tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: earth

Soulshine

I wonder if it’s too late to compete in the Olympics. I guess I’d need to choose a discipline. One of my buddies suggested synchronized swimming, I informed him how difficult those moves are while smiling and holding your breath. Plus I don’t think there’s a men’s division, and even if the girls let me in, I wouldn’t make the team. Maybe if there was an Olympic sport like coffee making, or hide-and-go-seek, which isn’t a sport, but it should be. I won’t take too much time here bragging, but I’m good at hide-and-go-seek. I like to play even when other people don’t want to. I’ll hide from you just for fun. And ya see, that’s what it takes to be an Olympian: You can’t just be good at it, you gotta do it ’cause you love it. I’d probably need an age waiver, but I feel like my immaturity would sway the committee in my favor.

There’s so many things I’d like to try. Like, I wouldn’t mind being a rock star, even if it was just for a bit. I wouldn’t want all the tabloid stuff, but I think it would be so rad to sing a cool song and have everyone all blissed out over it. I mean, wouldn’t you? Maybe I’d make one album (are they still called albums?) and it would be awesome and then I’d just disappear, but then I’d be sitting in some little cafe in Laramie and I’d hear my song come on in the kitchen and the cook would turn it up a little and say, “I really like this song.” And I’d smile and drink my coffee, but I wouldn’t say anything, I’d just love it on the inside. Secret arrogance is easier for people to tolerate. Besides, I have enough hang-ups without being obviously prideful. It’s ok to have dreams that are a little out there. I’m sure there’s a balance between dreaming your life away and not dreaming at all. Life is here, you know? It’s not a clock. It’s a living breathingness. No matter how much we define it or figure it, time isn’t real. It’s a thing that we say is real, but it will be gone when we are. I’m sure physicists would roll their eyes at me, but I would just ask whether the sun cares about time. And they would call me crazy and I would laugh like a fool. The minute doesn’t need to control us, but it does, hence the big rush. The angry man shaking his fist and riding six inches off my rear bumper does not change the moon in her phases. I care more about heartbeats and how we choose to use them. Being prompt and efficient is good, but not at the cost of real living.

I heard some smart person talking about memory, how the amount of times we ruminate over a specific memory determines the accuracy of that event. Come to find out, the more you hash something over, the more it changes. It’s those things that come out of our dusty pasts, mid-morning on some random thursday, that are the closest to the real deal. I guess it doesn’t matter, but it’s a little sad to me. The memories I visit the most, become something else. Memories are changelings .

The past is defined by that same smarty-pants as anything older than 8 seconds. The present is fleeting. Here we are on this big blue earth, spinning through the stars. Trillions of thoughts are fluttering and flitting out into space. Tiny birds are thinking. Somewhere a deer is browsing near a backcountry road, stamping at the horsefly on her flank. Twenty miles away, a car is traveling in her direction. She is making choices, which leaves to pluck. A memory flickers through her head and she moves out toward an especially lush spot along the creek. The road is just ahead. Out of all the possibilities, she will be at the road just as the car rounds a curve. Old instincts will fire and her quicksilver muscles will take over. There will be a moment where lives hang in the balance. There are billions of maybes. Sometimes hearts no longer beat. Thoughts cease. Wonders endure.

I went for a run along the river. It was cool and I felt good. I love running with someone out in front of me. I like trying to reel them in. I’m sneaky, I try not to let them hear me, and then I pounce. Sometimes, when there’s no one out in front of me, I imagine someone catching up to me from behind. My mind creates them and they are always younger and better looking and more talented than me. They don’t have to try as hard as I do, I imagine them thinking that I’m easy pickin’s. And I pick up the pace and I lean into the turns. I run harder up the hills because I imagine that they won’t think I’ll do that. Ha! They are behind the last bend and they don’t know I’ve picked up the pace even more. I imagine them rounding the turn and frowning at the distance I’ve created. They will match my speed, but the end is in view and they might not be able to chase me down. The fire in my gut is too much. Grit wins over talent! And I am heaving and my head is pounding and I am staring at the ghosts that chase me. They are all walking around shaking their heads and they are muttering words like “lucky” and “should have” and I am outwardly humble…but I’m laughing on the inside.

post script: 

I reckon I’ll end this with a dedication. I know that we all belong. It’s difficult for me to understand this unless I extract myself from the process. I’m not in charge, and I’m sure I’d be a terrible god. Here’s what I do know: no matter how evil we are, the earth will take us back and turn us to elements and minerals. We all become food for the flowers eventually. But I am certainly a witness to some things that qualify as amazing. Sometimes it’s people that amaze me. Chris Pilaro is one such person. He is here in the world, and like us all, he doesn’t know how long he will be alive. However, he’s been told by people in the know that his time is up. Of course, he was told that 4 years ago and he decided that he had more living to do. As the cancer crowds his guts, and his system begins to show the signs of an expiration date, he continues to shine. His eyes are bright and he speaks candidly about life and the living of it. He skates with a colostomy bag in tow. He answers the questions that his boys conjure while they skate together. He meets me for tacos and tells me the pluses of having a bag, how you can eat more by simply emptying it. There is light in his eyes from the edge of the universe. He has no desire to argue, save that for a person bored with living. He’s very here. He’ll be here till he’s not. He showed me how to fill the space between the sky and the ground, just fill it with your heart. Save the meanness and smile. Laugh at the irony. Giggle at the funny stuff. Only quit when your done and then do so with grace and love and awareness. When you run, run! The ghosts are back there but you’ve got more fire in your gut. 

“soulshine, is better than sunshine, better than moonshine, and damn sure better than rain….” Greg Allman

a song for the long run

In grade school we had this day, once a year, called field day. It was the day that each child competed in several different physical events against other children in the same grade. There were a bunch of different events including a softball distance throw, long jump, standing long jump and, of course, running different distances. There were ribbons given to the first, second and third place winners, kinda like the olympics. I’ve heard that these days they give out ribbons to all participants, which makes me wonder about why they even have competitions. But anyway, I never won a first place ribbon, maybe a third now and then, but I sure did like that day. For one thing, any day where I didn’t have to sit in school was wonderful to me, also, I liked to run.

That all happened years ago, more than I like to add up. Lots of things have changed since then. Nowadays competition is scrutinized and people sue for burnt meals and coffee that’s too hot, there are cameras on street poles and flu shots at Walgreen, there are little televisions in every pocket and not-so-coincidentally, zombie movies are all the rage. There is a zombie-esque feel to people these days. As planes hurtle across the sky making criss-cross patterns above land that takes weeks to walk into, I wonder about our future. And by “our”, I mean us human critters. These days I have heavy thoughts about the way we tax our pretty blue world. Water runs down the gutters of the golf courses in the desert. Pills get flushed down the toilets. Roads are widened and widened again. There is chaos running amuck in the minds of people who sit in millions of hours traffic. Can you imagine the combined amount of hate and fury that is emanating from each and every traffic jam on each highway in every city around the world? It can’t be good. I think first, second and third place ribbons are the least of our worries.

I don’t like thinking about all these things. I feel a little guilty writing about them because they’re so heavy and I don’t have the answers. I feel like the guy who is alone on an asteroid and comes across a broken space ship; I know there’s a way to fix it and fly it, but I’m too simple to do so. Instead, I just sit in the cockpit and imagine flying back to my world with the oceans and whales and redwoods and ferns and blueberries and high country streams and heavy whipping cream and coffee.

Whenever this all gets too big, too much, I have a way that I fix it. It might seem silly to you but it works, at least most of the time it works. I run. That’s it, I just run. Like the little Tobias kid that ran after them first place ribbons, I run. And I ain’t training anymore for anything. No races. No tryouts. No finish lines. I run to allow my heart the freedom it gets from pounding. These hearts, our hearts, were born to pound. So, not unlike the wolves and the antelope, I run across the land. I even close my eyes for a few steps sometimes and picture my silhouette against the sky and the earth turning under me, and I picture the terrain changing from deserts to mountains to long, beautiful beaches. I breathe in the air that is here, however good or bad it is, and I don’t pass judgement because, well, because I’m running. And I think of the Masai running with their beautiful smiles. I think of the Tarahumara running under wild, Mexican skies. I see early man as he dreams over distances and into his future, which is now my past. We are running and we are wild. Wolves run. Coyotes and cheetahs run. Gazelles and rabbits run. There aren’t ribbons here, there is sky and ground and beating heart, burning legs and clacking teeth. And as we run the world turns in space and I can see a white-hot trail left behind, a single thread against the black, and that thread runs through everything that ever was. It cuts through the red-rimmed eyes of the thin man digging in the dumpster for his meal. It creases the brow of the one-who-has-everything as he weeps over his ocean of emptiness. It meanders through the guts of the prison guard who walks long hallways of cages holding his kind. It is a thread that hems us all together, like it or not, on a planet that carries us but is not owned by us and will not ever be owned, no matter how much money changes hands. It is life. We each carry it for a bit, and then we give it back. I guess that’s why I feel it when I am running, because I feel my heart and I know that someday, my faithful little machine will divvy out it’s last thump, and I will cease to be.

We all get our kicks through something. I know that some folks can’t run and some folks don’t want to, but that’s not the point here. A thought or two about our place in the midst of it all wouldn’t hurt. We are all beating hearts, which gives us something in common. That thought alone could begin to fix some of the things that seem unfixable. Put your hand on your chest and feel…see, it’s there, clunking away. Ain’t that pretty?

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.

gimme a little yellow light

this whole thing is just a big chain of events, ain’t it? no need to answer, i know it is. one minute after the other. day after day. sunrise, sunset, sunrise…and so on.

i got a chain of events goin’ on, i’ll tell ya that much. here’s a little gem for ya. it’s cold. going to freeze tonight and the frost is already on my pumpkin, if you know what i mean. my fingers don’t type so well in this cold and i can see my breath puffing whenever i sigh from not being able to write a godamn thing worth reading. so i see my breath quite a lot.

i have the shed that i live in set up so that all the lights run off of one power strip on the wall. the lights are good, they throw a yellow light, which i love, and i really look forward to the evenings when i strip down wild-animal-style and shoot into my sleeping bag for a good read. i got things set up so i can turn the power strip off with a long stick that i keep by my little pallet; that way i don’t have to get outa bed in the cold. i know, i know, genius right? hey that’s what i went to college for…wait, no it’s not. i don’t remember why i went to college, but i’m pretty sure i did.

i took the sewing machine out in the sun and sewed curtains for my camper today. the sun was good and warm in the middle day and it made me pretty happy to make stuff in such a cool setting. there’s a black kitty that kinda follows me around and gets in the way. somehow she knows how to do it without getting on my nerves too much.  i suppose it’s good for me to have her around, it’s like being alone, but not really. sewing machines are amazing. so much work done so fast. i have always sewn by hand because sewing machines and backpacks don’t go together, but when i get around a machine, i remember what my mama taught me and i sew. i sew stuff that doesn’t even need sewing. what’s that, you gotta mend them britches? hell, bring ’em over.

it’s been weeks since i climbed a tree. that’s on the agenda for tomorrow. it’s important you know? how long’s it been since you climbed a tree? you know, it’ll give you a pretty unique perspective. a tree that has been in your life for a long time takes on a whole new meaning once you’ve put yourself in it’s care, high above the mess. i lived in a tree in brian and summer’s backyard for about a year. they let me come in the house and use the facilities, but my nights and my passing moments were spent in that ol’ tree. my ma even came out to visit me and i put a rope on her and she climbed up. we sat in the dappled sunlight 30 some feet off the ground and i  saw the little girl shining in my 70 year old mother’s eyes. she smiled so easy and she had so much to say. we looked at the goats and the horses and the chickens. the ravens checked in. the world was turning just so. no wonder the birds sing from trees…there’s so much there, we should all sing about it.

i guess it’s time to shut this little light box down. my fingers are cold. i can see my breath on every breath. i’ll reach for the stick and shut off the switch and another day is gone. you know, we don’t get ’em back? these days? they are precious little gems that we often pay little attention to. the world is not spinning because of us, it’s spinning and we just happen to be here.

what grand fortune.

let’s not lose hope. let’s breathe and make it good.

rock ‘n roll, man.

now, where’s that stick.

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.

rich dirt

drift (verb) — the tendency of an object to be moved by a larger substance or influence. (this is the “tobias definition” and not to be used in class at harvard…or princeton…or anywhere but here)

here’s my computer’s definition: be carried, be borne, waft, meander, wander, etc.

i have a buddy who has a son named rowan. rowan is 12 and has been raised in a style i really haven’t seen anywhere else. it’s cool, but different. i know little of raising a child because i don’t have any, but i watch. the cliche, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” seems apropos with child rearing. rowan grew up in front of me. i see videos now of when he was 5 years old and i was dressed in a loin clothe with my buddy, trippy, in one of his outlandishly disgusting outfits, as we stand and have a casual conversation and rowan is playing in the background without even noticing us. i can’t really do anything that would shock him, except maybe if i acted normal or something. ethan, rowan’s father, is a hulk. he must weigh in at about 240 and it ain’t fat. he’s a bruiser, he’s also one of the sweetest dudes i’ve ever met. when rowan starts pestering his dad too much, ethan simply says, “rowan, drift.” and rowan does. it’s a strong word, drift.  i like it.

i stopped at a spot on the rogue river a few days ago. i knew the place because once, when i was dating a girl (yeah, i have actually had a girlfriend once…i think) we stopped there and swam. this time around, there was snow coming down and i was alone, which somehow seems fitting. i stopped and got out of the little camper and walked down to the river’s edge. it was as clear as glass. i stripped out of my wool and cotton  and jumped into the hole where i swam a year and a half ago. it occurred to me later that it was the same place i had been when i was so in love except for the substance. that water that we had played in was long gone just like the feelings in that moment…it may well have all washed out to sea, i don’t know. i was there again, and there sat the same rocks and trees. i came up from the burning cold water and breathed deep. i looked in the water and noticed something i hadn’t seen upon entry; there were rocks floating all around me. i’ve seen rocks float before, but i’ve never seen big ones like these. some were as big as my two fists. maybe they were there when i first entered or maybe they floated in from me climbing down the bank, doesn’t matter. the world is so full of strange beauty. i grabbed one and put it in my rig to send off to my nephews (way better than a rubber ducky).

even rocks drift.

i just learned that when you make a hole larger in a hot piece of metal, you are drifting. blacksmiths use the term “drift” in their craft. i love that. to drift is to make a larger space. i relate to this word. i don’t like to think of myself as a wanderer. i feel like i move with purpose, but i’m no fool. i know that i have moved out upon a substance and i am moving toward something bigger. something infinite. i am formed to do this thing that i’m doing. i am shaped for it. as i move on through i am aware of my movement and it’s meaning. i have a keel. this life is the substance. i am in the fastest of currents and moving along quite well towards a finale. i’ll leave what comes after to the theologians and the philosophers and the scientists. for me, the truth lies in the drift. give me this life. it’s all i own. it comes complete with sore shoulders and strange lumps and spider bites. the package is colored by fevers and scars. the soundtrack is filled with dancing feet and wailing mothers, with laughing babies and squawking crows, with singing spruces and singing singers…even the sound of my own worried heart. i have nothing else but what each moment gives me. we create our own fractured expectations beyond what is truly ours. take what you have and love it. i’m trying to do the same, really, i’m trying with all my might.

the worst of us and the best of us are going to turn to dust. i want my dirt to be rich.

all ships are sinking…or, my plan to change the world

i’ve spent time on several boats. i lived on a sail boat for six months. i’ve had more than one captain tell me that all boats are sinking. even in million dollar yachts the bilge pumps must run; old wooden boats sink quicker. today i went by a boat that some workers were trying to bring up from the bottom of the bay with barrels full of air. and so it is that even the most sea worthy vessels must be maintained or they will be lost. a good boat can sink.

i heard an astronaut named edgar mitchell talking about orbiting the moon. along with his words there was video of some of the things he saw from his window on the apollo spacecraft back in 1968. he’s an old man now but there, in the apollo, he was young with a strong jaw and sparkly eyes. i’ll not forget what he said; it was eloquent and profound.

“…so every 2 minutes a picture of the earth, the moon, the sun and a 360 degree panorama of the heavens appeared in the spacecraft window…and i had studied astronomy and cosmology and fully understood that the molecules in my body and in my partners’ bodies and in the spacecraft, had been prototyped in some ancient generation of stars; in other words, it was pretty obvious, from those descriptions, that we are stardust.”

edgar’s words are even better when they are spoken from his wrinkled, old face. there is something in his eyes…something that is humble. he was humbled by what he saw and his tone of reverence for this big blue world bleeds out of his description of that trip. i know people who don’t think we ever landed on the moon. i don’t argue about that stuff but i loved hearing from someone who spoke with teary eyes about this planet.

now, i’m no hippie. i don’t ride bandwagons. i find enough fault in myself to worry too much about pointing my finger in other peoples’ faces; but something must change. i gotta say something because i swim in the ocean and i climb on the cliffs and i run in the woods and i sleep under the stars. i want to see people see themselves as creatures on a planet that is alive. i can’t look at the people on the television screen fighting over who wore what to which party without being angry at myself, angry at us!  i am talking about us living, breathing, thinking human beings. and, for crying out loud, stop it with the “reality” bullshit on t.v….please stop. we’ve got some problems here; there’s birds and fish dying from all the plastic we spew out everywhere, there’s bad air, there’s bad water, there’s endless fighting. i mean, come on! i hate talking about it but i hate seeing it even more. so here we go, let’s do something. (don’t worry i’m not gonna ask for cash)

i don’t want to rant without having answers, so here’s my list of things i think will change our direction (this is for everyone and doesn’t change according to tax bracket or political affiliation or country or color or language or religion or taste in music or shoes):

consume less. learn to know the soil. plant plants. treat water like you love it because you should because you would die without it. drink water. respect other species and give them their due space so they might have some privacy to mate and sing and grieve and argue and create. YOU go dance and sing and grieve and mate and argue and create. drive less, ride your bike more. fix old things. allow love, period. learn to make fire with two sticks(i’m not joking, i did). look at one another, like, look at one another and notice one another…we need to do this, goddamnit! put your phones down for a second. smile and breathe in better air because we are riding our bikes more. don’t let little pieces of plastic float in the ocean…go get them, the swim will do you good and you will go back and swim more (because there’s always more floating pieces of plastic). be mindful of how to make less impact; you can figure out better ways, you really can.  look for beautiful rocks on a river bank or at the seashore, pick a small one up and take it home with you so you can remember what you did. laugh out loud, don’t lol. go to a good place that has good people and feel good. make tiny improvements to the world everyday…after time a little will add up to a lot.

edgar saw it from a space ship, i see it from here–this place is our home, our beautiful glowing blue-green ball of life; let’s treat it good. if you need more motivation than this, i can take you there. i know some places that will break your heart. i know some places that will restore your soul. it’s all around us… just like stardust.

the floor sleeper

i sleep on the floor, it is my preference. maybe it’s because the floor seems like the ground, and i like the ground. i have my reasons for liking it; some hold water, some don’t. sometimes it’s difficult when i’m staying at someone’s house, they think i’m just being polite, so they say things like, “oh, you’ll love this bed. it’s my favorite” or “don’t be silly, no one sleeps on the floor when there’s a perfectly good bed and besides, i just changed the sheets.” i had a bed when i was a kid but once i moved out i never bought another. i make a pallet on the floor. i sleep outside a lot. when i lay down and i’m near the ground, things are better; the stars are more brilliant. when storms come, believe me, i know it. as i’ve gotten older i’m more aware of the necessity to practice staying close to the earth. i believe this awareness will continue to grow until, one day, i’m planted.

a friend and i once talked about buy the plot of land somewhere in the woods where we would be buried. the conversation continued and evolved into having a place where people could be buried, but not traditionally. they would be buried so that they would fertilize nature. under the roots of trees, no clothes and no coffins, re-immersion into the stream of things. i want that. ball me up and stuff me in the roots of a cedar tree, thank you very much! put me back. the worms know what to do. oh we had a fun conversation, and it really wasn’t morbid.

but i think i’m a long way from death. i feel like there is so much life to live…and yet, i remember thinking that 45 years old was an eternity. guess what? yeah, that’s right, eternity happened. so really, it’ll be here way sooner than i think. so i guess if i’m ever gonna start ballet, i should at least start taking some lessons.

i found someones bones once. i was in the mountains near huascaran, a burly peak in peru, i was walking across boulders as big as busses and where the sun shined down through the boulders, 20 feet below, i could a white bone. it would be a nasty fall into that space and it took me a bit to work my way down. the body was small and upside down. the head was nothing but a shell and the teeth had washed away. in the sand, where the head was positioned, it was easy to see that the years of water running down from the mountain had deteriorated the skull. the rest of the body was less touched by the run-off and the bones were white and very fragile. i pushed on one of the ribs and it cracked in half. my guess was that it was a campesino who had been wandering out and had fallen. someone never came home. when i went to sleep that night, out on the ground, i felt the wind and the movements of the world deep below me. the earth has guts too…they move and rumble and moan. i woke several time that night and i felt it was from something within…maybe me, maybe things deeper than me.

when i spend lots of time alone (and i do like to do this and, although i’m not a loner, i believe we should all do some quiet inner seeking. it’s a good thing.)  in a quiet place, i eventually begin to see things out of the corner of my eye. it doesn’t always happen. i’m not a person prone to believe in ghosts and i do love science, but i’ve definitely seen things that i had to shrug my shoulders about.  and why not? there is plenty we will never know. i prefer to defer to mystery. those whispering voices that are in the quaking leaves. that flash of movement in the canyon. waking from an afternoon nap in the aspens and feeling almost certain that someone called my name.

dreams? maybe. and what is the difference between dreams and reality anyway? who are those made up beings that are characters in my dreams?

thank goodness these questions cannot be answered. if you know the answer, don’t tell me. i would rather wonder.

i read once about a fella that grew old. he had adopted a boy of a different race and taught him an older, deeper way of living. he taught him that the stones could talk and that the mountains cried when they were disrespected. he prayed to the sun and the moon and the rivers and trees. his last words were to the boy-turned-man and they were simply to remember the path he had shown him. the best of it was that the old man walked off and was never found. i like to think he went and laid himself against the ground and gave himself back.

oh to be like him.