tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: Art

writing is dying

i spend a decent amount of time in caves. i sleep there to remember. i spent more than a month in a little cave in patagonia in southern argentina several years ago, that was the year i lost track of my days and missed christmas. caves are one of our oldest forms of shelter; they are probably where we worked out the riddle of fire. i know it’s where i work out riddles like, “why didn’t she stay with me”, and, “how will i ever afford that”, and, “where did i put that spoon”. people wrote on cave walls. i’ve laid on my back and looked at pictures that were a form of writing. there’s one cave down there with drawings painted onto the wall of animals that are extinct running next to men with sticks…someone told me that drawing is 8,000 years old.

stories that are told. stories that are written.

i write. i still write into a book that has a binding and real pages. i also write here, on this screen and i tap letters out and push “save” and “publish”.  the other day i was trying to write, which usually includes a whole lot of brow furrowing and chin scratching, and one of my friends asked me what i was doing. i’m writing, i said. for what? he said. it’s a blog, i said. then the response…oh yeah, the response:

isn’t a blog for people who need attention? hey, look at me! look at me!

i closed up shop. it’s difficult as it is to write anything worth reading. i wrote one of my friends and told her about it all. she’s a writer, one of my favorite authors, and her advice was pure and sound. you see, i wrote words to her and she wrote words back. my words explained my insecurities and she understood them. she wrote words back and they encouraged me and helped me feel better.

words that are written. words that are understood.

i listened to an old author (she was 90 something years old) being interviewed on the radio. she had just finished her final novel and the book was considered her best ever. i don’t remember who was interviewing her, it might have been terry gross, but the author was asked if she would write another book. her response was, “darlin’, i just wrote the book of my life. if i ever write again, it will be in stone with a hammer and a chisel.” she believed in writing! she was writing way before Lol’s and Omg’s and Lmao’s. she wrote before turning a page meant pushing a button or dragging a finger across a screen; turning a page meant reaching up with your hand and using your fingers to pinch the corner of a sheet of paper and turning it and, wa-la! a new page! she wrote and she wrote slow, long hand. i love that.

i have been drawing pictures my entire life. my granny encouraged me to do it and i still listen to her advice. i like drawing on paper. i like the erasure marks and the sketch lines. i like imperfection and it’s a good thing because i am imperfect…sure as hell. i have decided to continue to write (hold your applause, please) even if it’s already been written better by someone else. i will write like i draw, with erasure marks and mumbling and bad grammar. it didn’t stop the writers in the caves and so i follow in their honor.

and blazing suns and crescent moons and barking dogs will have a voice and it will be my pen. long live the hearts that tell the stories.

tiny drawings

lucas and olivia

there is magic in tiny drawings. don’t get me wrong, i have always loved going to the Met in NYC and standing thirty feet away from a giant masterpiece with my mouth hanging open, but the little stuff is cool too. when i do tiny drawings, little kids like it. i think it’s because they know they can put it in their pocket and go somewhere with it. i know that’s why i like it too. i can draw the world and put it away and then pull it out on a train on the way to see my mom.

i gave one of my little friends, who was (i think) three years old at the time, some little drawings of regular stuff. tiny pants and shoes and hats, all on separate pieces of two inch paper squares. her mother told me a couple days later that she had found each little drawing in individual socks in her daughter’s sock drawer! even more wonderful- she delivered some drawings to my doorstep soon after…sweet little darlin’.

it’s pretty good when that happens, right? yeah, it’s pretty cool.


how to be a sap: a commentary

when i was twenty two, when i heard someone talk about how they heard a story or something and it made them cry, i would laugh to myself. oh yeah, i had cried, like when my gramps died, but that’s different. it’s alright to cry over someone dying, like if you know them. i mean, that’s natural…just don’t carry on for too long.

20 plus years of living and i will admit that i have changed. i have been changed by life. oh my, i’ve seen some strong men die. my dear friend on that one night in september, you know the one, and if you don’t, i do. and then that one time at christmas when the rangers from yosemite called, “do you know joe crowe?”…yeah, i remember.

sorrow has no favorite. there are broken hearts all around us. they are lying at the feet of the masses as they hustle to tweet to text to live. we’re a strange animal. we really are, and i’m not just saying that. how can we dodge this mess? how can we live with it?

i have turned into a sap. i’m a former marine. i have hated and hurt. now i drive my mother’s car and listen to npr. i listen to a story of an 80 old woman from utah who captured a fawn when she was a child. against her father’s advice, she kept it and made it a pet and put it in the town christmas play. everyone loved it. the deer was a town mascot and the pride of this lady when she was young.

the deer turned into a buck and soon began to wander. the lady and her sisters would put a bright red scarf on the buck, and a bell, so that he wouldn’t be killed in hunting season. in his first year free he was shot by a local 19 year old fella. he knew it was a pet but he shot it anyway just a few miles from the house of the family that raised it.

so, i wasn’t surprised about the young punk shooting the deer. i also understood the father saying, “that’s what happens when you mess with mother nature.”  but as i drove down the street and heard that hard old woman, still living on the land in the woods of her father, cry for that deer that was shot 70 years ago…well, damn it, that makes me sad. i guess it’s because i realize how long and how much the heart can feel. it’s so wonderful and terrible. that old lady didn’t sob, she only cried…and she said, “don’t tell your audience about the deer getting shot.” she said it was too sad and the kids shouldn’t hear that kind of thing at christmas time. she was just a tough ol’ gal and her heart was still hurting from a little deer she should’a left in the woods of her youth.

so there i was, driving and fighting tears over a story from the radio, and wondering whatever happened to me. i’m a sap. if you need directions on how to get to where i am, just ask. i’m pretty sure i remember how i got here.

lonely stuff

i checked on things and, sure enough, life is passing us by. maybe we should say that life is carrying us through, because that’s more like what’s happening. there is the physical world, with stones and skies and shadows, there are worn and tired carcasses that are finished holding souls. shells and beaks and bones that remind us that life migrates. when we have life, it’s not ours to keep forever…it’s a borrowed engine. life makes our eyes glow. it puts red in our cheeks. life thunders in our guts and presses us to love. life, in it’s essence, gives us our moment under the sun. (it includes wounded hearts and arthritic toes and diarrhea and loss of memory preferably in reverse order).

(excerpt from a letter to sarah f.)

and, in the end, we each have only our heart to die with...

and, in the end, we each have only our heart to die with…

little beginnings

this is my attempt to explain the actions of my hands. they are busy, rarely idle. when my mind is going in circles, my hands are off on their own, doing things. they draw and write and sew and search and tap and scratch and spread butter on toast. most importantly, they express whatever it is that i am. they describe me as human. in terms of favorites, they are second only to my feet (it’s just that my feet aren’t as dextrous). with my hands, i write to paint pictures with words and i draw to make words out of pictures. the purpose of this blog is to document the going-on’s of these two hands with their eight fingers and two thumbs, respectively. none of this will be the most interesting thing you’ve ever read, but it will be mostly honest, sometimes funny, and completely human.  beyond these things, there are no guarantees. i’ll be posting pictures of drawings as well as bits of writing on a daily…maybe weekly basis. we’ll see how it all goes. this is it! the beginning! oh man, it’s like genesis when in the beginning god created the heavens and the earth…except not as epic. Image