swinging bigger sticks

by tobias crabtree

Perspective, I guess, is a view from a certain angle and a certain distance. That’s my definition of it anyway. I’m sure ol’man Webster would write something more thorough and complete, but he’s long dead and I’m not so I’ll go with my definition. A change in perspective might change the thoughts we have about the things we know. From ground level, for instance, a squirrel in the trees is just that – a squirrel, in the trees. But from the third story window, thirty feet from the ground, the trees create a passage in every direction for those little acrobats. It’s worth watching. From where I sit, I know one of the thoroughfares that the squirrels use, even the moss is smashed down on the limbs most traveled. Claws, palms and snapping tails. Jumping gaps and snatching slippery branches without any worry at all. Some folks don’t like squirrels all that much but I see their handiwork, here, thirty feet up. Good job, squirrels.


I change my angles and my distances on the reg. It’s good for me. I see friends in their homes and in the world. I sit on couches and in the woods.  I change the perspective in my drawings so that I can stay interested, otherwise it’s all the same, the word mundane comes to mind. The same goes for writing, I try to change in order to be able to stomach what I feel like I must say. I’m semi-successful in sustaining my own interest, I can’t speak for the folks that read what I write. Quite often I feel the need for a disclaimer. Sorry folks, for something better said, look somewhere else. But that sounds pitiful and so I’ll finish like a dutiful little practitioner, and let the chips fall where they may.


Speaking of perspective, I walked for coffee this morning at about 6:30. There were four gray-haired men at a table inside the door. One of them was holding court, as is often the case with conversation, one person tends to feel that his/her opinion holds the most value. I heard him say something about needing to go at them swinging a bigger stick. I could tell it was a proverbial stick, not literal.  He said something about giving them jobs, that poor people wanted to be told what to do, “the ones that don’t are what we call bums.” Then he said, and I must paraphrase, that the people standing up for poor people often don’t really know what they’re doing to the economy. He also said that most people don’t even know a poor person, and added, “I don’t. Do any of you?” His entourage nodded and bobbed in unison.  I was adding half and half to my Americano and I glanced up. Through the window, on the rainy Portland sidewalk, not a foot away from this wisdom-laden speaker, was a homeless fella nursing a hot cup of coffee given to him by the folks in the coffee shop. The wise guy couldn’t see the homeless guy through a clear window from a foot away. I felt like introducing the two but I didn’t want the old homeless fella to waste his time with mr. I-got-all-the-answers. My guess is, he’d act a little different if he was forced to sleep under a bridge or two because of something that made him odd. We’re all just a turn of a corner away from being lost in the shuffle. Sometimes we don’t know the full extent of the choices we make and sometimes, full extent is burly, man. Sometimes full extent is devastating and irreversible. I left, having heard aplenty, and looked at the ol’ fella on the outside-looking-inward. He had an easy smile that creased his eyes and stayed for a second even when he let it go. I nodded. He nodded and showed me some solid gaps in his dental plan. I marched up the the street. It was raining harder. A squirrel bounded across the street in front of a bus and went round and round up a sprouting maple tree. I watched it jump from a limb to a gutter to a chimney to a wire. The wire ran against another tree and the little fox squirrel transitioned easily, then up to another level of branches, 40 feet up, a quick distance check, launch and landing, a larger limb and then another and across the street where he had just come from to dodge the bus. Good job, little guy, good job at life.