote me postcards every month. He was a man of mystery. A man meant to leave a legacy.

Although my perspective has developed over the years, one part remains the same: Carl Hertel will always be Grandpa to me and I will always be his Kiddo.

From whatever perspective you saw him, whatever imprint he left on your life, one thing remains true: his legacy will live on. A portrait painted a little differently by each of us. It’s the way it should be. And that’s how he would’ve wanted it.


With his typical dignity and grace,  Carl Hertel died, surrounded by his loved ones.

December 12, 1930–July 27, 2004






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