tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: birds

Skip the Fuss

Hunter is one of my dearest friends. I believe him when he tells me things. It’s easy, we both like morning coffee. We both look at the stars and wonder what the hell. We both smell bad. And we both understand that we would be completely lost without a solid dose of sober melancholy. A good part of my existence is spent wondering about the lines that separate us all. What makes some folks choose to be mean while others are kind. There are so many different sorts — and they all belong to the big Mama Earth. Somehow or another, I came into being. I grew up under my folks and next to my brothers and sisters. I launched out into the world and went through school and college and jobs and relationships and landed right here, right now. And the now keeps on happening. Hell, now is happening even when I’m groveling in the past or fretting over the future! But the trip is that this collection of elements that is called “tobias” is sitting here at all.

I think it’s pretty damn cool that, in all the eons of time, out of all the possible maybes, I happened where I happened and ran into the folks I know. Don’t you ever think that? Out of all of time, you are now. You don’t have to prove it, you can just breathe and be. That’ll be plenty. In fact, if that’s all I ever did — just breathe and be — I wouldn’t have a thing to be ashamed of. Of course, I’ll muck it up a bit. T’is my nature.

Hunter and I went for a motorcycle ride in the woods on the 4th of July. I don’t really get into that holiday, “bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night…” and all. I can find better things to dwell on than bombs in the air. So yeah, we went riding. Out to the woods. And we walked up a steep trail and sat on some big ol’ stumps while the skeeters celebrated our soft skin. We talked about memories and broken bones and the doctors that set ’em.  The sun set and Hunter pointed out the nightjars overhead, first one and then several. They were calling out in the evening air and Hunt asked if I had ever heard the other sound they made. I hadn’t. Then he began to describe it. As he went into detail, and as we watched the bird overhead, the nightjar stooped and tipped toward us. Just a few feet over our heads, the bird turned and the heavy growl that Hunter had been describing came off the birds wings. We both smiled huge. Hunter simply said, “like that!”

We walked, pleased that the universe tapped us on the shoulder once again and let us know of our origins. On the walk back, we continued to talk about the nightjar and it’s crepuscular relatives. I said I liked them all. That they reminded me of moths. I mentioned how much I loved the whiporwill and Hunter nodded. We reached to moto’s and built a tiny fire. Fireworks flared against the sky, weak in contrast to the heavens and the novas and the light from billions of light years away. Our conversation was that of men who are brothers in the world and who realize the fortune of friendship. There was nothing but the two of us, the dreams of our hearts, and the world we were sitting against.

Then, as if cued from some old and perfect poem,  a whiporwill called out from somewhere in the dark.

Just this life,

skip the fuss.

Take a breath,

turn to dust.

Here We Are

If I had built a castle, like a good ol’ big one on some rocky hill, and if it was really beautiful and cool so that everyone wanted to see it, and if I chiseled each block by hand from a distant hillside and carried on it my back for miles before putting it in it’s place. And if books were written about my visions and skills, if philosophers and architects applied their theories to my accomplishments — if all this was true of me and my castle, it would still be less than a single gray dawn with low hanging clouds and the promise of storms across the tops of worrying trees. There ain’t a thing any man can build that trumps the lovely nature of the world of our birth. While wars rage and prices flare and politicians learn new fancy dances, riches and truths abound in the sound of the call of a solitary loon. The call of the loon. The song of the sparrow. The honest scream of the red-shouldered hawk over the pines above Daisy Creek Farm. The tricky imitation of that same scream from the blue jay, opportunivore extraordinaire. The rolling, mid-winter symphony of the geese in formation, low in the sky and heavy in my heart. The pipping of the chickadee. The peep peep of the tiny vireo in blue-gray flutterings. The fretting, scratching, watching and herding, water-drop call of the quail. The varied utterings of the mack-daddy raven in roman nose accents and bouncing, side-slanting gates. The forgotten beauty of the common house sparrow, with that pure and flowery voice. The doves that coo. The mergansers that murmur and flow in monster river currents. The bandy-necked kingfisher, skimming and looping and singing, always shy and just-around-the-bend. The giant and silent, thousand-yard-staring, shadow-casting, cliff-dwelling cry of the golden one, the eagle of lore and king of solitude. The whinnying of the albatross. The lilt of a canyon wren that floats from the red walls of canyons perfumed by sage and mesquite and creosote trees.

These are the stones I want to carry. These memories are the true hues of the soul. This is the castle I wanna inhabit. Every day the sky is split wide open by the songs and stories of a billion beating hearts being carried by wings that read the winds. These feathery songsters. The quiet rocks below. The forever stars above. Here we are.

Flight School


It’s not like I’m an expert at this or anything. I’ve never even really been able to say when it’s gonna happen or why it’s happening. Once when I was talking to Ruby (Ruby is 7 years old), she told me that she can do it whenever, but only just a little at a time. Flying might not be for everyone, but I personally don’t know why you wouldn’t want to. That fourth dimension that is so not linear, the movements in every direction. The blueness that is all around you. No wonder Ruby says she can fly, she’s so little and light; a bird in everyway. I remember her looking up with eyes made of sky and saying, “Tobe, um, how is the sky and the birds, I mean, are they hooked together?”  If you ever wanna melt my heart, and you’re talking to me and you wonder what words you can use to gain my attention, just ask me that kind of question. Hell if I know, little Ruby, but they might be connected from way down inside to the tip of their wings. No wonder the birds sing!

My younger brother Cory and I got our hands on a huge, red and blue umbrella. I was 4 years older than him and I could, especially then, talk him in to just about anything. This particularly pretty winter day was one of those ones that I remember like it was yesterday. We were on the roof of our two story house on Newland St., Ma and Pa still live there and maybe they are even sitting there right this moment remembering when 5 kids ran wild through every room and hall. But yeah, Cory and I were talking about flight and all the possible freedoms it offered. We could float to the hills and go fishing without even asking, you know, we can’t be blamed for floating up into the sky! Ma and Pa would understand, and besides, they’d be so proud that their sons had been so brave. But first a test flight, and Cory, as I explained to him, was smaller and lighter and so more suited for the job. Brave little dude furrowed his brow and looked at me as I, half believing it might actually work, nodded and gave him the thumbs up. Part of my theory was that if you left the umbrella down, kind of half collapsed, that it would flare open after you jumped and then drift up onto the breeze. Little Cory white-knuckled the hook handle and jumped up and out right after giving me the I’ll-see-you-after-I-float-back-to-earth look. Two things happened: The jump up made the umbrella snap in the closed position and Cory crashed into the cyprus bushes growing by the front porch. My mother, who was cleaning in the kitchen, saw my brother fall past the big front window. I covered my ears and ran down off the roof and towards the front yard. My ma ran out, still carrying the broom, and Cory thought she was coming to give him a whack for having jumped off the roof. I turned the corner in time to see my brother crawling like a hurt bird as my ma ran towards him with a broom. It all worked out. Cory had two sprained ankles and a sprained wrist along with some solid scratches on his forehead. I was grounded from the roof and any further flying experiments. My ma is still appalled to think my brother thought she was gonna beat him with a broom. I’ve learned that flight takes more than just a good imagination and that any such real attempt to fly should be left to birds, bats and aviation experts. Unless, of course, you happen to dream.

The majority of my flight dreams involve me doing something awkward in order to gain altitude. In my most common dream of flying, I gotta run in a straight line and then, slowly but surely, my strides become longer and longer. Sometimes I’m able to leap a really long way but I tend to turn sideways if I try to go too far. Flying takes great concentration, at least in my experience.

Swings are kind of like flying. If they’re big enough and over a river, you can feel birdlike for a second or two. Being in the tops of giant trees allows you to peek into the world of the birds as they move both above and below. Like when Markus and I broke out of the top of a giant cyprus tree in Golden Gate park and the ravens flew from all around and landed on branches and stared at the two of us. Their curiosity was obvious and they just couldn’t stop chattering lightly between themselves. Markus and I had to laugh. We just laughed and sat in the sun and looked out at the ocean where the surfers surfed and the seagulls seagulled and the boats boated. I think I climb trees because it separates me out from the rest of the world. Maybe it’s a little like flying.

I’m sure an orca would tell me that swimming is just as cool as flying. He would probably tell me about his forays under the ice where the world becomes aquamarine and the only sound is his thunderous heart. He might tell me of his hunting technique and how he has tipped icebergs and swallowed seals whole. And there would be stories of older orcas who dived to amazing depths and maybe he would roll his big pink tongue and tell me their names with reverence. I would want to know if he can see colors from sounds and if there are monsters in the depths and I would ask him about his preferences in music and love. Oh yeah, and I would wanna know about migration and whether or not he communicated with other worlds. I would ask him about his dreams and his terrors and if there are languages among the creatures of the sea. Does a whale from Japan have a heavy accent? Can he understand the tongues of the fish and the birds? Does he think about getting old and dying? The ocean is such a mystery, perhaps I might rather have the power of deep water diving, like a whale or elephant seal, so that I could bear witness to that wilder world.

Instead I am an earth dweller. A ground walker with an overactive imagination. I’m a dreamer of the flights of the birds and the deep water divers. I am forced to wait for the night so that I can fly while the stars, those wonderful conjurers, kick-start my dreams. I’m no more than a single soul, touched by a terribly beautiful world in which I have learned to stumble around and fall through loves and hurts and frights and wonders. I was a kid full of dreams who did a bunch of laps around the sun and became a kid full of dreams and wrinkles. I like Ruby’s take on things…that every time I leave the ground just a little bit, I am flying.

V after V


Sunday morning. A tiny, waning moon rose like a tea-cup in the east, way out past the lights of downtown Denver. The moon is so sweet in this phase, so quiet and hidden and ready to give way to whatever comes next. So many early mornings, when I’m the crazy man at 4a.m. and She’s the quiet dying moon, I have told her about all the things I’ve hidden, or dropped, or buried, or broken. I’ve talked out loud about the heaviest of lies, the ones that weigh as much as a bag of stones, and I’ve told her about the pieces of me that are missing and where it was that I think I might have lost them along the way. She knows all that stuff about me, She’s heard it all many times; still She shows up and lights, just barely, the eastern horizon that is over the stove that brews my coffee. Today, I’m not talking about my faults or furies. Today we are just old friends in the company of one another. Good ol’ friends, you know? One quality of a great friend is that they make me feel exclusive and listened to. And that’s how it is, of course I ain’t their only friend, but when they’re with me, they are with me. I’m sure there are many folks spilling their guts to the big Mama Moon, and She listens to them as well. What a damn good Moon!

Yesterday Ma & Pa came to visit me before I head back out on the road. Ma hadn’t been inside my little r.v. and she’s been askin’. They came over in separate vehicles because, well because my dad’s crazy and my mom’s had fifty years of deciding how to handle him. Oh, they love one another and all that, but Ma has made her decisions and that’s how they’re gonna finish this thing out. So Ma brought me 2 rugs and a book that was written in 1888 with old ship schematics she thought I might like to draw. She’s right, of course, I will draw from that ol’ book. The rugs I didn’t appreciate until this morning at about 5, no cold toes! Pa brought me an old Bible with his name engraved on the cover in gold letters. Chuck Crabtree, it says. Ma had slipped a photo inside the cover, it was a pic of the pet raccoon I had when I was 12.  Smiling, she said, ” maybe you should get a pet, like a little dog or something for when you’re lonely.” My Mom has sparkly eyes and they were extra sparkly as she looked at me in my 1984 toyota dolphin.

I made my Ma some tea. Pa had some strong coffee that he said he loved. They both sat in the drive while the earth turned on it’s winter tilt, leaning away from the Sun, and the Sun was given a special, winter allowance of warmth. I’m quite sure the Universe conspired to give me this moment with my folks. I was on my knees working on a pair of shoes and my Parents watched and asked questions about the sweetest little things. It was a unique occurrence, so rare as to be singular in all my life and since all life began. There has been no other me, that I know of, and no other them, all of us together under this winter sun in my brother’s driveway, and me making shoes and them drinking tea and coffee and asking sweet questions. And it happened once, and I witnessed and noted it’s rarity with lovely attention. This is the closest I come to any God; my religion, the moment of awareness. It felt, umm, good ( like the kind of good that’s not average or overused, the kind of good that you say to yourself when there’s extra butter on your toast and it’s melted just right and the toast is still nice and warm and exactly what you need or want and then you sip your tea or your coffee and, well, you know what I mean. ) to know I am a beloved son, as bumbling as I am, and still beloved. The Begotten, kneeling beneath his true Source.

I went for a walk after my parents left me, just wanted to test the shoes I made. Shoes are tricky. They might be the right size and shape and everything but something doesn’t feel right. The difficulty lies in the small adjustments that produce comfort and performance. A flip-flop’s easy, but a shoe that you can depend on for everything, hell, that’s a trick.  So I went west and up around the corner, up Colfax past the tattoo shop and the bars and the other bars. I dropped into the old cemetery where people were put in the dirt way back at the start of the 1900’s. It’s on a hill and the older part of the graveyard is less ordered. Tombstones are tilted this way and that. I walked over graves in my homemade shoes and thought of that expression, like someone just stepped on your grave. I guess that refers to someone stepping on the spot in which you will be buried. Seems like that makes more sense. A feeling kinda like when someone starts talking about tiny biting insects and your skin starts to itch. A sense of things to come…what’s the word? Foreshadowing? Yeah, that’s the word, perfect for that kind of feeling. I was surprised to see a tent down the hill, just between the graves. I don’t think it was occupied, no movement and the front zipped up, but the tent was definitely being used. It’s kinda smart, setting up camp as a homeless person is not that easy these days. An unkept, old graveyard eliminates a good bit of harassment, as long as you don’t mind sleeping on top of dead people.

The geese have been flying over in massive formations. They pound the air and honk and tilt their piebald heads to see through dark-coffee eyes, the lay of the land. Perfect internal navigation, bearing the memories of their parents who visited marshes that no longer exist, old goose tales of giant feeding grounds now buried under outdoor strip malls with fake streams and false waterfalls. All the mapping systems from their DNA are overlaid with a new, human powered paradigm. They must consult with the whales, and the caribou, and the elephants, and the wolves, and the Monarch butterflies. They are looking for open country that has no agenda, where rivers run and trees stand and stones hide the secrets of a world formed by cosmic fires. THAT, i’m sure, is what they are discussing as they fly overhead, V after V, swapping leads, searching for the sweet spot. Sometimes I smile and wave at them, and they wave back, because they feel my love for their odyssey. The geese and I, we have that in common; the love of journeys without end.

Yeah, if I could save up on any one thing, I’m pretty sure it would be as many horizons as I could fit in my pockets, and I like my pockets big, man.

monks in the leaves


I had a dream last night that I walked into a group of monks saying prayers to fallen leaves. The leaves covered the ground all around them and as far as I could see out into the forest. As it often is in dreams, I somehow knew what they were doing without asking them. I mentioned to one of them that there were too many leaves, that they would never finish praying. One smiling monk looked at me and said very simply, “true.”

Several nights ago, I had another dream. I was with my friend, Sarah, and we came across a snake. At first it was a Gopher snake and then it changed and grew rattles. It became a Rattler in front of our eyes, neither of us seemed concerned. Outside of dreamlife, I’m not afraid of snakes. I don’t worry of being bitten despite sleeping on the ground in the areas where snakes move and groove. It ain’t because I’m brave, it’s just that I’ve always liked snakes and I’ve noticed that they just don’t want much to do with us humans. They are focused on smaller things, things they might hunt and eat. In the dream, the Rattler was crawling across the plastic lid from a discarded trashcan, as we watched, a meadowlark landed on the edge of the lid. I told Sarah that the snake didn’t eat birds, and then it did. It struck and swallowed the bird entirely.

I don’t have any insight on dreams. They are as real as everything else, I reckon. They affect me about like the other stuff. And also, I’m tired of my opinion. Lately, it seems stale and old. I’m tired of my own voice when I’m trying to say what it is that I believe in. My beliefs change daily, even if ever so slightly, and so to say them is a bit of a waste of time. I’m tired of trying to drag bigger thoughts up out of the murk only to lose them at the surface; left with only the silver flash and a story that I may or may not be able to convey. I just might not find the words. Lately, I don’t have them. Them monks might have been onto something, sitting there praying to the millions of falling leaves; at least they know what they are doing.

Despite my misgivings and my forgettings and my empty jar of marbles, I do feel compelled to write about a thing or two. If, for some reason you’re still with me, I’ll do my best to keep it short, for all our sakes. These are words about a trip, a drive, but more than that, it’s about stones and mesas and things too old to understand.

When I started my Toyota Dolphin at 4:15 or so, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of dawn to the east. Stars? Yes, by the billions. And that little moon, She was there, dying again in front of my very eyes. Agendas are something I shy away from, for better or worse. I really love to not have one. So was the case as I pointed my nose, and the nose of the dolphin, to the east and the desert that the east held and the thoughts that the desert held. I believe the desert holds old thoughts, not just mine. I think that maybe the old stones and trees have been recording the happenings since before the first minute hand began to click and clock. The Earth remembers on Her own, with or without our recognition. Our own sense of importance has reached a fever pitch. (If smart phones were mirrors, and they are essentially a way to look at ourselves, imagine how many times we are looking at ourselves every day in every conceivable way. ) Narcissus is alive and well, walking miles and miles in our shoes. And with these thoughts, I would beg you to remember the world that made us. Remember what gave us our first imaginings. Our eyes have been fixed on the wonder of a turning world since we were skin-clad tribes and before. This is why I feel inclined to write, regardless of my reckless choice of words and caveman punctuation. Allow me this space to tug your sleeve in the direction of a wonderful, forgotten hollow. Some hidden meadow. A river that still flows with mystery in it’s belly to an ocean that is doing Her best to forgive us our sins.

When the Sun came up, it was across the flanks of Iron mountain. I’ve heard that Creosotes may be the largest ancient organisms, that they are all linked in the roots. Even if that’s not true, I want to believe it. I’ve heard that Aspen trees are linked in the roots as well. And then, while we’re thinkin’ about roots and links and connection, there’s the world of Mycelium. If ever there was a way to be lost in a forest, it’s on your belly where the Mycelium are interlacing and allowing the harmonious breakdown of all that is dead so that everything can live. Mushrooms stand on the fringes of infinity, for sure. And so I saw the Sun shine through miles of Creosote branches, His orange light diffused. My heart beats a little different in the morning, dawn treats me sweetly. Signs warned of a soft shoulder; no pulling off the side of the road ’cause you’ll get stuck. People have died in the desert on the side of a road because, well, it’s the desert and they didn’t have water. The desert and the ocean have much in common, it’s easy to die in either one.

I stopped when the road in front of me pinched down to nothing, as did the road behind me. Straight and flat and foreverish. I climbed out of my rig and walked up the road, the only sound was a kind of a hint of wind, as if it was out there sneaking around in the hidden washes. i looked back at the dolphin, it was perched in the center of the road, and I felt like i was committing a crime. I guess that is a crime, leaving a vehicle on the centerline of a highway. What a wildcat I am. Above me, the sky was laced with the controversial trails of jets, far too many to be a normal thing. Chemtrails or not, I hate that they’re there, blocking me from an empty sky. As far as I’m concerned, even dumping that much fuel into the sky shouldn’t be ok. I walked back to my rig and started it’s fuel driven engine with guilt. Me and the jets, dumping our poisons into this amazing place. I know I’d feel better if i was cranking on a bicycle, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be to my brother’s house for Christmas.

The sign above the highway as I entered Arizona read, “Drive hammered, get nailed.” I have always thought it was crazy that bars can even exist. Since folks drink at a bar, and they usually drive there, ummm. Humans are weird, man. The Mojave and the Joshua trees gave way to the Sonoran desert and the Saguaros. I drove through the day, my thoughts rattling like cans behind my rig, you know, just-married style. Somewhere, I stopped and made coffee and a quesadilla. As evening fell, I crossed into New Mexico. Traffic fell away and the sky showed as a beautiful open hole into the universe. Sleep was all over me, had to stop. A pull-out and a back lot, ice on the ground, the rumble of diesel engines doing their all night burn. I went to sleep wondering, “what ever was wrong with trains anyway?”

4 a.m.  Coffee blacker’n Satan’s heart. On the highway it was me and the stars and an occasional big rig. Miles and miles of shining highway lines. As the sun started to shine from under the sheets of the night, i could see the clouds in front of me.

As I write, presently, it is tempting to use words that might be misconstrued. The word, “alien,” for example, is maybe not the best word for the job. Alien, as a word, is loaded with connotation. It’s not just that I believe in something way bigger, it’s that I must. Moving through these deserts and feeling the wild world compounds with each step i take away from my vehicle, from my devices, makes me know that there is much more than what I see. Everything taken from actual living is far more valuable than learning it some other way. So the feeling of mystery becomes real and then I begin to see signs that aren’t going to be found in books or computers, they will only be found in the quiet spaces between my heart and the stars. Way out there, I am not surprised by visions. And all those things, like the things beyond usual, become more and more likely. The New Mexican desert, with it’s mesas and haunted cloud formations, is a portal through which we may travel. The words of the Ancients are carved into stones and all the Others from beyond the stars are standing just out of the corner of our eyes. Go. Be alone and be quiet so that you can hear. Nothing needs to be posted so that you can feel validated, leave that till later. Turn things off. Walk some miles under trackless skies. Drink some of your water and watch the wind sneak through the canyons. Be an alien to what is regular and chase the things that are older and more important. Leave time behind so that you won’t be distracted. Un-name your days. Pull the hours apart and leave them scattered on the ground.

I landed in Colorado. My dolphin spent a night in the town of Elizabeth, where I visited with Stan and Goldie. We sat in the kitchen and looked at the prairies that come from so far away. The little songbirds, the ones that brave the cold, sit outside in the bare-branched trees. They sit on the carcasses of thistles and sunflowers. They come find the seeds spread by Stan and Goldie. Story time with Stan, Lt. Col. Austin. We trade tales that cross one another with familiar names. We served at different times but our community was small and names carry weight. So we laughed and lied and told the truth in no particular order. History is a tangled thread. Stan carries his massive biceps under cantaloupe shoulders. His thick neck is the result of thousands of hours bowing against the tides. He’s a sight. We compare gray beards and laugh at the ticking clock. It’s nice that I can visit some of my heroes. Crazy Horse is gone, but Stan lives on.

From Elizabeth to Golden is only about an hour. My brother waits in the drive. Josh is always lean and mean. We have a beer in the garage while someone swipes my wallet from my rig out front. I let my guard down, I lose a little cash. The wallet gets tossed in the bushes a half block away, the person who owns the house recognizes it as something handmade. A call is made to my brother, Josh, “is tobias here? there’s a wallet in my drive that looks like he made it.” So I get the wallet back minus the cash and cards. Luck isn’t good or bad, it’s just the name we give to what we like and don’t like. You wanna know what I like? I like the thought of monks, under the trees, praying for the fallen leaves.

the imagitarium

the landscapes always change according to the information being processed. there’s no guarantee what the final product will look like, nor is there a way to know when it will show up. but, my god, the images!

there are worlds and oceans, sometimes worlds of oceans. with green and glowing waves that light up with the life that they sustain, the glowing things that swim between substances.

there are cities with billowing, black fumes where the rivers carry the sewage and sludge to dying oceans, heaving and gray. the beaches bear the signs of what used to swim through the deep. skulls the size of small cars, jaws agape.

wars. there are wars and people have weapons of all sorts. there are weapons in my hands, some recognizable, some strange and even broken. there is hiding in defilade and bad communication and missions gone awry. there are crashes and inescapable destruction. and bullet wounds, always bullet wounds, the sucking kind.

there are meetings with people. sometimes there are encounters and love that makes very little sense. a kind of pleasure that is unsure and almost always half-way finished. and there are paths that lead on and on, paths that have been traveled but lead off into complete and utter nothingness.  all creatures are welcome but not necessarily present.

thoughts mix. hearts hammer. lips and limbs akimbo. dying forests. dancing stuffed animals. impossibility loses momentum and could be becomes what is. lost arrows are not somewhere, lying in the bushes, they are still flying on into the blue. tongues are used for language and french kisses and tastes that happen only once. shape-shifters abound. nothing is inanimate. gods become tangible.

sometimes there is flight.


i’m not really sure if waking life is the opposite of dreams. what if dreams come from a flowing current, a giant river, made up of the wonders of every living thing? maybe we came from that river and our dreams are just a reminder that we are on a business trip called life, collecting more wonders to take back into that endless current when we die. so many things to see. colors to collect.  chocolate to taste. coffee to brew. stories to tell.  fires to build. lovers to love. or, if you’re me, there are grosbeaks to chase from the fig tree (for selfish purposes) in the early morning before you swim in the river after coffee, on a saturday in the month called august of some year of this life.


i was up early this mornin’. the wind was up and my rig was rocking between the creosotes.  i could hear the cactus wrens and their scratchy call; open the door and they’ll come in without a worry in the world.  i rolled outa the rig and saw myself in the glass outside the privy, creases and gray and shaggy, long hair caused me cut the look short.

coffee made, i bare-footed it back to the rig. i was prep’in up for a tattoo, that usually puts me in a good mood. there was a song in my head, something i was making up. it had to do with saying that “i don’t mind, if you wanna sing the blues. and i don’t mind, if you got scuffed up shoes…” i sang and liked it.

the wind was cracking by mid-morning. it’s spring in the desert so there really ain’t a pattern. could be wind. could be cold. could be blazing hot. i sat and chatted with ethan about the migrating birds and the wind. i told him about a time in patagonia when i watched song birds drop to the ground and resign to hopping, single file, up the dirt streets, against the wind.

i left ethan and his grand presence and went to do some work. i thought of my good buddy, hunter, as i drove the washboard roads and cranked metallica through my shitty little speakers. the song was good and i imagined hunter swinging a hammer in front of his forge to some good, old, heavy metal song. the road led to my friends’ house.  travis and shea laughed and joked through the time we spent together. i finished a big piece on shea’s leg. i finished somewhere around 2 o’clock.

on the way back to ethan and chris’s place, i saw a little grossbeak dead on the side of the road. it looked like a something too bright to be real, lying in the sand at the side of the road. i slowed, but i didn’t stop. i kinda wanted to move it away from the pavement but i didn’t. i got back to the house and chris was looking out the back window. she was up on a chair, a higher vantage point for looking out and down at all the little songbirds on the ground, eating mulberries. the wind. just like in patagonia, it had grounded the little migrators. in the yard there were wrens and vireos and tanagers and grosbeaks and sparrows and orioles, all spread out on the ground like a spilled bag of skittles. we laughed and talked about the way they were waiting for the air to slow down.

they all have their own song. so do i, i guess. i was singing it this morning, and maybe tonight i’ll sing something else. maybe i’ll sing something by ol’ willie nelson, or maybe neil diamond, or maybe i’ll sing something by iron maiden, something like run to the hills, and dedicate it to hunter. the point is, there are songs to sing. so warm up your chords and sing. the world is in dire need of some honest singing, i’m quite sure it won’t hurt if we warble just a little.

blue to indigo


this morning, while the sun came up over the bay to the east, i watched a crow shadow a redtail hawk. the crow above, the hawk below, each completely silent. i know it’s not a game for either. redtails often prey on crows, especially the youngsters. i think about what it must be like to do what that crow is doing.  a decent analogy would be if i went looking for great whites and then swam above them, prodding them to drive them from my favorite swimming area. of course, a crow is in it’s element on the wind; the ocean, no matter how much i love it, is not my natural element. but those two birds, the hawk and the crow, they did the most breathtaking dance. it could be that it was so wonderful because of what is at stake. and isn’t life like that? we give more when more is at stake. duh.

i decided to drink my coffee out of a smaller cup this morning. that way it seems like i’m having more cups but i don’t suffer from the shakes as much because i’m drinking less. it’s self-psychology, or at least that’s what i’m telling myself. and i’m not telling myself out loud, i’ve been trying to not talk to myself out loud as much because people stare. oh, we’re allowed to do it when we’re 7 but it’s a different deal when you’re 46. so yeah, i talk to myself, it’s just with my inside voice…and i mean inside.

i write sometimes to my buddy, dave kenneally. we’ve been bud’s since ’96 or somewheres there about. he knows me well, i know him well. we were both marines together and then we had several years where we suffered through the same tragedy. life must’a known we needed to share that one or else one of us might have just quit on things. dave used to be a great drunk, one of the best ever. it came fairly natural to him, like a talent. one of my favorite stories he tells is the night he drunkenly told me we needed some mcdonald’s. it was in the days when i might eat something like that if i was drunk enough. we ordered and then he tore through his meal before mine was open, when i came back from the restroom, my meal was gone as well. i told dave the next day to get a laugh but i only saw sadness. soon after he stopped drinking alcohol. now he’s a practicing buddhist. now he smiles like he used to drink — with all his heart.

davey tells me i’m sometimes too hard on myself. i just tell him he couldn’t understand unless his brain was way smaller, like mine.

my skateboard is just lying here next to me as i write. i want to take it for a spin down the hill. my ankle is still swollen from the last spin down the hill that ended with an unplanned trick involving several summersaults. i think i’ll wait one more day. sometimes inanimate objects have a louder voice than my voice of reason. my skateboard is a loudmouth.

before my fingers start shaking too bad to type from my third tiny cup of coffee, i’d like to put down a few more words. something about understanding. something about soul. i sat in the sun and talked for a bit with johnny’s daughter, seidel. the sun was nice and warm on the stoop while we chatted. she’s 4 years old. i asked her if she knew the word soul.  the yes she gave seemed like a no. i assumed she might be telling the truth and i asked her where we could get a soul or two. she glanced at me sideways like kids do when tricky questions get asked. “from the flowers,” i asked,  “or from the hummingbirds?” again, the glance. she never answered, but instead walked off with nary a word. later that night she gave me a fresh painting from out of several that she was working on. she told me it was for me. it was a beautiful blue with a bit of indigo on one side…

colors of the soul.

finding the moon

i’m typing from the desk i built from fence slats. the kingbirds are nesting on top the pole by the house where nick and elizabeth sleep (when they’re not sleeping up under the cedar). the chickens are put away. there’s a jay making a ruckus in the oaks behind my shack, something’s got him worked up, maybe danger, maybe love…i don’t know the difference. the sun is gone and i can see the clouds that are probably pounding rain on the other side of the mountains. the moon is waxing gibbous and showing, just barely, through the clouds. lucky me.

i was given permission to move into a shack at the top edge of the farm. i moved in, built a desk and put up two shelves and a food box. my bed is on the floor, where i prefer it. i have three books on my shelf, all gifts from thoughtful people. the windows are without glass and covered with wire mesh. insects come and go as they please through the gaps and holes…and that’s all fine by me, i’m not so different from them. i think it’s funny that i like the shelter that keeps me closest to the stars; i sure as hell have that here. let me put it this way, i won’t be flaunting my digs on the newest, hottest dating site…whatever that is.

tomorrow i’ll start on the shelter for the goats. elizabeth wants a milking station and so do i; i like milk. there are so many things to learn.  i stood and learned one thing after another today as i listened to nick in his garden…in his domaine; cycles and phases and observation and intuition, it’s all a part of the magic of husbandry. it’s different if you want to control it all, then you get into playing god, and it finds a way to crush you. nick likes to investigate the path that nature is carving and then follow it. he is the barefoot discoverer. he is the student in the woods at the foot of the elders. i left his talk and followed my own line of thinking/dreaming.

every tiny creature has secrets. the voles are moving in the grass even while i write. the gophers are finding the sweetest roots. the calendula is storing up it’s medicine in the orangest of petals. the fawn is nuzzling under his mothers flank and closing his lacy eyelashes against the night. the wasps are still as stones in their waxy nests.  the worms look for matter and matter awaits. i read somewhere that every time a hummingbird sleeps, he comes perilously close to death; their impossible metabolism can barely wait out the night. and then comes morning and they are at the flowers with brilliance that astounds, having just come from the brink of death. what heroes they are! what wonders!

i realize that, to some, this writing has little relevance. i understand, i feel that way when i read the wall street journal. it’s not that i don’t think it’s smart or well written, i just can’t find it’s application to my life. i’m stumbling through these words, trying to find something in my vocabulary to express the genius of the living world. it’s like trying to explain how incredible michael jackson was at dancing by trying to dance like michael jackson…there’s no way it can come across without seeming silly. so i’ll just be the fool, dancing his ass off and yelling at the top of his lungs, “it’s amazing! it’s amazing!” .

i’ll end by saying some things about these people with whom i am staying. they understand the look in my eyes. they know that i like to live in the shack at the edge of the fence line. they look at the moon and dance when the coffee’s ready in the morning. i don’t really know where i’m going or what i’m doing besides finding new air to breathe and cold swimmin’ holes and paths that are little and steep. this place, these people, this life…it’s all a marvel. there are a million thoughts to be thunk every day and i find the dearest form of freedom in knowing that i can think them whenever the hell i please, and i don’t need anyone to tell me i can or can’t. here, on the farm, where i’m allowed to build a desk and sip a little rye and find the moon and sleep in nothin’ but my socks on the floor in the shack, i can see to the center of the universe. you probably don’t believe me, and that’s ok. i ain’t no genius, but i’m rubbin’ up against it.

grass, like dogs at the gates

this morning i watched a robin wrestle a huge worm out of the turf in front of the farm. those robins are little savages. they hunt by sound, tilting their little heads this way and that until they have triangulated the crawlings of the earthworm. snap. i’ve noted that they rarely miss. hawks miss regularly. lions miss all the time. even sharks miss, but a miss on the part of the savage robin is few and far between.

i have avoided news lately. i don’t want to argue over whether the world is warming naturally or whether it’s because of too much human activity. i feel dread when i talk to the people from southern chile and they tell me about glacier grey, where i worked for one glorious season, and how it has retreated miles from where i remember it. i don’t want to see someone’s face turn red when i give my opinion (which hardly matters at all and, if it does matter, probably matters only to me…and i’m not sure if it does matter to me) about the whatever or the whoever. life is really short, i mean it is really, really short. the old timers tell me about when they were young and i see the twinklings of yesterday. just yesterday, it seems, i was hopping fences and running wild towards the pond on the hill just past the cottonwoods. (i still hop fences and run wild, it’s just a little more carefully…and that pond was buried under a football field and the cottonwoods were chopped and made into mulch.) my friend read to me yesterday from some news site. she said that about 12,000,000 people believe that the US govt. is run by “lizard people”.  now, i’m not sure what that means exactly and i’m not sure the statistic is valid, as they often aren’t, but i think i’m not that worried about that. it would be at least a little bit exciting to realize that there are lizard people out there and i think i would understand better the miscommunication that seems so prevalent between the government and the common man (me and probably you). i think lizards might make less of a mess of things. i’m not sure about lizard-people, the “people” part bothers me. just lizards for me, thank you. but yeah, i avoid the news quite often, i’d rather watch those savage little robins.

the rain from two days ago has the grass glowing an electric green. the shoots are just out of the ground and they are waiting. there is a knowledge in their DNA, it is ancient and complete, it tells them to wait. they are millions or more. they wait, like dogs at the gate, to run. oh, and when they go, they go! the grasses pay no attention to the fences nor the steeps. they grow wherever they find purchase. their roots run, their slender bodies slip in the wind as they race toward the sun. they become the beds for the deer and the bear and the two legged walker. of course, man has tamed ’em and shaped ’em and mowed ’em, but they long to be free. they don’t need to be tended. i love the giant meadows of grass that grow in the aspen-choked benches of colorado. they will surely sing for you if you go there and bend your ear to them.

when i was a kid i went to a huge field of grass with my cousins. i think it was in montana. i remember running into it, i was barely able to see over the tops as the world swayed to and fro in the country wind. immediately a game of hide-and-go-seek ensued. i laid down in the grass and smelled the world down close to where the roots hold tight. i remember my hands down in the dead grass and then looking up at the blue skies that were so busy herding clouds. i remember wondering why anyone would ever want to do anything else but that.

that same little boy lives inside me. i’m him. it’s weird but true and, if you were to see me, you might not believe that i was ever a little boy. that grizzly grey beard under the wrinkled-up eyes make it tough;but i still believe in some of the same stuff. i still think maybe we should all run out into the wild grass and lay down and smell the world…way down deep, where the roots hold tight. yeah, that’s it…go. go do it.