pre-dawn secrets

by tobias crabtree

the sun isn’t up yet, in fact, it’s hours till dawn. i can hear each separate wave as it rolls in from it’s long voyage and ends on the beach; and it’s message is delivered,  be it shell or carcass or tiny wiggling creature. the birds have not yet started their call for the sun. the streets are quiet with only an occasional lonely reveler calling out to himself, the night is spent like his money; swirling, dreamless, drunken sleep awaits him at the next park bench.

this is the hour that calls me. there are certain secrets contained in this darkness before dawn. there is the coffee that is so fine and strong and devilishly dark-hearted. there is the sound of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks as he sings out the genius of his youth. there are the thoughts lined up like patients in a doctors office, waiting to be seen; i am writing prescriptions as fast as i can.

more than what happens at this hour is the capacity for what might be. the day seems so grand, as if a bit of the night has been broken off and added. my colored pencils sit in their box, glowing. my pens jump into my hand and lean into the lines i do so love to draw. i wear a headlamp (years of living outside and reading from a sleeping bag have created  habits that are strange when practiced in a more civilized environment) to provide a more pointed light. just a little light, please, not too much. just enough to see the words, to find the way, to chase off just enough of the shadow but not all of it. it is the feeling of solitude and gratitude that drags me from my pallet at this unpopulated hour. i’m not the only creature awake, this is sure. crepuscular ones.

and while i can find little more to write about at this dark hour, than my thrill of writing at this dark hour, i guess that’s good enough. my mind is the sneaky little mammal, leaving tracks in the sand in the dark. (i woke once, appalled to find skunk tracks all around me, some of them just inches from my face. i must have had my nose turned off or something.) that is what a writer’s mind is anyway, a hungry little varmint that leaves tracks all across papers and screens. some meandering. some chasing prey. some on a long, long migration. each of our tracks differ in that they are possessed by different souls and produced at our own pace. and so it is with me, in my own stumbling, limping way i’m leaving my passage, interesting or not, as i continue the chase.

in closing, i’ll tell a little story. i love following tracks. i’m by no means an expert but i love being able to pick up a line of tracks and follow them. there is so much to be seen and read. the interests are revealed. most of the time, the sex of the animal becomes known. intimate details of a creature’s life can be pulled from the placement of their paws as they live and hunt and eat and mate and play. i have also come across things that i just couldn’t figure out. that would have been the case for this story had i not witnessed it first hand. i was in the desert after a strange snow storm. it had happened late in the winter season and the mojave was covered in almost two feet of snow. everything spiny and snowy. the joshua trees had tall white caps of fluff. i was up and walking with the sun and it was incredibly quiet; everything insulated from the powder. i was looking out over the white and saw a coopers hawk flying low, eye-level, straight towards me. she wasn’t flying hard, mostly gliding, and she had a chipmunk in her talons. all was perfectly clear as she passed; the chipmunk hanging, eyes closed, a drop of bright red blood fell from it’s nose and landed in the snow a few feet from me.  one brilliant, crimson drop on a desert of pure white. i saw another fall after a wing beat. and so i followed, making circles when i lost the line of red. i walked for over a mile and finally lost the little hawk and the bleeding chipmunk.

while i will never capture the purity of the world as it really is…i can’t help but try to re-color it in a dime-store version of the real thing. it’s the best i can do.