from the quiver to the sky
by tobias crabtree
before we had smart phones we had mirrors.
before mirrors we had shiny metal.
before shiny metal we had the quiet surface of a puddle or pond.
i can press a button on my computer and there i am, my monkey face is staring back at me. if i want i can make it better with the press of a couple creative little buttons. we stare at ourselves without the slightest reservation. we are tragic little fiends, aren’t we? and on facebook we capture our best angles in the perfect light so we can be the person we need to be. as much as it’s distasteful to me, as much as i avoid the mirror (avoidance is two-fold, one is that i fear my own nasty pride that seems to have parties without asking my permission and, two, i fear the sliding features that age surprises me with each and every day), i’m guilty of silly vanities. after all, i am a slave to insecurities and sorrows; i kick them from my house but they don’t leave, they walk around back and slip in through the kitchen and move about quietly so i won’t notice them. the vanity, i can battle. shining youth is a sad and beautiful trick played upon us. oh my, it’s so unnoticed while we are living it, and so painfully apparent when it’s gone. i wince when i think back and remember some of my statements as a 25 year old man. they may be forgotten by those for whom they were intended, but i remember them. i surely do.
pretty pictures and shiny mirrors ain’t bad. they’re like sugar, we shouldn’t allow them all the time. have we forgotten to trust one another? do we really need to be the person in our profile picture? can’t i just be tobias? i promise i’ll be an idiot sometimes, as usual, and you can remember me as just plain ol’ me.
i’m afraid we are losing real life color to pixel counts and i-phone apps that make everything so much cooler than real life. there is an aching world under our feet, she promises mud and roots and mosquito bites and wind and sprouting grasses and little speckled lizards and that creaking sound that a tree makes in the woods that scares us a little. you don’t need anyone to help you go there, you can go alone and put life back into things lost, things forsaken. beyond my weak and stumbling words are the things that swirl in my imagination, they go out to where the blue water turns to black, where the shapes in the dark don’t fit into our data bases. no amount of technology can replace the soul. it’s our soul that makes the music, it ain’t the device we carry it in.
i know this guy named tony. he lives in the desert outside of joshua tree. you can see the native blood in tony’s eyes the same as flashing lightning in a high country storm. he carries the old fire. but yeah, he puts feathers onto straightened sticks (it’s called “fletching”). he notches one end and puts a point on the other. he twists sinew into a chord and loops the ends. he pulls a draw knife down a juniper bough and tapers the ends just so. when it’s all done, he strings the chord onto the bow, notches the arrow, points it toward the sun and sets it loose. i’ve seen him do it and i’ve marveled at his skills. the feel of an arrow leaving a bow is like nothing else. there is a magic to it that i can’t really dress up with words. every child should be allowed to shoot an arrow as high and as far as it’ll go. it opens the mind.
when i lie in my sleeping bag, i like to imagine our lives as arrows. before we are born, we are in a quiver somewhere in the big wherever else. we are born and the arrow is loosed to the sky. youth is the immediate amazement and the raw power as the arrow carries the energy of it’s origin away from the bow. middle age is the topping out and the distance traveled and the realization that the upward arch is gone. and the falling back to the earth is old age. it is wonderful and beautiful and just as glorious as birth. a well fletched arrow will fall straight and pure, spinning perfectly. right now, for me, there is loft and a feeling of weightlessness, the view is pretty damn good.
i love this flight.