tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: coffee

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.

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.

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.

a list of admissions before dawn

this isn’t an attempt to sound like i’m disciplined; i’m not. i’m not the man my grand dad was and i ain’t the man my dad is and i’m not a harder worker than my kid brother (not even close). all these men have known the morning hours because work has beckoned them. my brother, joshua, builds stuff, like hospitals and medical buildings; my dad works for God, and God likes folks to be at it early; my gramps worked the oil-fields in the early 1900’s. i’m kinda like them all, besides bearing a striking resemblance to them in some ways, i like being up before the sun. sometimes way before the sun, like today. and today i made a list of things that happen before the sun comes around the corner of the world.

-an acorn fell and popped off like a gun shot on the roof of the shed.

-i flailed from a dream where i was with a pretty girl who was explaining that we had a baby together. the baby had little pointed ears and gold eyes and ebony skin and i was doubtful that it was my baby, i glanced at my reflection in a broken out car window (my dreams are often in a war torn setting) and i had pointed ears and gold eyes and ebony skin.

-i groped around in the dark, like every morning, for my headlamp that i last saw on my head when i was reading last night. i found, instead, my copper earring that has been missing for a few days. (and where was that thing, in my sleeping bag?)

-i crawled out into the cold to take a leak. puffs of breath.

-i found my pants in the dark.

-i turned on the shed light. my headlamp was on my pillow. i mumbled, “that figures…” to myself.

-i turned the light back off and stepped out under the freckled universe.

-orion was center-stage, chasing taurus…his never ending hunt. i thought of roger sparks and hunter dahlberg, both sons of that constellation. roger with his son, orion. hunter with the stars tattooed on his body in precise astronomic distribution just as they are on the hunter in the sky.

-the big ursa, that dancing circus bear always circling polaris.

-a screech owl, calling and calling and calling.

-an iron blue horizon, promising cold.

-frost coming on. the grass crackling under my sandals.

-the rooster, letting me know he’s a rooster.

-i make coffee in the camper, humming some 80’s song about the rains in africa.

-i browse the sun magazine while coffee’s brewing. a sad story about someone loving someone who wants to love everyone.

-i think of albert camus from out of nowhere…or maybe out of everywhere.

-i think about how i don’t have what i takes to be an existentialist. i do believe in right now, this moment, but i’m a romantic and love the mystery of maybe.

-i step out with my coffee and it seems darker. i scare a sheep that i thought was a bush and it scares me and i spill some coffee on my wool sweater that has a lot of coffee spills on it. “precious coffee,” i say out loud to myself, “what a waste.”

-i find the shed in the dark.

-i turn on the light and wrap a blanket around my nasty little hooves.

-i chuckle and say something about loving this shit.

-light is coming. orion has fled. my heart is clunking away. the future hangs like an exhibit down a long hallway in the museum, i can’t quite make it out, but it looks interesting. what’ya say we go stand in it and call it now?

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.

pre-dawn secrets

the sun isn’t up yet, in fact, it’s hours till dawn. i can hear each separate wave as it rolls in from it’s long voyage and ends on the beach; and it’s message is delivered,  be it shell or carcass or tiny wiggling creature. the birds have not yet started their call for the sun. the streets are quiet with only an occasional lonely reveler calling out to himself, the night is spent like his money; swirling, dreamless, drunken sleep awaits him at the next park bench.

this is the hour that calls me. there are certain secrets contained in this darkness before dawn. there is the coffee that is so fine and strong and devilishly dark-hearted. there is the sound of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks as he sings out the genius of his youth. there are the thoughts lined up like patients in a doctors office, waiting to be seen; i am writing prescriptions as fast as i can.

more than what happens at this hour is the capacity for what might be. the day seems so grand, as if a bit of the night has been broken off and added. my colored pencils sit in their box, glowing. my pens jump into my hand and lean into the lines i do so love to draw. i wear a headlamp (years of living outside and reading from a sleeping bag have created  habits that are strange when practiced in a more civilized environment) to provide a more pointed light. just a little light, please, not too much. just enough to see the words, to find the way, to chase off just enough of the shadow but not all of it. it is the feeling of solitude and gratitude that drags me from my pallet at this unpopulated hour. i’m not the only creature awake, this is sure. crepuscular ones.

and while i can find little more to write about at this dark hour, than my thrill of writing at this dark hour, i guess that’s good enough. my mind is the sneaky little mammal, leaving tracks in the sand in the dark. (i woke once, appalled to find skunk tracks all around me, some of them just inches from my face. i must have had my nose turned off or something.) that is what a writer’s mind is anyway, a hungry little varmint that leaves tracks all across papers and screens. some meandering. some chasing prey. some on a long, long migration. each of our tracks differ in that they are possessed by different souls and produced at our own pace. and so it is with me, in my own stumbling, limping way i’m leaving my passage, interesting or not, as i continue the chase.

in closing, i’ll tell a little story. i love following tracks. i’m by no means an expert but i love being able to pick up a line of tracks and follow them. there is so much to be seen and read. the interests are revealed. most of the time, the sex of the animal becomes known. intimate details of a creature’s life can be pulled from the placement of their paws as they live and hunt and eat and mate and play. i have also come across things that i just couldn’t figure out. that would have been the case for this story had i not witnessed it first hand. i was in the desert after a strange snow storm. it had happened late in the winter season and the mojave was covered in almost two feet of snow. everything spiny and snowy. the joshua trees had tall white caps of fluff. i was up and walking with the sun and it was incredibly quiet; everything insulated from the powder. i was looking out over the white and saw a coopers hawk flying low, eye-level, straight towards me. she wasn’t flying hard, mostly gliding, and she had a chipmunk in her talons. all was perfectly clear as she passed; the chipmunk hanging, eyes closed, a drop of bright red blood fell from it’s nose and landed in the snow a few feet from me.  one brilliant, crimson drop on a desert of pure white. i saw another fall after a wing beat. and so i followed, making circles when i lost the line of red. i walked for over a mile and finally lost the little hawk and the bleeding chipmunk.

while i will never capture the purity of the world as it really is…i can’t help but try to re-color it in a dime-store version of the real thing. it’s the best i can do.