…and who comes to see me in the night…
by tobias crabtree
At 4 a.m. I awoke to the sound of a skunk trying to crack into my cooler that was outside the dolphin door. I am fairly accustomed to midnight prowlers; skunks, raccoons and bears, sometimes all three seem to have declared a truce between one another in pursuit of the delectables I keep in my beat up green cooler with the broken hinges and handles replaced by tubular nylon. I do have a difficult time going back to sleep if it’s a morning hour. So now I’m up.
There are things in my head this morning. I do the typical dance and start the hot water for coffee. I creep out of the dolphin, careful not to startle the skunk, he’s busy anyway, like a frustrated bank robber with his ear to a new, unbreakable type of safe. I am careful around the skunks, even more than the bears, because they sometime spray out of whimsy and that would suck first thing before coffee. Like the other night when I left Nick and Eliza in their little house and marched down to the dolphin by the chicken yard (seems I’m always parked next to a yard of chickens with the one obnoxious rooster that crows at 3:40 a.m. just to prove how cool he is…”oh, i’m the first rooster up in the world…oh, i’m so cool.”) and began to smell strong skunk right as I reached my rig. Now, like I said, I’m used to this kinda thing. My rig always has food, it’s a rolling lunch box for the omnivorous type — a category of animals in which I fit quite snuggly, along with coyotes, ravens&crows, bears, pigs, rats, skunks, raccoons, bears and most of my friends. But as I drew near and reached for my door, the black cat (named Mew) touched her little cold nose on the back of my calf. I jumped so bad I almost pulled a hammy. I thought the skunk had come for me once and for all. This morning the skunk just glanced over his stinky little shoulder and now I’m in the big house here at Daisy Creek Farm.
Coffee is on and it’s 4:27. I put a dollop of 50 year old honey down into the black, some heavy whipping cream…stir. Oh man. I am browsing books on the shelves, looking for Hafiz. I do not know where the light switches are and so I am trying to read titles in the half light. I spend a good amount of time fumbling in the dark in other peoples’ houses because I cannot find the light switches. Recently I had a friend text me, “Please don’t come in the house in the morning, I know you think you’re quiet, but you’re not…” And so I didn’t go in. I picture myself turning into that guy and it’s both annoying and scary. This morning there is no danger of being annoying, I’m magnificently alone. I know the Hafiz book is here, I’ve picked it up in years past, but this morning it eludes me. I am picturing the mystic poet laughing at me as I look for him, and he is hiding with all his wonderful thoughts written in english symbols, called letters, between all the other books, bound and waiting to be chosen. So many thoughts. And I can picture Hafiz telling me some kind of riddle about how I needn’t read his words to find that magic, that it’s everywhere already. Ok, sneaky Hafiz, I’ll stop looking. You win, again.
Last night I had a dream that Death came. I’ve had this dream before and the other time Death was a woman. Last night Death was a dude. He did not announce himself, He was just sitting at the far end of the camper and he was smoking a stubby cigar. I woke from my perch on the overhead bed and looked at his dark shape. I could not seem him clearly and whatever light reached him did not reflect off of him, instead it seemed to be swallowed. I could see a bit of a gleam in his eyes and now and then a flash of a smile. He was sitting very casual with one leg up on the bench, one elbow on the table. I asked him why he was in my rig and I told him I wasn’t dying. He did not answer the question and said that if I was dying, I’d be gone already. Under the table, in the dark I could make out a flickering movement and I realized it was His tail. There was a moment where I wondered if he was the Devil. In that way that dreams can be, in other words, there are no rules in dreams, my thoughts seemed to be known by both parties and so my visitor smiled. “Death, the Devil…I really don’t care what you’ve named me.” I wasn’t completely afraid in my dream. I was wary but not fearful and I was also slightly aware that I was having a dream. I think more was said but I don’t remember what we spoke of. I’ve noticed things about dreams, like the crossover is thin and so waking and sleeping are sometimes intermixed. My sleeping bag fell to the floor and was a dark mass, when I reached for it, it became a kind of dark liquid and ran to the end of the vehicle where Death sat. “Are you cold?” was his last question.
I woke and my sleeping bag was on the floor. Now I felt afraid. I reached down and grabbed it and stuffed my naked little ass back into it. I thought about my visitor, at least he closed the door when he left.
Yesterday I learned that Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. Oliver Sacks is incredible and wonderfully kind and amazingly curious. In his interview on Radio Lab, he talked about receiving the news and he spoke about his condition as if he were looking at a marvelous new specie of mushroom. He spoke of his life and loves. I’ve never read a single book by Dr Sacks but I have heard him speak many times and one thing that stands out is that he loves living. This is what makes me sad, the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s quite done living, but he’s on a shorter schedule due to cancer. He is a very powerful, graceful man. I wonder his dark moments, his sorrows and his fears. We all have them, I just think we are really good at distracting ourselves in order to save ourselves from them. Oliver doesn’t come across as a person prone to distraction. I imagine he’s sitting across the table from Death, swapping stories, and Death being slightly jealous of the brilliant life the ol Doc has lived.
(and how do we say goodbye to people we don’t even know? I suppose we can just think of them fondly and use the heart as an amplifier to send those compassionate thoughts across the space that separates us, one from another. and maybe in doing so, we are not so separate after all. and maybe we can, in some secret and beautiful way, bear some of the pain and throw some light out into the dark. i reckon that’s my way of recognizing the minds and hearts that inspire me, that make me ok with being a human in process…so yeah, thanks Dr. Sacks.)