Creeks are baby Rivers

by tobias crabtree

Well, here I am. For whatever it’s worth. The birds are still flying. And I watched a rough-legged newt stuff her square head into the mud, there she was, hanging in the clear, clean pond above Nick and Elizabeth’s house. There wasn’t no one but me watching, and I doubt she knew that I am even in existence. I wonder what that little newt thinks, like, what’s she thinking now. Maybe she still has her head in the mud, she certainly outwaited me. Is she dreaming? Does that simple mind still have Pangaean dreams? Do amphibians somehow remember when they ruled the world? Back before voting for presidents existed? Before clowns existed? Before countries or circuses? Do they communicate in some kind of Devonian web made up of algae and mycelium?

I went down to the creek. I caught a bunch of little trout in a jar and took ’em up and tossed ’em in the pond. One of ’em hit the water and immediately chased a water-boatman around in circles. The little bug got away this time…but it won’t be long before that trout gets faster and grows bigger teeth. At the creek I picked up a crawdad. Time stands still when I’m at a little creek. Just leave me alone. Leave me there. I’m fine. I’m a little boy. I’m gone from time and everything else that grown-ups need. I go back to where I used to be, when I was a boy. I remembered the first tiger salamander I came across down in Weir gulch, and I remembered that I felt incredible joy. — I get it, Charlie Darwin, I get why you were such a nut. I’m a nut. You were on the Beagle. I am in the Dolphin. You were here before the world became this. I am here now. I think I’da liked you there, Chuck. I really do.

I read about them little rough-legged newts. One of them crawled right up into my hand with not a worry in the world, and it’s no wonder they don’t really worry; they are deadly poisonous. Really not too worry about unless you eat them, or somehow ingest one of them. If you eat one, you’ll die. Funny how they get so docile because they’re so deadly.

Up the creek a little ways I stopped and drank from the water between my knees. It was sweet and tasted like moss and rocks and roots. Overall it tasted like life. I keep having this feeling, like I mighta missed out on a sweeter world. The truth is, I’m human and I’m prone to mis-deeds. We all are. Charlie Darwin’s gone, turned to dust. So is my Gramps, ol’ Elmer Crabtree, who taught me about the little song birds. And Wendell Berry’s gone, he left behind some words, but it’s tricky to follow them without the old Farmer and his piercing eyes. This present populace seems less equipped with naked gifts. Sure we are more capable of having answers, hell, just google that shit, but what to do with them? You can’t conjure heart on a search engine.

We do have love. We have that at least. And there are strong limbed folks still pounding out miles with their feet just because there is earth to run upon. There are the wild hearted. There are the true beloved ones that are laying their bodies down against the stones and looking up to wonder at the stars. It’s not like I’m just assuming all is lost, it’s just that, well, I am worried. I really want the streams to be ok. And the whales. And the verdins. And the garter snakes and the blue jays and the worms. It’s like Nick says, “there’s really no bad plants, there’s just plants that don’t do what we want.” Ain’t it just like Nick to sum it up like that? Nick, with his muddy feet and his wild hair and his wrinkled brow.

Yeah, I’m ok. Not that you’re worried, but I’m fine. I’m loved and warm and I just ate a burrito. These words are clumsy and tossed out on the screen. Forgive me, I’ve been away. I’ve been at the creek and the glow of this screen ruins my eyes for looking down into that flowing amber where the crawdads creep and the baby trout slip back and forth between the world that I live in and the one that used to be.