collection: get a jar

by tobias crabtree

my childhood window-sills were filled with jars; in my memory, they remain that way. i was, and always have been, a collector of things. hundreds of sad little spiders died inside the screwed down caps of old jelly jars. caterpillars passed their lives being fed, not so consistently, until they sewed themselves up inside their coccoons and turned themselves to liquid in order to reanimate once again as some beautiful fluttering inside the jar. if i was present, they were most often set free. i was a nasty little tyrant in those days. some insects never made it back from being collected.  but i was not just a collector of life, i have filled many a box with rocks, many a bag with sticks, many a book with flowers and leaves. i  recently came across a birds nest i kept and in it were hundreds of feathers. there were ones that were 14 inches long and ones that were a speck in my palm. there was a feather from a bald eagle that i had seen fall from it’s owner as she launched from a tree in washington. the tiny, bright, magenta feather i plucked from that one hummingbird i found on the trail where he had died (and i remember wondering if the magic had just run out of him, if the swirling, spinning sparks on which he lived had quit him, if the star from which he was born had gone out in the same fashion) was still buzzing among the drab, mothy feathers from nightjars and owls. for some reason, the desire to “own” those speckled coverings, those traveled instruments of flight, ran out of me. i set them free that day in the wind behind brian’s house.

so i’m a collector of sorts. i guess that’s what it boils down to. i still collect rocks, but i’m more prone these days to set them free once again in new and wild places. and i love words. words from sarah fontaine. words from brother foster. words from my mama. words from mr. erickson. words from ex-lovers (maybe future lovers, who can say?).  words from my teachers. words from rumi and hafiz (i put them together because they are similarly beautiful but they are different and i hope they don’t mind that i put them together but i’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind because they are who the are, they were who they were). words from melville, that wild-beard from the days of the whales. words from mary oliver, who carries my own sadness for me because she is stronger than me and because she is what i would be if my heart was only bigger. (see: how to have a bigger heart) yeah, a collector, that’s me alright.

i use my pockets to the max. i have them hold stuff that i find right now. i also use them to hold pens, which i collect. i even made a little pocket that i can carry in my pocket. i call it an extra pocket, and it is. i wish i had a pocket that would hold my sadness when i’m done feeling it. old sadnesses, they make me a little sad because they went away. i can’t explain it too well, but i am very aware of a feeling that has run it’s course and the river that has created a canyon in my heart loses it’s power, no longer rages, slows to a trickle and stops. the roaring falls are silent. and the image that i swore would never fade, fades. the face that i swore i would never close my eyes to, disappears in the distance of my faulty memory. if i had a pocket that would hold my sadnesses, i would pull them out now and again so that i could feel them for a second or two. i’m afraid of the mundane and sorrow is anything but mundane.

i have collected old pieces of paper with little things written on them. sayings and quotes and books i need to read. i recently found one that had a palindrome on it. in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. written under it was the translation which has to do with wandering in circles in the night and being consumed by fire. i got that little scrap years ago, before the world wide web was everybody’s best friend. i carried it, along with all the other scraps, so that i could be reminded of all the mysteries that are suspended within reach of my imagination. them scraps of paper are waysigns for my  wandering mind. i guess you might say that they help me remember to not forget to wonder.

can i make a suggestion? i mean, you don’t have to listen so i’m gonna make it anyway. get some jars and fill them with little bits and pieces of this world. hold them up in the light of the sun and look at them everyday. if you start to forget about them, set them free and renew your wonder with something else. we all need to do this, it’s important to your humanity and to your ability to feel. the water that runs in the creeks is polishing stones for our eyes to see. the wind that bends the trees is bringing you molecules that have rubbed up against dinosaurs and lions. there are magnificent complexities in a handful of sand, even proof that you are connected to the outer most reaches of the universe. there are songbirds out your window that can find their way across the world by following magnetic fields and celestial markers. life is the sweetest thing and you were born into it. take your moments and use them like they beg to be used. we are certainly gifted, we humans, but i’ll be damned if we ain’t wasting our gifts on complicated baloney. take a little back why don’t ya?

end note: my friend, shaney, reminded me today that a heart that fractures is a heart with more room. rumi agrees, and i continue to learn. peace.