tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: dreams

Little Minds

Beans is dreaming on the sofa. She’s obviously running in her dream, all four legs are flicking and twitching and her eyes are rolling under her blue lashes.

Where are you Beans? What wonderful world are you exploring? Are there bacon scented squirrels that never die, only lead you in fantastic chases? I want to see into her dreams and experience her senses. What incredible things her nose must smell! What wild thoughts! A world of wild cries and crow hops and torrid drops through brush choked hollows. Beans is sleeping, but she is dreaming and the dream looks to me like a real gem. Ah Beans!

The skunk has visited two nights in a row. He roots around under the rig for scraps that don’t exist. I’ve seen his tracks and they are bearlike. Skunks rummage. His smell is incredible and sits in the back of my throat in the night. Last night I even heard him snort–it might have been a sneeze. I smiled at the thought. For some reason, a sneezing skunk makes me smile. I like the stinky skunk. A few animals in the world give me a feeling of melancholy. Skunks and porcupines and pangolins have defenses that separate them from a rough-and-tumble world. I feel the need to scratch them all behind the ears and let them know I feel their plight, they have defenses that create barriers. Hearts are out there in the woods, beating and drumming, bright eyes are peering through ferns. The gravity of the forest pulls me inward. I am held in elliptical patterns, swinging close and far, like a planet to a sun, like a moon to a world. My personal tides are affected by my relationships to mountains. There are canyons to be followed and fingers that lead to passages, saddles on the flanks of grand ranges. So much walking to be done. So many paths to trot. I am a vision collector, a dream grower, an image keeper. I struggle to translate the truth I see into the truth I tell. Sometimes a drawing. Sometimes a song. Sometimes a story. Mostly, I just think. There is a lovely space between the seer and the teller that refuses to be mapped. The struggling cartographers are the poets and the quiet hearted, the minstrels and the cave dwellers.

Somewhere, in a hole along the creek, a skunk is curled and dreaming, his wet, black nose is searching for grubs in the wonderland of his mind. And there, beneath twitching lip, a gleaming, white tooth.

You Will Know the Dance

Recently I peeked inside an elementary school window as I found my way to a breakfast sandwich. Through the smudged windows, I could see upper case and lower case letters on single panels over the chalkboard. There were simple math problems with objects showing that mathematics can be used at the grocery store while counting bananas. It takes very little for me to leave the present and find myself amongst the varied and shimmering moments of the past. Them days sitting with all the other little beasts in the classroom, waiting on time to pass. Waiting on release. In the days of childhood, the imagination is a giant machine and it never sleeps. Wonders are constant. There are gateways to other worlds and there are other worlds. All this, as I make my way to a breakfast sandwich.

I have always been prone to long forays of imagination. I’m sure when I’m an old man it’ll make me seem crazier, and maybe that’s what crazy is — long, wandering trips into the mind. I look forward to the windows of time where I can really lean into my thoughts. I find these little windows late night, when I lie down in my bed, in that period of time before night dreams where I can think of things of the past and place them in my present. Sometimes I make shoes, new designs for running with toes out in the open. Sometimes I am building words from thought, creating a way to communicate ideas and feelings. I have invented machines for travel; reinventing the wheel over and over. I’ve hashed out catches for the drawers in my toyota dolphin, funny knock knock jokes for kids (usually referring somehow to poop), ways to hang swings from trees, rigging for climbing, and drawings and drawings and drawings of them all. I like to think about the drawings I will do before I build something, sometimes even choosing the pens that I will draw with and the technique that will work best. I even like to think about breathing that helps me think, and then I breathe and see if it works. I know this all sounds like an exaggeration, but I’m not kidding. I look forward to those spaces where I’m free to think unencumbered. All this is free and for the having, all we gotta do is take ahold of our minds, and use them.

My head and the machinery within seem to work best when I’m endeavoring something else. Running is the most obvious activator. It’s as if my footfalls are shaking my belfry and loosing the bats that are my thoughts, each thought it’s own little universe. As I run, the thoughts begin to fly and I am swept up and away by the whirlwind of movement. I often must limit what I choose to think about lest I chase everything and come away with nothing. Thought half developed becomes non-sense later on. So I run and I think and I run like some older lion, choosing well from the herd and chasing with intent.

These thoughts and dreams are not so different from memories. The veil between the two is thin like vellum, I can see how one might become lost in the midst of yesterday’s now and today’s revery. One little slip of the mind, one shimmer, and the veil falls down leaving our senses topsy-turvy. Perhaps these are the ones walking and talking to the past, revisiting old problems while pushing huge carts filled with their excesses and possibles. I always think about that — we are all just a little knock on the head away from strange meanderings. And me, in my thinking vessel. If I were maybe a bit more focused or streamlined, like the bright ones with whom I’m acquainted that have minds that shine with perfect light. Then I see myself, in this veering and rickety craft, doors and windows flapping in the wind. I am flying and tethered to the rails for fear of slipping out. I am running wildly between openings in order to see the world that is an endless stream of wonders. All the failures and falls are braided into the summits and epiphanies, this swirling life. This blink of me. This spark of you. We are all a synapse in the mind of the universe, flashing our existence in order to be a part of it all.

My feet are running on a turning world. The world is spinning around a yellow sun, brother and sister planets spaced out in immaculate orbits all around. All together, we hang in the milky way galaxy, an ocean of stars, blue and yellow and red. Beyond the arm of Orion and into the darker universe, there is an elegant dance and we were born from it’s music. If you find a place out under the stars, and if you breathe and be still, and if you listen from the inside out, you will hear the song. You will know the dance.

…and who comes to see me in the night…

At 4 a.m. I awoke to the sound of a skunk trying to crack into my cooler that was outside the dolphin door. I am fairly accustomed to midnight prowlers; skunks, raccoons and bears, sometimes all three seem to have declared a truce between one another in pursuit of the delectables I keep in my beat up green cooler with the broken hinges and handles replaced by tubular nylon. I do have a difficult time going back to sleep if it’s a morning hour. So now I’m up.

There are things in my head this morning. I do the typical dance and start the hot water for coffee. I creep out of the dolphin, careful not to startle the skunk, he’s busy anyway, like a frustrated bank robber with his ear to a new, unbreakable type of safe. I am careful around the skunks, even more than the bears, because they sometime spray out of whimsy and that would suck first thing before coffee. Like the other night when I left Nick and Eliza in their little house and marched down to the dolphin by the chicken yard (seems I’m always parked next to a yard of chickens with the one obnoxious rooster that crows at 3:40 a.m. just to prove how cool he is…”oh, i’m the first rooster up in the world…oh, i’m so cool.”) and began to smell strong skunk right as I reached my rig. Now, like I said, I’m used to this kinda thing. My rig always has food, it’s a rolling lunch box for the omnivorous type — a category of animals in which I fit quite snuggly, along with coyotes, ravens&crows, bears, pigs, rats, skunks, raccoons, bears and most of my friends. But as I drew near and reached for my door, the black cat (named Mew) touched her little cold nose on the back of my calf. I jumped so bad I almost pulled a hammy. I thought the skunk had come for me once and for all. This morning the skunk just glanced over his stinky little shoulder and now I’m in the big house here at Daisy Creek Farm.

Coffee is on and it’s 4:27. I put a dollop of 50 year old honey down into the black, some heavy whipping cream…stir. Oh man. I am browsing books on the shelves, looking for Hafiz. I do not know where the light switches are and so I am trying to read titles in the half light. I spend a good amount of time fumbling in the dark in other peoples’ houses because I cannot find the light switches. Recently I had a friend text me, “Please don’t come in the house in the morning, I know you think you’re quiet, but you’re not…” And so I didn’t go in. I picture myself turning into that guy and it’s both annoying and scary. This morning there is no danger of being annoying, I’m magnificently alone.  I know the Hafiz book is here, I’ve picked it up in years past, but this morning it eludes me. I am picturing the mystic poet laughing at me as I look for him, and he is hiding with all his wonderful thoughts written in english symbols, called letters, between all the other books, bound and waiting to be chosen. So many thoughts. And I can picture Hafiz telling me some kind of riddle about how I needn’t read his words to find that magic, that it’s everywhere already. Ok, sneaky Hafiz, I’ll stop looking. You win, again.

Last night I had a dream that Death came. I’ve had this dream before and the other time Death was a woman. Last night Death was a dude. He did not announce himself, He was just sitting at the far end of the camper and he was smoking a stubby cigar. I woke from my perch on the overhead bed and looked at his dark shape. I could not seem him clearly and whatever light reached him did not reflect off of him, instead it seemed to be swallowed. I could see a bit of a gleam in his eyes and now and then a flash of a smile. He was sitting very casual with one leg up on the bench, one elbow on the table. I asked him why he was in my rig and I told him I wasn’t dying. He did not answer the question and said that if I was dying, I’d be gone already. Under the table, in the dark I could make out a flickering movement and I realized it was His tail. There was a moment where I wondered if he was the Devil. In that way that dreams can be, in other words, there are no rules in dreams, my thoughts seemed to be known by both parties and so my visitor smiled. “Death, the Devil…I really don’t care what you’ve named me.” I wasn’t completely afraid in my dream. I was wary but not fearful and I was also slightly aware that I was having a dream. I think more was said but I don’t remember what we spoke of.  I’ve noticed things about dreams, like the crossover is thin and so waking and sleeping are sometimes intermixed. My sleeping bag fell to the floor and was a dark mass, when I reached for it, it became a kind of dark liquid and ran to the end of the vehicle where Death sat. “Are you cold?” was his last question.

I woke and my sleeping bag was on the floor. Now I felt afraid. I reached down and grabbed it and stuffed my naked little ass back into it. I thought about my visitor, at least he closed the door when he left.

Yesterday I learned that Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. Oliver Sacks is incredible and wonderfully kind and amazingly curious. In his interview on Radio Lab, he talked about receiving the news and he spoke about his condition as if he were looking at a marvelous new specie of mushroom. He spoke of his life and loves. I’ve never read a single book by Dr Sacks but I have heard him speak many times and one thing that stands out is that he loves living. This is what makes me sad, the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s quite done living, but he’s on a shorter schedule due to cancer. He is a very powerful, graceful man. I wonder his dark moments, his sorrows and his fears. We all have them, I just think we are really good at distracting ourselves in order to save ourselves from them. Oliver doesn’t come across as a person prone to distraction. I imagine he’s sitting across the table from Death, swapping stories, and Death being slightly jealous of the brilliant life the ol Doc has lived.

(and how do we say goodbye to people we don’t even know? I suppose we can just think of them fondly and use the heart as an amplifier to send those compassionate thoughts across the space that separates us, one from another. and maybe in doing so, we are not so separate after all. and maybe we can, in some secret and beautiful way, bear some of the pain and throw some light out into the dark. i reckon that’s my way of recognizing the minds and hearts that inspire me, that make me ok with being a human in process…so yeah, thanks Dr. Sacks.)

Hoofed Beasts and Hurtling Cars

In the heart of any city, desperation is always only a few steps away. I slept in an illegal parking spot on Lincoln, right next to the park last night. I looked for a while for something better, but finally gave in and decided to risk the ticket. Before I went to sleep, I stepped up into the thicket of low lying bushes and watched the city as it happened. I like to do that kinda thing, hide and observe. I know it’s kinda creepy, but so is watching the News on television.

From my spot in the park I could see the long row of houses on the other side of the street. I could see that kinda blue-ish glow of all the flat-screens at once, some windows included the back of someone’s head with the t.v. beyond. It’s easy for me to get sad when I’m doing this kinda thing, easy to make the world into a kind of relentless tragedy. I see them human silhouettes and the mainline that is filling them up and up, I see the branches of the trees outside their houses and the coughing person that is slumping in the doorway, I see the cars hurtling down the lighted streets as they hurry towards the parking spots that will be created as another car leaves to find another parking spot created by another car leaving. There is a madness that I feel creeping up on me when I’m watching all this, it’s creeping, but it sure ain’t quiet and I am looking over my shoulder.

I don’t sleep so well when I have these kinda thoughts, so I didn’t sleep well last night. In the morning haze I tried to put together some kind of plan for the next few weeks. I couldn’t even get past the morning, I couldn’t get past wondering if I had a ticket on my windshield — wouldn’t be the first time.  My planning fell apart. Depression will follow soon if I don’t take action. I know this worn down path all too well, my footprints are everywhere. I should get in the ocean, she always sets me straight.

I love it when I find the sleeping spots of animals, especially when they’ve just been vacated. The heat from the body of the beast still lingers in the ground, and the smell hangs in the air. It’s like a little bit of the animal remains, can be felt. Sometimes I look around for the remnants of their dreams. Those things that cause eyes to roll under velvety lids while wet noses pull down all manner of smells that form colors and stories in wordless languages that are formed from spiraling DNA and patterns passed down through evolutionary reincarnations. The tilting of the head. The feigned indifference. The dances and gifts and displays. All these things must be a part of each animal’s dreams, along with their fears and dreads. I wonder about all that when I feel the heat in the grass that was mashed down by the body of some marvelous ungulate as they slept.

This morning I noticed a human sleeping spot just a few steps away from where my r.v. was parked. There were bloody napkins crumpled all around. Trouble in the night. I’m sure, more than a little misery. I moved the dolphin to a better parking spot, vacated by a work-goer. Coffee at the local shop. Outside the 7-11 there is heavy talk among several homeless folk. One had very little voice left, I wondered if he’s maybe losing it for good. They were talking of displacement and the good ol’ days and people that have been taken away. One caught my glance and we say hello. The old Thai man that haunts this world and this block on Judah street was there, outside the coffee shop. I said hello and he smiled and recognized me even though it has been 6 months since that last time we nodded to one another. He is coughing more these days and his smile seemed strained. I sat and listened to the hubbub and the gossip. Every block in every city is a tiny world.

The walk back to my rig was slow and easy. I saw a kitty-cat, orange and white,in a comfortable window. He was looking down at me and I looked up as a raven following the roofline dropped just low enough to pass within a foot or two of the cat. As the raven passed, the kitty couldn’t help himself and he lifted a paw and placed it on the window. The raven flew on and the cat dropped his little foot back into place and looked back at me, embarrassed. I smiled at him and shrugged.

The grass that grows along the dunes is gray and brown, kinda green in places. There are marks of the scurrying animals in the sand at the base of the grass. There are lost feathers and broken crab shells. There are sand dollars and polished sticks. The foam on the beach is being combed by the sand pipers and their kin. Seagulls are making themselves at home in the air all around. There are two-leggeds and they are running and some are walking with leashes tied to their pet dogs. The ocean looks wild and gray, on the horizon the sky is a lighter version of the ocean it holds in place. I wonder how the whales are doing today, way out there in that massive cold sea. I wonder if they slept well last night.

a pile of bricks

The last part of yesterday slid out from under the horizon way off to the west as the dolphin made it’s ever-slow way to the west gate. That long streak of orange wasn’t unlike the one that used to shine out from under my Mom and Dad’s door at the end of the hallway. Seems like the world’s full of things that refer to other things, or maybe they don’t, and it’s my mind that creates metaphors and similes, analogies and allegories. Who knows, without a way to relate one thing to the other, I probably wouldn’t remember a thing. But I don’t mind the moon reminding me of an old lamp on my Grand-daddy’s desk, nope, I sure don’t. So I’ll keep referring to old memories as long as you don’t mind too much, it’s my own way of finding myself in this big ol’ sprawled out life.

The dolphin (my little r.v.) pitched and rolled it’s way down and down through yesterday’s evening. The little desert creepers were starting their big-eyed scramblings and they bounced and fluttered, all ghosty and pale, across the beams of my headlights. There’s times when I’m working hard to figure things out, my mind a little machine with smoke boiling, then there’s a time like last night, my thoughts were still and hanging upside down in my mind, tiny wings wrapped up and tight, quiet. I drove along with the nothing in my head and the stars blinking on and the kangaroo rats bouncing and the sphinx moths zooming. All the sky and the comets and depth of forever over my empty head and all the me inside and clunking heart and blowing lungs and surging blood, nails and hair and spots. Like roll call in elementary school, “tobias?”…”Yes, present.”

With the end of the day in plain view, the only thing left to do was park. So I did. This is not exciting, perhaps this need not be read, instead, maybe, the writing of this is only a practice to stave off memory loss. Maybe it is only of interest to me, in which case I don’t blame you for leaving me now with my pile of letters making words. Game of Thrones will be waaay funner to watch than what I’m writing next. Go ahead, it’s cool. But yeah, I climbed up into my overhead space and picked up the book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The mute in that book is wonderful, he says nothing with his mouth, very little with his hands, but his eyes are the story of all things. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I woke in the night to barking hounds and the lights were off and book was placed to the side, the cover, separated from the book, marking my place.

Sleep. I don’t sleep that well, never have. And dreams, this I do like a champ. And so maybe because I allowed my mind it’s “nothing time” the evening before, I am dreaming mad dreams, one upon the other.

and i am driving an old blue vw van and it has rust spots behind all the wheel-wells and i am at the house of the person who owns the van. i am talking to him and i know he’s a friend but only in my dreams because his face, as i think on it now, is no one i know. he has straw colored hair and is stout. he’s a surfer. we surfed together somewhere in the past of the world of dreams because he is talking about having surfed with me. he’s cool. i like him. we are working on the van together, something is wrong with the starter. my blonde friend is getting a tool from the garage and i reach through the window and try to turn the key to start the engine. the van begins to roll and i try to stop it, i am running desperately to climb in the door as the van rolls backwards down a steep, narrow drive and crashes into a pile of old bricks and some brush. i am completely bummed about it all. the van. the accident. my stupidity. the yard with the bricks is below a tucked, little house with cool looking windows and a view overlooking the sea (which is directly below, the van fairly perched on the edge of the sea cliffs). The owner comes out and sees me and the van. He mentions the name of the owner (i can’t remember the name, but it’s the blonde guy and he’s friends with this new fella) and asks what happened. He invites me into his house. His name is Mikey Powell and he’s got a bunch of tattoos. On the bottom of his feet are the seeds of various flowers, he is 6 foot and says when he’s six feet under, the flowers will grow from his feet and find the surface and bloom so he can breathe again. He calls his wife “Sweet, Hot Mama, Child of the Sun.” Her arms are tattooed with dark, beautiful writings from old poets. Mikey says we’ll get the van running again, not to worry about the bricks. We go into a room he’s rebuilding and there’s a huge plate of wavy glass, 10 feet by 5 feet, slanting out from about waist level at a 45 degree angle. somehow he’s randomly cut holes out of the inch thick glass and placed old, broken bricks in the holes. the bricks are perfectly fitted and the whole thing is incredibly beautiful. from the bench we stand on, we can look through the glass at the kitchen below where Sweet, Hot Mama, Child of the Sun is putting the groceries away. The sun is shining through an even higher set of sky windows and the shapes of the old bricks are scattered throughout the house. Mikey  turned and said some things to me about one chance at making this particular life as beautiful as possible in order to offset the sadness. it wasn’t until then that i noticed he was missing a finger. something in the dream caused me to remember i was dreaming and i told Mikey i had to leave. he walked me out to the gate and i could see the driveway and the trees overhead and the ocean below. there were flowers along the fence. morning glories and poppies and pansies and daffodils. somewhere along the way, i woke up.

There’s really no way of telling exactly what dreams mean. They are collections from somewhere. Maybe they happen in a second. Maybe they are happening all the time and it takes that R.E.M. silence in order to hear/receive them. I don’t know. I do know that I really liked ol’ Mike Powell. I loved the way he looked at his lady and the way he was building pretty things to offset the sadness of this life. I liked his house over the sea and the flowers and the seeds tattooed on the bottoms of his feet. Come to think of it, I liked that entire dream, start to finish. If it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have felt good like I do this morning. I woke with the feeling you have when you’re close to things that are good for you. I felt like I was in love or something, and I was alone in my camper, under a waning gibbous moon and venus in the dark blue underneath. Hell, maybe I am in love…sappy as it sounds, in love with what I get to look at as I bump along this rolling river we call Life.

Coffee’s gonna be good today! Hell, yeah.

monks in the leaves

distance

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.

tripping up

every now and again i’ll stumble over absolutely nothing. i look back for the culprit and the sidewalk is smooth and crackless. the habit is to then look around and see if anyone has seen me trip over nothing. what i don’t want to see is someone laughing at my weird gaff in concentration, because, you know, i learned to walk a long time ago and i should have it down by now. i don’t know exactly when it happens, but somewhere, sometime in our growing up we start being self conscious over making mistakes. adults aren’t supposed to fall down. they aren’t supposed to blunder their words. mistakes can be forgiven with a shrug when we’re all kids, but don’t go tripping and falling once you’re older, don’t even think about it.

i got this theory that the reason adults end up hurting themselves in their older age is because we forget how to recover from our tumbles. we do less and less that might put us in a position to mess up, and then we forget how to fall. along with my theory is my practice. i spend a good bit of time doing things that most grown-ups don’t do; things adults have left behind in the moving memory pictures of their youth. i fall a lot. mistakes? oh hell yes. this morning’s routine includes a puffy ankle and some black toes from a skateboard crash two days ago. i had all the geek-gear on but the flopping on pavement will still twist you up, even if you’re covered in protective plastic. i don’t love my hurt foot but i sure do love how i got it, right up to the point before i turned just a little too hard and lost my board. it’s a part of the game i guess.

playmates are rare. i mean the good ones. the fun ones. the real ones. like markus jolliff, he’s a great playmate. he will always play. last year we intersected in san francisco, each of us on his own journey. i had been climbing trees in golden gate park every day for a week. a tree a day. i saw two giants that had enormous branches that intersected near the top. the one tree was limbless from the ground up to about 35 feet. the other tree was climbable but spooky. both trees had  huge limbs the size of most trees. i asked markus if he wanted to climb it with me. with little more than a curly smile answered with a yep. markus and i have been climbing buddies for over 10 years, we mostly climb on rocks, but he’s solid and strong and loves to laugh. it was quiet as we climbed. the world pinches off when you leave the ground and your safety lies in the choices you make with your hands and feet. gravity is there, watching. at the top of the tree, after the crossing over from the giant cedar into the giant cyprus, we poked our heads through the thick canopy. it didn’t look like we were a hundred plus feet from the dirt path below us. it looked like we were in a well groomed yard on some grand estate.  there were some ravens up there and they had to fly around us for a while to figure it out. they know what’s up and they have memories good enough to know when something is not usual. that’s how it was, the ravens chortling back and forth, landing and gawking at the sight of the two-leggeds high in the world above the world. ocean to the west. bay to the north. markus and his forever-smile forming the words, yeah man.

there’s a sleepiness in the tree tops. i know why the upper regions feel so magical, it’s because dreams happen up there. up there where the songbirds roost and dream their multi-color thoughts. up where the squirrels leap and snooze and flick their tricky tails. and, in the darker spots, the owls, the daytime deep-dreamers who carry quiet souls too and fro between our fixed and cartoned reality and the wonderful otherness of maybes and mysteries, they sit and wait the turn of the world when they will slip out and fly,  soundless, on downy wings. and in the jungles near the equator, high in those limbs are the worn spots where the monkeys rest. there are nests where the sloths pull down their long-lashed lids and think slow in mossy greens. and where a tree might hold 100,000 different species of beetles. yeah, trees are dream makers. they pull life from the ground and carry it to the sky. they are roots and bark and leaf and sap. they’ll connect you if you let ’em. especially if you’ll climb ’em. them ringed and swaying wonders. the elders and the alders. the cedars and the elms. the oaks and maples and rowans and lengas and ponderosas and spruces and ashes and madrones, lovely and waiting till we do our thing; they write their messages against the sky as they sway and lean and hum with the wind.

along with all the understood danger that comes from climbing to the top of some big ol’ tree is another feeling. i do feel an urgency to not make a mistake. it’s not a place to trip or make a bumbling move. the other feeling is an unmistakeable sense of safety and wellbeing. it’s a feeling of being above the madness below. after all, up there, i’m safe from any cord that might charge my computer. i’m safe from the mean looks that make me wonder what i did wrong. the shouting masses aren’t all around me, they are below. even honking horns seem sad and far away. sometimes, when i’m extra fortunate, i’ll look down and see a hawk slip below me, when i see the dappled light of the sun on the plumage of his back in flight i’m reminded that i’m living this life in a different fashion.

we are all here, each looking through the lens of our own experience. it’s up to us to change the angle and understand a new perspective. the more we move and change our point of view, the more our mind understands differences. understanding differences cuts down on meanness. it’d be good if we weren’t as mean. the next time i trip over nothing, i’ll do my best to remember what i’ve written here and i’ll try and laugh, maybe if someone’s watching they’ll laugh too.  that’d be alright.

a little “once upon a time”

from a letter not too very long ago…

it may just be the way things are. you know that saying? i heard it a lot from older men when i was a younger man. now i say it. when i think about it, it seems to be kinda taoist. so maybe there is some natural tao in every old man, in every man growing old…and i guess that includes every man. the younger you are the less you want to pay attention to the someone with shaky old hands. chasing all those dreams with muscles bulging out from under a too tight t-shirt is just so much more attractive. but the now is always now and youth is a shooting star.

do you have time for a once upon a time? i’ll keep it short. i caught a memory this morning. from nowhere, it bubbled to the surface and i closed my eyes and let it reel past while the clock flipped and showed 5:42 a.m.  there was this time when i was 15 and my dad and i road all night to the town where he was born. we each road a motorcycle and neither of us wore helmets (they weren’t required back then in the states we road in…so, of course, if they aren’t required…). i didn’t have my drivers license yet, my dad wasn’t worried over stuff like that. he worried over things like whether my heart was given to jesus, after that everything was negotiable. but yeah, we pulled into a little town called redrock in the heart of oklahoma. it was so old. down a road, half paved, and on and on. a sign said “big dip” and there was one. a left and several miles put us in front of an old house with chickens and several dogs, the woods beyond hummed with the early morning sounds that can only be found in oklahoma. the old pond. everything wrapped in pre-dawn blue. it was cool. there was a light on in the kitchen and i saw a woman. my dad said that it was his old aunt. an old indian man stepped out on the porch and his hair was white and he had on suspenders and horn rimmed glasses. uncle edgar. i stayed for a week with them and it was the only time i would ever see any of them. they are long dead and i imaging the house still sits at the end of that road…for sure it does in that blue morning memory that came to me in the dark…..

that’s it…t.


Melville’s world (the Nantucketer)