tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: Inspiration

Shine

Running from the dark is a form of pretending. I know it is, because I do it sometimes. But there is no end to the darkness and the night will always find you. Our personal expression, our internal lamp, can’t shine if we are fearful. Out in every darkness there are single points of light. They are people who shine like you. They are the Ones who’ve covered the ground we are walking. They are the early hearts. They are the way givers. But before they found the way, they ran from the darkness. And they looked to the Ones before them. And so this is our fashion, this is our way. To fear and flee, to find courage and look for light, to set our bearings on the light and navigate the darkness, then, when we are ready, we shine the light for others.

These are old metaphors. They’ve been around since the early hearts struck fire from the stones and danced in caves and drew their imaginings across the walls by firelight. But there is a reason that things like this continue while generations of brilliant minds turn back to dust –that old and wondrous, five letter looking glass: Truth.

Shine. At least a little. For the babies. and the whales. and the foxes. and the sequoias.

Shine to help the young hearts find the way.

Take your time. Know your truth. And then,

shine.

Go Love

My truest living is when I’m loving.

It is the love of the early morning in all it’s pearliness and solitude. It is the love of my memories, both tragic and wondrous. It is that perfect descending call of the canyon wren. It is the smell of saw grass. It is the form of my lover beneath the giant junipers. It is sky. It is the long lashes of my little buddy, Abe. It is my Mother and Father as they are.

Life is defined by love. Real love, the kind I’m talking about, comes from the way-down-deep-inside part of the heart. That place kept secret from the schemers and the haters. It is the hidden place. It is the most of you.

And no matter how careful you are, if you love, you will suffer. Because with love there is always loss. Whether it is choice or tragedy, all things pass. So to live is to love is to suffer. This allows me clarity, this thought: Since I love to live, and since I know I will suffer, I might as well love with all my might.

And so I aim to suffer gracefully, to love mightily, and live like a wave rolling towards the rocks in that unflinching way that waves do. So that when I’m done, I’m broken apart, atomized and splintered and spread out with nothing left. Back to the basics.

I remember the highway in Kansas. The storm had been brewing all morning and the plains swallowed the distance in such a way that we seemed afloat in a sea of grass and wind. My dad saw the tornado drop down about a mile away and he hollered over the sound of the BMW 750 motorcycle. I came out of my daydream. I was 12years old. The sky was from the Wizard of OZ and the storm had closed in on all sides. We turned down a dirt road and stood in a flimsy shed with a huge oak bending to the ground just out the open air window. The clouds were dark and dark and the lightning danced crazily in every direction, and they danced and connected the fields to the belly of the sky. I remember being afraid and alive. I remember the strong look on my dad’s face. I remember loving my dad and thinking that there wasn’t a tornado big enough to pull me from his grip. 

–we are lightning, we are lightning, here we are, dancing on the belly of the sky.

Now, go love.

Bind the Cynic to the Post

Rumi tells me to be a ladder or a lantern or a lifeboat and the cynic in me jumps up and says that ladders break and lanterns burn lifeboats.

Hafiz tells me that God and I are fat men on a small raft, laughing and bumping into one another. But my cynical  heart cracks off some comment about God and war and skinny men on sinking rafts.

Mary Oliver tells me that love is wild and untamable. And I cannot look her in the eye because I am sneering and clenching my  teeth, “if love is so wild, then why must she call from behind my ribs? and why is she dressed so silly in human skin? and why doesn’t she leave us behind, we who stare into our i-things so we can be less profound?”

And the cynic in me is full of rage. He is big-mouthed and quick to fight. He is long-winded and dark-hearted. My cynic stomps around with big shoes and laughs at the ones that think they can fly. And the cynic is alone. The cynic doesn’t know the mysteries nor does he see the turning of the world.   Closed ears can’t pick out the difference between the call of the nuthatch and the canyon wren. The clenched jaw will cause the ears to ring. Fists do not cup water from high mountain streams. The heart of the cynic is weak and sad and full of fear.

Here’s the catch — I am the cynic, but only when I put my love away. When I’ve put away love, I am weak and angry. So I read Rumi and I tell the cynic to sit in the corner. Because “I am a part of the load not rightly balanced. I drop off in the grass like the old Cave-sleepers, to browse wherever I fall.”(Rumi — I am part of the load)

Oh, I know how to furrow my extra-heavy brow. I know how to cast dreadful glances. I can cuss a black streak in the presence of saints. But what good do these things do? Instead, I look to the Ones with the fire inside. And I feel my inner dark begin to break and peel away, and maybe I hear the fluttering laugh of a small child, and maybe I remember the soft voice of my lover, and maybe I am the crying child in my bunkbed, afraid from a dream, and my mother is touching my forehead and kissing my face, and maybe I am listening to my father sing a song to a dying cowboy in a hospital bed, his boots on the floor. These are the things that tend to my soul, and my soul needs some tending. At some point in my life I decided that bitterness and cynicism tend to put callouses on my heart. They are tendencies I suppress because they make me blind to anything wonderful. And man, I sure do like to wonder.

I wrote last night until late. I came to a point in writing this where I wondered if it was even worth writing about. The weather was steady, rain and wind against the big window in Fosters’s living room. Finally I put the computer down and went out to my RV, my dolphin, to find some sleep. Dreams are never that far away and I depend on my nights to settle my monkey brain. Somewhere in my dreams I was in a cove where the waves were breaking against the cliffs. The salt spray smelled of sometime in my past. I remember seeing colorful seashells. And I worked my way down to the foot of the cliffs in a spot that sheltered me from the brunt of the thundering waves. There was an emerald green pool and I looked into it as if it was a looking glass, and I could see to the bottom of the ocean. Everything was magnified and clear — Long eels with spotted faces, nurse sharks and hammerheads curling about, red-backed crabs with blue claw dances,  shrimp with transparent shells that revealed all their inner, Cambrian workings and clickings (and what if we were transparent in this way, so the world could see our heart pick up pace as we look past ourselves and into the guts of one another? would we be less judgmental and more forgiving to see the ravaged lungs of some vietnam vet? would we be quicker to understand frailties and insecurities if we could watch pulsing blood and nervous limbs? there is something sad about seeing the inside of something that is living, it feels invasive. As if i’m stealing secrets from the very heart of the creature that hovers in the light.) , a tan and brown sturgeon with scales that are from the age of dinosaurs, snuffling along the belly of the sea, anchovies spinning and flying in schools that form shapes like the clouds do, like the birds do. This was in my dream. I took a deep inhalation and swam down and I looked at my watch, it was 3:o5 in the afternoon. Somewhere down there in the under I began to struggle for breath, and I walked along the bottom back to where I had entered. The surface above me was raging and frothy but I could see where I had entered and I walked to that spot. Just as before, when I entered the sea, this looking-glass pool was clear to the world above. I could see flying pelicans and skittering animals. There were people looking down from the tops of the cliffs, children pointing. There was a long-tailed otter slipping quietly beneath the noticing world, mustelid tendencies in tow. But I was desperate for the air that feeds my brain and I couldn’t wait any longer, so I climbed out of the drink and so, out of my dream, even out of my sleep. I must have been holding my breath in my sleep as well because I heard myself suck air — don’t know if I like that part.

I know I’ve wandered from the start of this essay until now, and maybe that’s just my writing style; the kind you just can’t quite follow. I do think these things tie together, albeit loosely, because if I didn’t have the glorious, natural world, I would fall under the weight of my nasty cynicism. I am made lighter by the blurry grey horizon at dawn down by the ocean. The tone of a calling loon seems so sad to me that I’m forced to let go of my own sorrows. Heartbreaking beauty…that’s what I call it. How a hound dog lays her nose against my leg and drags in all the data from my DNA and can smell the old Choctaw blood, and maybe even hear the barking dogs that ran beside those old tribes as they were forced to walk out of Mississippi, and maybe smell the tears that dropped on the rocks beneath leathered feet. Every single time I see a red-eared slider on a log between the cattails, I am reminded of my job here. I am reminded to love the beauty of the heart of things. Even the heavy things. And I’m reminded to check the knots that bind the Cynic to the post.

I will end with a quote by the late Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are.

” I wish you all good things,  live your life,  live your life,  live your life.”

flowers with teeth

my friend sent me a poem. it was about purpose and loss of purpose. it was about losing your way and forgetting where you’ve come from.  it spoke of rivers and oceans and forests and fins and shells and teeth. it pointed it’s quiet finger at me much like the silent stars remind me to shut my mouth. that friend, who is a buddhist, is at a retreat where he is looking inward so that he can see out. i want to see in and farther out too.

last night i slept at an ex-lover’s house. i was in love with her when she lost her twin babies at birth and i saw her cry tears that men do not…cannot know. i still feel her sadness all these years later, especially that one day in august. i think of it now and then and it makes me explore places in my own busted up heart that may have never been found had it not been for her terrible loss. it’s like a door that was opened by the suffering of another. 

i heard a fella singing about his gay uncle and how he didn’t know what that meant when he was little. and he talks about wondering whether he was gay or not and, my god, he spells it out! all the misconceptions. all the rules and the notions.  he shoots arrows from a righteous bow and they cut through bigotry and hatred and, godamn, if they don’t hit the heart. what is up with us humans and our limits to love? i must live with my heart and so must we all. can we not leave love to grow on it’s own? i can.

while the politicians smile and lie and while the pro athlete’s hit home runs and dunk and score goals…and while the rich folk buy vacation homes and talk about “going green” and while i type words onto my cool little computer there are women who are losing babies, there are babies without mothers, there are limbless warriors and innocent prisoners, there are lost and homeless, there are moaning whales and treeless forests and poisoned rivers.  we humans have a knack for heartbreak, especially our own. 

and if you find yourself heartless, purposeless…here’s some unprofessional advice:

go out and sleep under the stars…just go. lay your heart down against the earth, even if you are a politician…especially if you are a politician. love the unloved. walk into the ocean, take the long way, and breathe.  listen to the wind in the trees in the park. help the helpless. look at the rocks and find a small one that calls you, put it in your pocket and remember where you came from, whatever that means to you. put your hate away. close your eyes, feel your blood in your veins, open your heart. plant. turn your car off. laugh and mean it. open up like a flower…and show your teeth.

come on, give it a try. i do. i’m out there in the wind for sure.

a nod to the end of the world

i guess i can talk about this, seems like everyone is these days. this morning i thought about the end of the world. i was eating a handful of kale and sipping coffee and then i was wondering about what “the end of the world” means. is it the end of everything, or just people (after all we are so important, right?)?

i weighed the difference between human extinction and total oblivion. things do seem to be quite a mess. we fight over who’s in charge and what government is best and who’s god is the truth.

and so i decided that i don’t care. that’s right, i don’t care…except for that girl in the health food store that talked to me about kale and smiled so much and said she loved my earrings.

i don’t care…except for my kid brother, who ain’t a kid anymore and who works 70 hours a week but will always pick me up from the airport at any hour no matter what because he’s my friend and he’s just made like that on the inside.

i don’t care…except for that elderly woman that was walking her dog through central park and saw a broken version of me on a park bench, ( me, with long shaggy hair and tattoos and a beard and a shadowy soul) yeah, and she sat next to me anyway and asked me if i would be ok and her wiener dog licked my hand and i said that i didn’t know and she said that sorrows pass no matter how big they are…all this and it was fall and sunny and cold in new york city.

i don’t care…except for little 3 year old (almost 4) ruby reed who calls herself ruby rose because that’s more glamorous and who dances with me to adele and who can eat four (maybe 5) doughnuts on a wednesday afternoon in october.

i don’t care…except for my sister who quit drinking after she crashed and crushed her body and changed her life and became amazing again.

i don’t care…except for big raw-boned Hunter Dahlberg, who looks like he eats nails and could never be hurt but has been hurt so he can know when someone (like say, me, for instance) else is hurt and so he shows his heart and his heart makes you want to heal.

and if smart phones and ipads and macbooks and email and trending and friending and skyping and wifi all go away, we still have each other. and as cynical as i get, i see my reflection in the eyes’ of my nephews. as frustrated as i get at the guy who absolutely must be in front of me before the next traffic light, i know he is human. as fearful as i am of the possibility of my own broken heart, i feel it reaching out for something missing.

so maybe i’m not ready for the end of the world. besides, oblivion seems kind of boring.

treading water with a heavy heart

there are mornings when i wake before dawn, when the world is still dark and the birds haven’t begun to sing…these are the hours most precious to me. this is when i visit my sorrows and fears, mostly because the distractions i use as my escape vehicle are not available. if i stay in bed with these visitors, i begin to sink, and sinking is not so good.

and so i move in the direction of those things that will swallow me up; sometimes the sea, sometimes the desert, sometimes the rivers that carve out granite canyons. i go to the sources. they wait for us, you know? the sources wait. they will always take us back. they have witnessed the dawn of humanity and they will witness our end. it is this ambivalence that draws me in…and i take all my soul’s trappings with.

we all get broken. and so i can say this without sounding pathetic, but i seek out insignificance when melancholy is in control. it seems easier to be.

so there are mornings, before the sun, when i run down to the ocean. i swim out through its thumping waves and into the dark. out there, swallowed in the darkness, teeth chattering, i tread water with my heavy ol’ heart. maybe it’s because the ocean is full of beasts that have enormous souls (souls way bigger than mine, and older, and far more secretive), or maybe because it is so close to something eternal (and are not our souls drawn to all things eternal? is this not where belief is born, in these moments of wonder…) , or maybe because it is the embodiment of all life and death, but when i swim to shore, i am as human as i get. i’m pretty sure this is life.

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little beginnings

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