the floor sleeper

by tobias crabtree

i sleep on the floor, it is my preference. maybe it’s because the floor seems like the ground, and i like the ground. i have my reasons for liking it; some hold water, some don’t. sometimes it’s difficult when i’m staying at someone’s house, they think i’m just being polite, so they say things like, “oh, you’ll love this bed. it’s my favorite” or “don’t be silly, no one sleeps on the floor when there’s a perfectly good bed and besides, i just changed the sheets.” i had a bed when i was a kid but once i moved out i never bought another. i make a pallet on the floor. i sleep outside a lot. when i lay down and i’m near the ground, things are better; the stars are more brilliant. when storms come, believe me, i know it. as i’ve gotten older i’m more aware of the necessity to practice staying close to the earth. i believe this awareness will continue to grow until, one day, i’m planted.

a friend and i once talked about buy the plot of land somewhere in the woods where we would be buried. the conversation continued and evolved into having a place where people could be buried, but not traditionally. they would be buried so that they would fertilize nature. under the roots of trees, no clothes and no coffins, re-immersion into the stream of things. i want that. ball me up and stuff me in the roots of a cedar tree, thank you very much! put me back. the worms know what to do. oh we had a fun conversation, and it really wasn’t morbid.

but i think i’m a long way from death. i feel like there is so much life to live…and yet, i remember thinking that 45 years old was an eternity. guess what? yeah, that’s right, eternity happened. so really, it’ll be here way sooner than i think. so i guess if i’m ever gonna start ballet, i should at least start taking some lessons.

i found someones bones once. i was in the mountains near huascaran, a burly peak in peru, i was walking across boulders as big as busses and where the sun shined down through the boulders, 20 feet below, i could a white bone. it would be a nasty fall into that space and it took me a bit to work my way down. the body was small and upside down. the head was nothing but a shell and the teeth had washed away. in the sand, where the head was positioned, it was easy to see that the years of water running down from the mountain had deteriorated the skull. the rest of the body was less touched by the run-off and the bones were white and very fragile. i pushed on one of the ribs and it cracked in half. my guess was that it was a campesino who had been wandering out and had fallen. someone never came home. when i went to sleep that night, out on the ground, i felt the wind and the movements of the world deep below me. the earth has guts too…they move and rumble and moan. i woke several time that night and i felt it was from something within…maybe me, maybe things deeper than me.

when i spend lots of time alone (and i do like to do this and, although i’m not a loner, i believe we should all do some quiet inner seeking. it’s a good thing.)  in a quiet place, i eventually begin to see things out of the corner of my eye. it doesn’t always happen. i’m not a person prone to believe in ghosts and i do love science, but i’ve definitely seen things that i had to shrug my shoulders about.  and why not? there is plenty we will never know. i prefer to defer to mystery. those whispering voices that are in the quaking leaves. that flash of movement in the canyon. waking from an afternoon nap in the aspens and feeling almost certain that someone called my name.

dreams? maybe. and what is the difference between dreams and reality anyway? who are those made up beings that are characters in my dreams?

thank goodness these questions cannot be answered. if you know the answer, don’t tell me. i would rather wonder.

i read once about a fella that grew old. he had adopted a boy of a different race and taught him an older, deeper way of living. he taught him that the stones could talk and that the mountains cried when they were disrespected. he prayed to the sun and the moon and the rivers and trees. his last words were to the boy-turned-man and they were simply to remember the path he had shown him. the best of it was that the old man walked off and was never found. i like to think he went and laid himself against the ground and gave himself back.

oh to be like him.