straightjacket

by tobias crabtree

the colorado sky is amazing in the summertime. i can’t think of a truer blue than that morning sky draped down against the rockies. there are smells and landmarks, significant contributors to my colorado childhood, that will still quicken my heart and cause my eyes to focus out into some distant past and effectively cause what is probably best defined as a thousand yard stare those skies, man, they went on and on. and the clouds, floating in from the west, spaced perfectly from horizon to horizon, they helped kickstart an imagination that has kept me busy ever since.

those clouds remind me of the inside of my head, wild ideas floating in from all directions. i try to capture the images and concepts with words or lines and they begin to change,  just like clouds. sometimes there are bits and pieces of an original thought, sometimes there’s nothing but the memory of it; like the vague shape of someone’s footprints after the wave pulls back. even the important things dissolve. in fact, the important stuff seems like it’s more slippery than anything else. that’s what happened this morning. there was some thought triggered by a poem i read before i slept last night, when i woke up, the thought was pure and perfectly shaped in my mind. i laid there and allowed it to run it’s course, but then i began to want it. i climbed from my roost and chased it in my mind while i found my britches and made some joe. i could feel it slipping away. the thought began to loose it’s edges. the shape changed. now it’s gone.  that’s ok.  it might have only been as good as it appeared to me at that moment. maybe it wasn’t meant to be seen in full. still, i carry it’s hint.

i worry a little about my mind slipping. you know, every now and then i’ll not be able to remember someone that i know i should be able to remember. or the name to some song. or i’ll set my wallet down in the weirdest place on earth and i’ll say quietly to myself, don’t do that, but then i will and then i’ll forget where i put it. am i telling too much right now? i wonder if some day i’ll say a little too much about what’s going on in my head and a truck’ll show up with the guys in white overcoats and that they’ll wanna put one of those jackets on me with the really long sleeves that have buckles on the ends. maybe that’s not something that happens anymore. the new straightjackets are little brown bottles with pretty white pills inside. it’s way easier to issue some medication and send someone home than it is to herd them into a padded room where you gotta check on them and feed them and stuff. and the doctors smile and wink while they tell you that you’ll feel better once you take your meds and that the side affects may include drooling and anal bleeding and suicidal tendencies. um, yep. hold on, i got way off subject. i wasn’t planning on ripping on the system today. (a little rip is ok though, isn’t it?  come on, just one little poke at the system ain’t gonna hurt.)

back on track…or off it. i like to carry books around with me. like, actual books with words that stay put on the page and pages that are marked by numbers. if you want to find the spot where you left off, you gotta find the page number by flipping through the book. it’s awesome and you don’t need to plug it in or recharge it! there are things that books do for me that are similar to friendship. sometimes i’ll read something that is so wonderfully put, so beautifully stated, that i need to carry it around with me. and when i feel the weight of my book, i am reminded of the nature of it’s words, and i live slightly differently. books carry the thoughts that inhabited the head of someone else. often i don’t fully understand some of the things i read but i know, if i give these concepts some time, i will absorb them. so even 200 years after the author’s bones have turned to dust, i might capture some beautiful notion that once crossed his mind. one person’s thoughts can jump time and space and become reanimated in a head (mine) that is traveling about 5 foot 7 inches off the ground. these thoughts are being passed, like a baton, in a race across the eons. and when the last brain conjures the last colorful thought, right before the lights go out on humanity, the race will have been run just as the last thought falls down against the ground to reunite with what caused it.

i carry a computer bag that doesn’t always carry my computer. it’s a kind of military looking thing with too many pockets and too many buckles. it’s a graveyard of sorts. it has pens that live and die in it’s hidden pockets. it holds pads of paper and obsolete business cards. this bag is loaded with projects in various stages of completion, all enduring reminders of my life-long capacity to begin several things without having the slightest clue about how i might finish them. here a bag of owl feathers from a pygmy owl i found on the side of the road, there a solid copper square that needs a lanyard. a spool of twine. a small drawing from my nephew. three beads made of bone. a bag of turmeric. passport. last years calendar and schedule, never used, but saved because there’s a cool map in the back…and i love maps. i love them.  a small collection of rubber animals. a black book for drawing. old eraser. a condom that looks like it was passed down from generation to generation (more of a reminder that i’m human than anything else…sometimes i pull it out and show it to folks to see their reaction, which is usually something like, “dude, throw that thing away.” but it is good for a laugh and i’m sure i’ll be buried with it). a cord from some electronic device that goes with my computer, at least i think it does; besides, it looks expensive and i’d rather carry a useless cord till the sun burns out than buy a new one for $30.00. there’s a note from a friend that says i’m important and it seems to make me feel good when i’m feeling sorry for myself, which is about 17% of the time…maybe 20. there’s two Actually People Quarterlies, put out by the fontaine sisters and alexis petty, that i like to show people when i want to prove that i’m smart because i have really smart friends. there’s an old list of things to do in there that makes me laugh because none of those things are marked off and, quite frankly, i don’t know if i ever did a single thing on the list. all this in my computer bag, maybe a little more, but i sure as hell won’t know because i don’t feel like turning it inside out.

this wasn’t the beautiful thought that was in my head this morning. it’s more like a picture of the jumbled mess that accompanies anything that might be worth noting inside the white-skull confines of my cranium.  it’s world in there, tilted on it’s axis. lotsa clouds. yeah, a hell of a lot of clouds. and tons of space for more stuff. i like saving space for the wonders that abound inside the wonders that abound.

our minds are lovely mills that are pushed by the reddest of reds that flow from these thundering hearts. and what use is all this? and what sparks these muscled engines in our chest? what causes the tides to pull and push? what bends the light across the void between the spiraling galaxies and the interstellar winds where churns the belly of the universe? oh yes, what indeed?