A Message to Freckle-face
by tobias crabtree
It’s so easy to get stuck on the inside. That inner world where I am the center of everything, where I think too much about me. It’s in there where the fears are formed, where the heavy rocks keep me from moving freely. Sometimes I don’t know I’m there until it’s too late, and then I’m stuck. I know it sounds silly, but the inside is real with me and I have spent enough time there to know that there is a limit. Some people die from staying in there too long.
I’ve learned that it’s good to crack a window and allow the wind to blow. It creates a stirring and helps me remember that I am small. My presence is special, but in a tiny, simple way. It’s so beautiful to be small. That’s where the ocean comes in, the Ocean, the magnificent sea. To swim from the shore and into the expanse is to be made small, the ego all but goes away. My place in the vastness of space is known down in the marrow of my bones and in the little riverine veins that hold the blood so that it doesn’t spill. And how about the mountains? Yeah, the stones that are a part of the world from it’s days before man. We use words like inanimate to describe mountains and stones. I wonder about that. In those moments that sit in the middle of weeks of solitude, I have pondered whether this earth has a voice. She certainly seems alive to me. And the rivers are rolling and singing and the wind moans as it bends the trees. Stones wait. Mountains see across thousands of years. The sky herds it’s storms and cradles all the wonders of the things that lie beyond our vision. I ain’t sure about that word inanimate. Maybe the stones are absorbing our every thought and word as a record for when we are gone. There’s a lot of maybes and no amount of science or religion can change that. Ain’t it great?!
I left Oregon on the train. Three Russian kids from Moscow asked me questions about the things I drew in my big ol’ black book. They were so honest and inquisitive. All three were 16 years old. The trip went by in a flash, mostly because of the company and the open conversation. I felt so privileged to be included in their world…me, this scraggly, stinky dude in the end booth!
Days in the mountains. Days on the Trinity River. Time to think. Something made me slip back inside, I didn’t want to, it might have happened in the night. I woke up and felt pinned down by my own selfishness, my own opinions. My mouth had the wicked cynicism that it has practiced for so many years. I avoid the mirror when I’m like this, it’s too telling. I see lovers kissing and I find myself hissing statements like, “oh yeah, one of you will screw the other one over…just wait and see.” I forget the openness that filled me up just a couple days ago and I am lost in heavy thoughts. It’s easy to hurt yourself when you thrash around in the dark like that, things get broken. The bus driver is an idiot and doesn’t use words, just hand motions. Someone behind me is berating an author that I like. He is saying things to his daughter, maybe his student, that make me disgusted. I glance back to put a face to the voice and I see that he’s been in a terrible accident that has left his face incredibly scarred. Something softens inside me. I cut him some slack. Then I remember that I can choose what to think, and that I’m not alone in this universe, and that life is short, and that we all get hurt. I feel the wind blow in through the window that is opening just a little. I pull the cord to stop the bus. My enormous bag goes on my shoulder and my backpack tags along willingly enough. Off the bus at 19th and judah, getting close to where I’m headed, I know the N will be coming along the tracks toward the ocean. A woman walks past me, she was on the bus. She is beautiful and walks in that way that is both athletic and purposeful and makes my heart pound. Her hair is long and raven black and the wind is blowing it just perfectly. She stops there where I must stop and she whirls around with the greenest of eyes and a face full of freckles and I can see where the sun has kissed her face and the wrinkles have started. She looks me full in the face with a giant smile and says, “Well now, where you goin’ with that big, heavy bag?” And I am surprised at her openness. And I am happy with who I am. And I answer very simply, “The ocean.” And she laughs at my answer and we are talking and I am slightly in love with her and then her bus comes. She wrinkles her nose at me in the most heartbreakingly beautiful way and tells me to take care out there in the world. And she is gone. A tiny love affair right there on a random street in the city, on a Tuesday, in the world. I’m not inside anymore. The window is wide open and the wind is blowing in and out again. I’m breathing. Life is bound to happen.