tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: age

A Measured Heart

I often think about heartbeats, more so than moments. It’s the heartbeats that matter to me. How do I use them? How do I waste them? How many of ’em do I give away to silly, little worries that only matter to me.  I know I write a good bit about hearts, maybe too much, but I’m intrigued by this thing in my chest. So far, it has never once failed me. I have not always treated it well, at times, I’ve been downright cruel to the ol’ engine of my life.

Last night I stood in front of some people, I think about 200, and I talked about stuff. It was important stuff to me, so I actually cared about how it was received. And before I spoke, you know that little period of time before it’s the Time, I sat with my heart. I had a little chat and I told my heart that there was no need to speed up and miss these little clips of life. Now, my heart, it doesn’t always listen. Sometimes, if a pretty girl’s involved, my heart will ratchet up and go running off without me. Or if I’m angry, yeah, if I’m angry I have trouble getting my heart to listen. But I’ve been working on understanding it, you know, my heart. Last night it listened to me. I carried my heart up in front of people and I said simple things that I thought were good. As I looked out into the lights and saw the silhouetted people, no faces, just shapes, my heart kept pace. And I saw the little things that you might not see if you’re too wrapped up in what you are or how you look. I’m pretty sure it’s because my heart kept that sweet and steady flow of blood that carries stuff from the gut to the brain. It’s my gut that holds the passion and the love and the fight. My brain holds the caution and the reason and the ego. And the heart, old Faithful, is the messenger between the two.  Without the heart, all is lost and there ain’t a bit of connection. Even cooler to me is that all the communication relies on the blood and how it flows to and fro from end to end. It’s like a little world inside me.

Rivers. Clouds. Skies. Thunder. Dirt. It’s all there on the inside.

When I was finished saying things that I said, I had a pretty older lady stop me at the door. She was probably my mom’s age and I could tell she wanted to hug me. I hugged her and she told me that my story reminded her of a time when she was a kid and knew an old man that walked across the desert. She had tears in her eyes and what she said to me was sweet and wonderful. See what i mean? Hearts. They can be so good to us.

This morning, the sun is out in the desert. It’s been raining for a few days, so i bet the flowers will follow. I think I’m gonna take my heart out there and let it pound — heartbeats well spent.

A Bridge

Last I checked, somewhere up the 199 going toward Grant’s Pass out of Crescent City, there’s a real good rope swing. It hangs over the Jed Smith river from under a steel bridge. It’s one of those rope swings that gives pause. The bridge is probably 50 feet above the river and the rope must be fished from the air using a long crooked stick that the wild children have stashed in the bushes just under the concrete pilings. The trajectory of the take-off is crucial to landing in the river correctly; wrong take-off, bad things will happen. When you let go at the peak of the swing, the drop is about 35 feet. I’ve seen kids, some of them only 12 years old, doing flips upon release. When I first discovered it, I was there with a girlfriend. The kids were shooting funny looks our direction as if to say, who the hell’r you and why you at our spot. I hadn’t seen anyone go off the swing, although a couple had gone up and chickened out. (Can I still say “chickened out” or is that offensive these days? I’m gonna say it and trust that I haven’t offended anyone.) I swam up the river to the base of the rocks below the bridge, the pool below was really deep and perfectly clear. Under the belly of the bridge, I spotted the crooked stick and used it to fetch the rope, hanging in space. The knot at the end was greasy from hundreds of sweaty little palms. I could see that a direct swing into the deep pool would result in clipping a nasty out-cropping of granite and I pictured myself with a shattered ankle and a bunch of kids telling the story about a time they saw this idiot….

From down below I heard one of the local boys yell up at me. “Run out to the left, you’ll miss it.” How funny it is that I would listen to some young punk that I’ve never met, 40 feet off the deck, hanging on to a greasy little rope swing. But I did listen. And I went. And I flew out around the rocks and up into the piney air, arms a flappin’, body twisting, blue-green below, world turning slowly, time almost to a standstill. And the splashdown and the cold of the river that carries the water that it’s always carried, through the gills of millions of fish, on it’s way to the sea. And the most present form of me at the surface and hooting and swimming to the rocks. Mad scramble up and out, back up for a one-more-time-at-the-very-least-one-more-time. I heard one of the kids cheering me on, and so i went a few more times. When I came across the beach, the teenagers wanted to talk. They gave me a Bud light. They asked me how old I was because it mattered to them. I suppose, in some ways, it’s kind of validating to know that what’s fun at 15 can be fun at 45. There were no more stares or glares in our direction. We all were just hanging out under the yellow sun. The common language was learned through a rope and gravity and a certain river and a perfect bridge. And we all swam and sat and looked at the river as it looked back at us with it’s forever memory and it’s secret past.

I believe in swings. I believe in bridges, both physical and figurative. I believe in beating hearts of all kinds, young and old and in-between. I believe in love, sadness, wonder, pain and magnificence. See you later? Maybe we’ll be waiting in line up under the belly of some old bridge. I certainly hope so. Hell yeah.


Someone lived in a house called Somewhere. It was on a hill with a decent view. Someone could see for miles from Somewhere, she looked across the land to where her neighbor’s house stood. Anyone lived with Everyone and his cousin, Them, in a house called Everywhere.

Someone didn’t mind an occasional visitor but she preferred solitude. She looked out her front window and didn’t see Anyone coming up the path to visit. She was surprised at the knock on the door. Someone was as pleasant as possible but didn’t really enjoy Anyone visiting unannounced. Secretly, she worried that He might bring Everyone, and she certainly didn’t like Him. When Anyone left, Someone shut the door and made herself a drink.

As will happen, day turned to night. Someone felt the shift. You know how that happens? There is a shift in the seasons of each day. There is the shift between morning and day, between day and evening, evening to night, then again in the late hours, there is yet another subtle change. And so it was that Someone felt the change as evening, sweet evening, came on. Evening, such a strange word. So Someone went upstairs to the window she enjoyed the most, it was the only window in the house that allowed her to look up into the mountains above her. There, higher up, is where No-one lived. She knew him well, but had never met him. From that single window in the upstairs, she spent hours watching No-one move about his house called Nowhere. Someone wondered what No-one was like. She wondered why she was so attracted to No-one and so annoyed by Anyone. She was strange and that was fine by her. As the stars burned wild above the mountains, the lights up in Nowhere blinked out. Someone was alone.

Morning came and Everyone was moving about in the valley below. Everyone looked up and saw her, she saw Them as well. She wondered if Anyone would come to visit again, and the thought put her in a bad mood. Someone took one last glance and saw Them walking over to Anyone. “Stay there,” she said aloud.

Several days later, Someone was looking up into Nowhere, hoping to see No-one. She was surprised to see No-one looking back at her. It was the first time he had noticed her. She waved, No-one waved back. Even from that distance, she could see No-one’s smile. He waved his hand in the motion that beckons. Someone pantomimed a question. Me, come there? No-one nodded.

Someone left for Nowhere as the sun dropped below the pines. She never returned. Her love was No-one, who lived in the middle of Nowhere, with her, Someone, from Somewhere that overlooked a valley where Anyone and Everyone lived.

what i cannot promise you

i cannot promise tomorrow. i’m pretty sure it’ll come, it always has, but i cannot promise it.

i cannot promise you that you won’t cry again, i hope you do. it’s good for you, you should check it out. don’t do it all the time, though, it’ll run people off.

i cannot promise you that there will be coffee in the morning. if there isn’t, you should have planned better.

i cannot promise you that the newspaper will set your mind at ease when you read it in the morning. hell, you can read it whenever you want and it won’t set your mind at ease.

i cannot promise you that people won’t die tomorrow. i can’t even promise that you won’t die tomorrow. it’s kinda spooky, but that’s just the way it is, sorry.

i cannot promise that you will be happy. chances are, you’ll be happy at some point. if you’re lucky, you’ll be happy a lot. but i wouldn’t count on happiness, it’s a slippery fish. you could always do what i do and grovel in some self pity for a while and it’ll make happy moments seem fantastic.

i cannot promise that i will never lie again. i’ll try not to, but i will lie again, i’m sure. i’ve lied to those i love the most so it’s kind of a sure thing. what sucks most about lying is that it pulls the rug out from under you. lies will make the best person look bad. so yeah, i’ll probably lie again. maybe soon.

i can’t promise that you’ll find love. you probably will, no matter who you are, but here’s the catch. if you do find it, you will suffer. you might love someone who doesn’t love you back. you might love someone who loves you, but also loves someone else…more.  you might even find someone who loves you dearly but you can’t find a way to love them enough, and so they leave you. there’s a ton of ways to suffer if you fall in love, but the heaviest is if it is perfect. if it’s perfect, then one of you, someday, must lose the other. we all die.

the only things i can promise are things i can’t really prove; like, i hear crickets in the oak forest above the farm; like, i watched the finches in the corn talk in the sweetest, softest tones to one another for 30 minutes today; like, i feel pretty good right now. but really, promises are kind of bullshit. they might change and then, so what? life is one big fat bundle of changes and we might as well get use to it.

i ain’t sure what causes us to get up out of the wrong side of the bed, but i know it happens. sometimes i wake up and i have ugly written all over my face. i should know, i see it in the reflection of the window, or in the mirror if i’m brave enough to go there. (mirrors aren’t my favorite human inventions — when we’re not looking at how pretty we are, we’re ripping ourselves to shreds.) but i realize that i’ve done this since i’ve been conscious. even back when i was a 12 year old, smily-faced, protected little boy i had my bad starts. i guess it’s just a part of being human.  what i’ve noticed is that bad starts look a little uglier on a 46 year old face. if i ever want that job as a super-model i’m gonna have to keep my “ugly-mug” starts to a minimum.

hell, it’s ridiculous that i complain at all. i can see the stars. the ‘poorwill is calling from beyond the hedge. the old ‘fridge is groaning, but i bet the cream will still be cold in the morning. the fall harvest is coming on wonderfully. there are breaths to breathe and loves to love. there’s roads to bomb on our skateboards. there’s wild mountains that are ready to teach us. there’s rivers that hold secrets in their granite bellies. there’s caves whose walls hold the etchings of our history in ancient form.  it’s here for us to behold if we just pay attention. the world is full of soulful humans who are hoping and fighting for a higher way of being.  i can close my eyes and think of dozens of people with the power to change the world. i have a certain confidence that reaches beyond bombs and poisonous gases…it reaches into the hearts of the open-minded, the ones who swim deeper, the fire carriers.  strip away money and belongings and you get people. give me them kinds and i bet we’ll make it out just fine.

i am, we are

i don’t know when exactly. it was a long time ago. it might have been in first grade, in Mrs. Baze’s class.  we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. i remember the moment, not the details surrounding. i only remember answering, “tarzan” and then i remember my face flushing with embarrassment as it was explained to me that that was not an actual thing one might become.

it’s been a long time since that moment. i don’t blush as easily anymore. i might not even blush, i’m not sure. i hope i do about something, but i don’t know what it is. i still hope to become tarzan. i still love his savage ways. and to cast my body through the canopy, ten stories up, and to swim the wildest of rivers and to speak the language of the beings who inhabit the woods…yes, i wish on these things.

i woke up this morning at 4 a.m. That hour is a bit early for me but this morning i obliged. i rose.

it is not uncommon for me to say to myself, before i fall asleep, “this was another day of my life.” it’s just my acknowledgement of existence; nothing monkish. but today would not let go. today existence stayed in my face, like a schoolyard bully. i am here. the sky is above and the ground waits for me to return. the dirt under my feet is my next of kin.

mom called at 7:44 a.m. which is the exact minute 46 years ago that she brought me into this world. she bore me. she nursed me. she raised me. she put money in my checking account today. she called me and said she loved me. 46 years of unconditional, unabashed, unrelenting love. if there is ever anything that keeps me from feeling alone, it is my mother. so i am here. she made sure of that.

as far as what i want to be. well, i’m still working on that. my hair is shaggy. my skin is brown. i live under the trees much of the year. i climbed a cedar today. i ran through the woods. i drank 4 cups of strong coffee. i ate peach and blueberry pie. i did pushups under a madrone. i drank a snort of whiskey. i laughed. i tattooed a friend. i wrote words. i thought thoughts. i told my ma i loved her. i listened to the crickets. i looked at the stars and told them i’d be along shortly.

i did other things, but they might bore you. but as i go to bed, i still want to be tarzan, all these years later.

what’s weird is that i can say, “i am here,” and so can you. so, no matter what we have this in common.

that alone is enough, or at least is should be.

reflecting perceptions

who to be angry with. there’s gotta be some blame to place somewhere. that fella lingering next to your vehicle with his hands in his pockets, hell, i wouldn’t trust him. someone has to say something if anything should ever change.

then there’s me. i’m standing waiting for my buddy with my hands in my pockets. i’m waiting in the shade of a tree that is also next to a real nice landrover (that i kinda admire). i’m waiting for my buddy because i’m on someone else’s bike and i don’t have a lock. i can’t use my bike because someone stole the forks and stem while it was locked outside a restaurant about a year ago. i haven’t quite got the funds to buy a new set and so i borrow…i borrow…i borrow. i’m a little behind in the field of finance, but i’m rich in the friend department. anyway, i’m waiting for my buddy.

what’s he doin’, standing so close to my rig? no good. no good. “hey buddy, what’s up?”

i’m waiting for my friend.

“why don’t you wait somewhere else?”

you mean, like, some other place than here, like, right here?

“why you so close to my vehicle? i’ve been watching you.”

so this is me, and some big angry fella. i am waiting because someone stole from me and he’s mad because i might be stealing from him. this stuff happens, it does, it just did! it’s ok.

we got through it. i ain’t the dalai llama, i’m not even my dad, but i managed. you know, i used to like to fight, but it’s really pretty stupid mostly. besides, this guy was with his wife and it’s just bad for that to go down.

my buddy showed up. i locked my borrowed bike up. we ate. i rode back to hunter’s forge over in the light industrial area of bend. as i pedaled back, i rode up behind a skateboarder in the dark. it was on a path. i said something and it scared him. it was super dark out and i saw his skateboard sail in front of my wheel.  i skidded to a stop and checked his skateboard with my foot.

“i didn’t hear you coming.”

i know, sorry for scaring you.

“no, it’s all cool, man. sorry.”

he was a kid. i’m 45. we spoke the same language.

maybe the dark is good. maybe we should go off of real feelings sometimes.  once upon a time, i crawled out from under my jeep, in a raging rain storm and explained to a cop that i was just taking cover until the rain was over. it was the middle of the night and he said, “well people don’t usually do that but, you’re young…”, and he let me stay. when you are farther along in life and you rally out of the back of some rig in a neighborhood above your favorite surf break or your favorite rock climb, people look at you different. i guess it’s not as acceptable to be so free once you’re older. that’s a shame, because i think it’s all the more reason. i believe the fire should burn hotter as we age. like stars.

we are all reflections of one another. it’s true, like it or not.  i was the kid on the skateboard at some time in my life. now i’m this age, and i ride my borrowed bike home to a friends house in the dark on a tuesday night and think about how i stayed out of trouble by thinking bigger.

hell, that ain’t too bad, i guess.