Pretty Damn Good

by tobias crabtree

Today I went down through the manzanitas to the creek, the sun wasn’t quite to the water and the rocks were still cool from the night. There were dozens of swifts banking in hard circles under the limestone overhang, down from sky in perfect flight on knife-like wings, their chitterings I imagine to be the language born of air and lightning and the smaller worlds of their origins.

Today I watched a black garter snake slide through the rocks, chasing the scent of something. There is a deep down feeling I have when I see snakes in the wild. I don’t feel it when I see a person with a pet snake down at the beach or when someone is posing with a snake in a picture — that just makes me kinda sad. But I’ve always loved the way they move along on their belly, so close to the earth, smelling with their flickering tongues and living in holes or in trees or in tangles. I know some folks are disgusted by them, but I feel mystery when I see them. The feeling of something way old and way strange. And the black garter snake with the red stripes on her sides was slipping into a still pool and hunting for small fish. I watched her do it over and over, finally riding the current down and into the pool below, a new school of fish to plunder. I wonder the colors in her saurian thoughts. I wonder what her mind holds.

Today I rescued a millipede from drowning. I thought it was some underwater creature at first, but then I could see that it had fallen in from the mossy bank and couldn’t climb out, the walls were stone and slick. The segmented body was pretty in my hand. The creature, cold and almost done. I set it in the sun and watched it re-animate and then crawl away with it’s many many legs moving not at all unlike the grass when the wind blows. It went under a rotted log into the subterranean pith, the mycelium stirrings.

Today I took my clothes off and sat naked on the rocks. I burned my ass but it was worth it, it’s good be naked under the sun. And I swam in the cold creek, below the waterfall, in the deep green hole where the roar of the water is big and the sky seems a long way away. And I remembered the time when I was a kid and my Pa and I were on a motorcycle trip through Nebraska and we stopped and swam in the creek because we were so hot. And my Dad stepped backward into a snapping turtle that was lying on the bottom with it’s pink tongue hanging out and it snapped on my Dad’s heel and he yelped and we scrambled from the water like a couple of buffaloes. And I remembered floating the irrigation ditches in the summers of my youth, in Montana, on inner-tubes, day after day. And I remembered other creeks and other nakednesses from this life as I was drifting in and out of sleep by this particular creek on this particular day.

Today I rode my little Honda Trail 90 down the path where the telephone poles run down the canyon. The huge, crook-legged jack jumped from under a stump and stormed off in front of me, ears up, black tail bobbing. And the turkey buzzards were drawing lines in the sky, smelling out the things that have died and will be soft enough to pull apart, and the ravens are watching with noses that don’t work quite as well. The Trail 90 is a wonderful machine, still thumping along, straight out of 1973, and so I was riding it today, these 42 years after it was assembled, down the long grassy trail where the lavender flowers were catching between my toes in my homemade shoes.

Today I thought about my friends. I thought about the collection of wonderful hearts that beat inside the chests of the ones I love. I am so glad they are here. I don’t need to think about whether I’m fortunate or not, I know I am. In all my ups an downs, all my silly depressions, I seek out moments like this and I am amazed. There are wonders left, mysteries still unsolved. There are trails to run, songs not yet written and pretty notes waiting on the strings of the instruments that are waiting for willing hands. There are nice things to be said to the ones we love. There are funny stories to be told, there are fibs and yarns unspun. There are lovers to kiss and smiles that will be sent from across the way to total strangers, and other smiles that will find their way back in response. There are times when I cannot find my footing through my selfishness, caught under the weight of my own worries. But then there are days like today, where the universe opens up and I see out of myself and into the big beyond, and it’s pretty damn good.