tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: Life

Dear Internet

Dear Internet,

I’m sorry. I want to apologize for a lot of things. I’m sorry for depending on you so much. I’m sorry for interrupting you during dinner and at all hours of the night. I’m sorry for depending on you for things that I’m too lazy to remember. I’m sorry for asking you questions that really don’t matter, like what’s the name of the movie with the guy that looks like one of the Baldwins but who isn’t one of the Baldwins who says the thing about being bananas to his dog while they’re stranded at the airport…Yes, I’m sorry for questions like that one. I’m also sorry for depending on you to help me find my way when there is a map with real printing and pages and words directly next to me. And then there’s this matter of misinformation, I know it’s not you intentionally deceiving me, you’re just the caretaker of all our opinions, beliefs, truths, lies and secrets–I’m sorry for being angry with you for the ridiculous things I found in your basement. I know you must be tired what with all of us bothering you during our dinner, while we drive, when we step outside for a smoke, when our child is driving us crazy, when we don’t want to think, when we want to be smarter than our friend/companion/tinderdate/dad/coworker/etc, when we can’t sleep, when we say we’re working but we’re actually checking Insta. I’m especially sorry for using you to express myself passive-aggressively (or sometimes just aggressively) in ways that I wouldn’t dare do in real life. Yes, I apologize for making you store my hate.You carry a heavy load, Internet, you do. Everything has come down to this and you didn’t even ask for it! Just between you and me, I’ve decided to give you some space. I know it’s not much, but I feel like I need to cut you some slack — maybe use my own brain a bit more. I think I’ll go and be in some places where the sky isn’t filtered and the contrast doesn’t need any adjustments. I’m going to do some things without letting you know that I’m doing them. I won’t share the sunrises or sunsets with you, I reckon I’ll just have to remember them, maybe re-imagine them with my mind. I’m going to have some opinions and allow them to roost lightly in my treetops, sometimes flying off and never coming back, sometimes settling in for good. But I think I’ll try and keep them to myself so that you don’t have to keep track of the ones that get away. Yeah, I mean, Sheesh! Why should you have to put up with my trickyfickleness? Anyways, I want you to have some time to yourself, Internet. I appreciate you! You’re so good at what you do! I’m the one failing to apply myself and do the work so that I become a better human, a better animal. So take a break. Maybe sit and relax, be as slow as you want. Let down your Wifi and get some dust on your buttons.

I’ll be out under the sun, forgetting and misremembering and putting the wrong actors with the wrong movies. I’ll be singing off key and working on my typewriter and calling Mom from the land line. I’ll be involved with the changing seasons by using my senses that are linked to my heart with nerves and veins and swooshing blood. I’ll be making fires and using love as my social experiment. I plan on doing some thinking and stuff. I want to write some letters with paper and pen and thoughts. I certainly hope you don’t think I’m dissing you completely, I will check in now and then and when I see you next I won’t be quite so needy. Promise.

 

Love,   Tobias

Long-eared Jack

A couple days ago I stepped outside and landed smack dab in the middle of my memories. It musta been the smells and the temperature and maybe the sound of children calling to each other, but I went right on back into elementary school. I was remembering names and places and red leaves pasted to the wet, cold ground. I was chatting with Dan Anglin about superheroes we were making up. I was dreading the consequences for the lack of time put into my math homework. I was longing for lunch even as the day began. I hated school, but I loved it. How strange our memory! How incredibly quick this life. Maybe, if a person lives long enough, like all the way out until the weariness takes over, maybe then life seems long. But now, as I sit and type, life is a wild running jack-rabbit and I’m on it’s back with a hand on each ear. We are tearing down the hills and jumping bushes and crashing through the holes in the back sides of barns. The hounds are all aflush and hounding after us. There are cattails bending along the banks of the creeks and we are over and gone. Gone gone and I am looking over my shoulder at the turns so that I might remember where it is that I’ve come from in case I must give a map to some final AccountKeeper. The way I have come. I can’t help the speed of my mount. It’s not my fault this great rabbit has such strength, I’m only hanging on and I’ve no idea the length of the run. But my goodness the bend of the horizon! The graceful geometry of the world!  And did you see the color of the sky when the Sun is still lounging before the dawn? When the Day waits to begin because the Night is dressing for bed in her periwinkle gowns, her eyes lit with the fiery stars and her hands so busy gathering the dreams so they might not be lost to the business that kills them in the daylight.  Are you listening to the thunder from belly of the storm? Oh you should, you should, because it is an old and tricky song. And the wind leaving tracks, twisting trees that will show her work for another 4000 years unless she sends the lightning. Sends the fire. Stones and trees and whales, the thunder wings of butterflies, the martin, the mink and mustelid kin, red-eared sliders and their saurian dreams, and even my dreams and your dreams will mix and meld with these things and the rabbit will run. That ol’ rabbit will run.

All the shadows get long as she runs to the night.

And we’re all holding on with all of our might.

Till she stumbles and drops when she’s done.

Till she falters and falls when she’s done.

 

(Life is a wonder, ain’t it? Let your wild heart dance out of control.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less Static, Please…

Along with dreams about the Devil, I often dream that I am losing the use of my hands. I read somewhere that it’s bad conversation to talk about your dreams — that no one really actually wants to hear about them. I reckon it ain’t any different, then, to write about ’em. The dreams about the Devil are easy enough for me to deal with, I was raised a Baptist and the son of a Preacher. I grew up looking for Satan anywhere the silence was too close and my tricky mind too alone. Ol’ Beelzebub tipped his hand one too many times by allowing me to see his face. It’s not so much that he seems to always resemble me, he is me. Makes it easier to deal with, I’ve been handling my own shabby decisions since day 1 so it helps that there’s not a horn-headed reprobate leading me into temptation. Come to find out, it’s been me all along. Just me. Damn. I did notice that the Devil of my dreams is very witty and just a tad better looking than me. That figures. But the thing about losing the use of my hands really does seem to stay with me after I’m awake. I depend on making things and I reckon that’s a valid fear. Way worse than the Devil and his handsome face, his veiny neck, his oversized bag of tricks. But then, I wasn’t gonna write  about dreams, you don’t wanna hear it. Whatever, I didn’t tell ya all that much. It’s the condensed version that I keep handy for the therapist at the VA hospital–he doesn’t wanna hear it either but he’s great at faking like he does.

A couple days ago I met up with my buddies from Tennessee. We get together every now and again for some banter about the things we wanna do. They’re good for that, they’re dreamers too. They are brothers and quite alike. The majority of our talk is half truths and maybes all tangled up in the long-grass that lines the pathways of our hearts. I get along real nice with Brice and Egan and their lovely sensibilities. We talked about the Tennessee River and where their lives intersect with her muddy flow. About the raft we will build and ride in order to feel the older ways and understand more about being here. Life is a chance. It is a chance to make and build and think and try and braid our souls into ropes that hold us together so that we don’t wander too far into ourselves. I know how to be alone, but I practice friendship with all my might. It is my favorite part of being human — to be a friend, to know how to love.  When I walked away from the Snow brothers I felt like I do when I’ve been in the woods for a while — a little clearer, a little better.

Days of distance. Nights of storms. Hearts of blood. Songs of love. Skies of clouds. Fields of flowers. Streams of dreams. There’s a line of black under the trees that separates the sky from the mountains. That line, once discovered, becomes the difference between empty and full. It is the crack under the door into the universe beyond where the elements slip and flow in between what we know and what we will never understand. It’s so easy to be cynical. Sarcasm and irreverence seem the order of the day. I’m like an old wino discovering the value of a glass of water. So I’m telling my mean old, snarling heart to sit, to be still. Less static, please, so I can hear the trees. I am trying to be better at saying it like I see it. I want to be more like the whales, who say only what is necessary and then say it beautifully and completely. I am in these little days of my very own life and I am looking for my song to sing. Every day my heart. Every night my dreams. And these thoughts of mine are messages to the stars.

It’s fizzix, I reckon.

Whenever I’m trying to get my little toyota RV (the dolphin) to sit level, I use existing props. I pile rocks or stack wood or use curbs. I never get it really good and level, just enough to keep me from rolling out of my bunk or to keep me from piling into my lover, Kayla, if it’s the opposite way. It sucks to spend the night fighting gravity. I check how close to level I am by putting a marble in the center of the floor and watching it run. Genius, right? I must admit, most of the time I can’t find the marble. Kayla smirks while I search, she knows my habits and it makes her laugh.

The last two days, my mind has been at work in the creek below the farm. Nick and Liz are very aware of my migratory tendencies and I am wonderfully welcome here. Making the dipping hole in the creek is considered “farm improvement” and so I go down there with the shovel, take my clothes off and work. Usually when I’m naked, I’m not working, but this is an exception and I like it. I think back on all my other jobs in life and picture myself working naked. Moving furniture, security at the church, lifeguard, concrete work, landscaping, printing, golf course maintenance, night custodian, window washer on office buildings, waiter, construction, Marine — wow, I think I’ll go ahead and stick with swimming hole design as my naked vocation. It’s a good gig. Water comes from the springs and the winter storms, seeps into the gut of the ravine and swirls and curls through the roots and stones until it’s caught in the pool where I stand naked with my shovel. There are fish and crawdads and newts and efts that flutter and wink from the dark. Everything breathes. I stem the push of the water and create a space to think and soak. I shape the world, the world shapes me back.

I’m a pretender. I’m really quite good at it. I close my eyes and fly or swim through vastnessess that only my mind can allow; worlds within molecules. I wonder if this entire universe is but a speck, or atom, inside another universe. I don’t care if this is beyond science or anyone’s belief, I like it and I go there when I want. There’s a portion of my being that thrives on being lost in the mystery. I am made of imagination. It has allowed me true freedom, the kind that is indefinable and without counties and states and licenses and taxes and governors and institutions. I’m the child in class that is staring at the woods out the window. I’ve been gone for a long, long time. I travel through time, in fact, I leave time behind when I breathe deep and explore. It’s better that way.

In the room behind the house there are an incredible amount of spider webs. I like checking in with them, seeing what kind of catch they’ve accumulated. The flies are the specialty of the day, every day. I looked on the sill where a butterfly was perched, laced in web, with tattered wings. I was sure she was dead but noticed her tongue out and searching. A spider was half-way to the scene, waiting movement in order to locate. I reached my finger in the mix. The tongue explored and the butterfly stepped onto my hand. Outside, the sun was warm and the wings opened to catch heat. Halfway to the garden she took flight, wings still good enough to find a few last flowers before sunset. I thought about that butterfly’s journey and how much farther she must go to complete her mission of life. I thought about destiny and luck. I thought about the story she will tell the flowers as she moves through the currents of the wind. She’s important because she exists. I like it that I’m included in her diary …that one time, when I was caught inside a den of spiders, in a world without wind or flowers, I thought I was finished. Then this crazy thing happened, I was lifted by some being the size of a mountain and carried into the sun and I felt the wind and smelled my world again. It was like a dream. Strange things happen, they really do.

The Beast in the Hollow

What is this heaving, this lifting from the deep?

I can see you down there where the trail loses itself, where there is no easy travel, and you are moving through the cedars and the larch and the oak. I have known about you since I was a child, back when you were calling me from the black timber and the rocks dropped from the haunches of glaciers. I know your shape: the twiny, horny thicket of your nape, the old-growth elders of your spine where the ‘poorwills with bellies full of moths call through whiskered maws and flit and land longwise on the branches and disappear. I know your limbs of thunder, I’ve seen your knuckle prints in the mud above the beaver damns and I’ve smelled your musk on the trunks of aspens. And where you leave your track, wherever there is sign, there is life in every manner.

Coiled millipedes and coral snakes and leaf-nosed bats. Rough skinned newts and pronghorns and orb weavers. Walking sticks with halting steps and pale crickets and ravens saddled with human superstitions. You leave behind roots and tubers that turn to herbs. There is medicine leaching from your skin, lacing your weaver beam tail. You are mythical and biblical and you dreamt me here. You dreamt us all and now we are.

When I’m out for long enough, I hear you, faint at first but each day more. Like moving upstream and closer to the spring that filters from out of the souls of stones and boils to the surface with everything complete. These senses mix with one another and I feel colors and see cold and hear fragrance and smell the songs of the birds. I taste dreams. And then I am less man and more creature. I am made small but integral. I become a part of the ebb and flow of all tides, the accumulation at the delta and the hollowed gorge of sky above the wild river where dip and whir the swifts the swallows the hawks. What was once a language spoken becomes a simple awareness in which communication is life itself with no need for explanation or interpretation. Each breath is a truth and proof of existence.

There are old songs in your belly, down where the bears are sleeping in the duff. Melodies from the bones of poets whose blood made the ground so rich. Your tongue is thick and mossy, the toads move between your teeth while the foxes and mountain cats shape shift with the shadows in the hollow beneath your chin. And now the otters and now the shrew, the mole, the vole, the heron, the boar, the stomping skunk are migrating through your mane. Painted ladies and admirals and swallowtails and morning cloaks and skippers and sulfurs under the sun, cecropias and lunas and sphinx by moonlight. Goshawks map out silver pathways through the forest sewing the trees together into the most beautiful tapestry. Flying squirrels look through chocolate eyes to calculate distances, the drop and drag and lift and destination. Since the beginning, you have been blending these wonders of life and death, always attending that souls and bodies be taken back, returned to the source.

Include me.  I’ll wait right here where the trees are reaching down. Where the sky of stars are just only out of reach. I’m filled all up with the blues and greys and olive drabs of dusk and dawn. I’m here breathing out of duty and offering dreams as gifts for the passage. My ego, no matter how big, always seems to leave me with an empty heart. So give me instead the bees in the mint below the creek that winds in liquid amber through the aspens whose shadows hide the trout whose speckled tails hold the blueprints to the cosmos.

the Edge

He first noticed something in his gate, not so much a clumsiness, but a lack of fluidity. It’s not like he’d ever been a long strider anyway. No one ever confused him with a person of graceful movement. At five foot, eight inches and 145 lbs, you are what you are, and that’s not long and smooth. Since he was old enough to have some kind of self perception, he had always pictured himself as a weasel, maybe a mink. A stone-hopper. A rubble-scrambler. He was not a gazelle nor a horse, not even an elk. Amongst the hooved, he might be some form of sheep. Not that he ever thought about it, well, actually he did.

So maybe because of his self-consciousness he noticed that he was shuffling more than before. When he first started this trek, he had more spring in his step. It’s been some time. He’s been through shoes. Until now, he’d just blamed the changes on aging, that and weariness. Now he’s not sure. It might be something else altogether. Too many days alone will have an affect on you; peeling away the layers, opening those hatches and latches that a busy mind would purposefully ignore. When you’re alone for long enough, you’ll eventually find yourself staring down into the dark basement of your mind. And the basement is not just a room, it’s a world of itself where graves are shallow and beasts prowl with broken limbs, a dreamland of banished thoughts where bristling memories scurry from the light and peer back at you with a strange and familiar fury.

He had avoided his reflection. No streams. No puddles. Now he sat staring at himself in the warped tin on the bottom of his thermos. Something different there. Something distant. He began to hum the way his Mama used to hum when he would rub her back. Another way of sliding out from under the thumb of reality. And humming, he walked. How many days since the last city? A season’s worth of walking since the last voice that wasn’t his own. And what about that last person full of sarcasm at the why of his journey? He made it a point to change his explanation after that. Why tell anyone that he is following some internal compass to somewhere that will present itself in a fashion that he will know but remain dumb to explain?  It’s crazy. He remembers the words of the Mad Farmer’s Manifesto, “as soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it….” And so he did. He had, most definitely lost his mind. And somewhere in the losing of it, he began to change. First it was inward, he could feel it in the night while the fire burned. His body became cavernous and the needle-toothed bats swarmed the ceilings of his mind, the naked mole-rats dug blindly through the dark green-black guano of his guts, and from the center of his world there were groans from sources that aren’t listed in taxonomical records; beasts and beings exiled from creation, but existent nonetheless. Then came the first outward, physical change. His hair. Long, wiry, black and silver hair. First it grew from the tops of his fingers and toes, then it spread to his hands. Now, in the reflective tin, he could see the hair coming off the tops of his ears, off his cheekbones and even a couple off his nose. He noticed a change in his amble. His legs and feet constantly ached. All the walking and fasting made his body become the machine that it was supposed to be. Humans are deemed to walk. We are old pathmakers, all of us. He looked down at his strange feet and grunted. “Animal.” He said it aloud to himself, but also, to the world.

Now and then, he would feel dizzy. This he blamed on lack of food and poor nutrition. Once he woke up and realized he had passed out while walking down the side of a steep hill. He must have tumbled a bit, his knuckles were bloody and it took a minute to realize what had happened. He read once that a pig was the fastest animal to go from domestic to feral. Supposedly long black hair sprouted from their backs within months of running free. How long for humans to go feral?  Probably depends on the person. Two ravens circled and croaked. He stood and swayed and hobbled down the rest of the hill, a raggedy man in a play with no audience, acting in clothes that no longer fit. Crossing an open field, he stopped and looked at the trees that lined the horizon, he could see them breathing under the sky. Of course they were breathing, fuck, listening too. Across and into the woods. His direction was determined by the lay of the land and the angle of the sun. At night he followed the stars, all familiar and twinkling, especially the polestar. Venus was the brightest, coldest light in the sky when he stopped moving. He roasted chicory and drank the bitter tea and slept inside his blankets where dreams wriggled from their holdings like quicksilver from a broken pot. This night he dreamt he awoke among the floatwood at the strandline of the sea, his body was half emerged from a casing like those casings laid by dogfish. He flailed and gasped and stared, wide-eyed, at the retreating tide. He was something between man and eel and his mouth gaped and gulped. He could hear the fluting of the frigate birds descending with their scissor tails and razor beaks. The sand covered his eyes. The sea and the birds and the fear of death caused him to wake. He was calling. And there wasn’t anyone, just the night. He remembered the words of Wendell Berry’s Mad Farmer — “Listen to the carrion, put your ear close and hear the faint chattering of things to come….”

Mountains marched the horizon, dragging the trees. The sky was some color between grey and the blue between there and black, and there was a wind that matched the colors. His feet had changed to the point that he no longer doubted that something was off. His legs bowed out. His arms were thinner than they had ever been in his adult life. The land was wild and rough. The trees that lived here were wind worried and twisted, the product of gravity and pushing forces. Mystery lives unblemished on the edges of the earth. For the last week, the stars haunted the daytime skies and the moon seemed broken and hollow, maybe not real. He heard voices and sometimes called out to them, but they would only pause and then begin anew. After a while he allowed them to speak without disruption, a constant unintelligible uttering. Something was going on with his back, his shoulder blades felt dislocated and the arc of his spine limited his movement. Nothing was left. No packs. No clothes. No pen to draw and no paper to bear the lines as witness. No comforts. The basics were his way of living in those days before he came to the Edge. At first he thought maybe it was a canyon, something he might circumnavigate, but after some deliberation he realized it was simply, the Edge. He spent some hours looking out. More thoughts of the Mad Farmer, “Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go.” The gulf was all of the space of the present moment and he was at the Edge. When he stood to move, something broke free in his back, like a bone long out of place that moves to it’s intended spot. Transformation is essential to growth but from growth there is no return, all is progression. He was past being surprised by his changes, so the wings that broke from his back, quaking and shivering, gave him little pause. And they rose with a mind of their own, unfettered, furious and ranting, like horses held back from the race. His wings, harbingers of flight. All that ever was became a perfect presentness. And he lost his mind and tipped into the star-flung sky buried below him while his wings took him into spaces that would not have ever been found had he never ventured. There is eternity in the blink of an eye. And spinning and fleeting, the cosmos, disregarding past and future, swallowed him entire.

Dark the night,

Dark the sea,

Dark these churning guts

in me.

I cry to muscle,

and beg to bone,

lift this heart and take

me home.  — TLC

We are all children of the universe and eventually we will all return to our source; some screaming and clawing like naughty teens, some solemn, and some with a wild and adventurous heart and gleaming teeth. The last was my buddy and compadre, Chris Pilaro, who went on before me, to light fires in the dark so that I might find my way. Carry on, Chris, you fucking stud! This writing is for you as is today’s adventure and tonight’s whiskey from a tin cup. See you in the big whatever else, brother.  Love.   Tobias

Actual Ass

These are my thoughts on technology, which is similar to a chimpanzee giving a dissertation about the state of the economy. But whatev’s, a chimp might do a better job than a politician.

I like the idea of using modern devices to avoid icebergs, it’s smart and prevents ships from sinking. I don’t think everyone needs to be checking their phones for icebergs. And I don’t think an iceberg is any more special when used as a backdrop for everyones’ selfie.

I like to climb. I often climb alone, I have been doing it for years. I don’t want to explain this too much (boring) but there are systems that work if you are a student of the craft. I use these systems and know them well. Today, while I was setting up a climb, I noticed several climbers had stopped to watch. I paid little attention but noticed three groups had their phones out and were filming. Some groups had more than one person filming. I finally said something to the closest person. I asked if he was getting some really good stuff. He said, “I’m waiting for the kill-shot.” I realized they all thought I was doing something foolish and dangerous (I wasn’t) and they were filming me in case I died. Um, I feel like this is a place I can interject something. –This is a modern age of know-it-alls. At every turn there is someone looking up what has just been said in order to disprove it. I’m all for asking questions, but I’m more into the thought process that goes with knowing more. Looking something up on google does not prove your knowledge base nor does it make you more thoughtful. Actually thinking makes you more thoughtful. The world is fast becoming dummies behind little screens. And so climbers that didn’t know better, instead of speaking and asking questions, stood behind their phones to film me so they might be the author of an internet sensation. Excuse me while I just say this, bullshit.

It never hurts to ask how something is done.  I owe much of my knowledge to my mentors. Men and Women who taught me my stance. Men who taught me the language of my heart. Women who taught me that strength comes from a woman and is bestowed upon men. These are values to which there is no measure, they have made me.

I love pictures. I love the pictures we can share through the various forms of internetlandia, but….but, it’s just gone too far. We are not that cool looking. These cameras/phones, and yes, I have one, are little mirrors. Every time we check our “likes” we are looking in the mirror. Remember that when you hear those little beeps calling you to see who said what about the hot little picture you took of yourself in front of the buffalo/mountain/glacier/tree/waterfall/sunset/caged lion/thunderstorm/riot, you are petting yourself. You are looking in the mirror. I’m not saying don’t check your look, I’m just saying that there’s a max and most of us are too self-absorbed.  I’m not above taking a peek in the mirror to see if maybe I don’t look quite as stupid as I feel. Remember: the world is beautiful and we are most beautiful when we are aware of being. Pictures are not proof of our existence. They are images without a soul from our past. Sometimes we need to simply be here and leave the wonder to our minds, not our picturetakers.

Communication is good. I watched some fella on the telly giving reasons why he was checking his phone during his interview. He said he was staying abreast of the events so he could give the most up-to-date information possible. I was thinking, that I just don’t care. Folks aren’t as good at conversing as they were 10 years ago. It’s true. Coffee shops are not for talking. Even drinking coffee seems like just an excuse to be plugged into the web. My nephews, children of the modern age, are often unable to chuck a football with me because they were up all night pretending to be at war on their xboxes. By the way, it ain’t healthy for your kid to practice war on some game. Just like you don’t need to practice being miserable. War exists, we don’t need to glorify it. Training for war is rough enough, playing war and talking smack and thinking your tough because you play a game is delusional. I know what I’m talking about here, some of my most trying moments came as a U.S. Recon Marine. It ain’t a game. Yeah, so, where was I? Oh yeah, communication, it’s nice to be able to talk things out. Opinions are great and don’t really need to run parallel. As a people, if we all had opinions based on solid observation of our physical world, we would be doing ok. Political stance, race, religion, sexual preference and social status aside, we all have hearts and minds, maybe we could take some time and use them.

I want to point something out. I’m not against all things technical. I love typewriters. There’s nothing negative to say about an old manual typewriter, unless I’m in your house making a racket and typing at 4 a.m. because I can’t sleep. And bicycles, the world is a better place because of bicycles. Most of what we own is disposable. Convenience is a drug. Tiny water bottles and throw-away bags are no-goes. We gotta get better than that. Cigarette butts should be stored in our house with us so we can know that we might ought’a just grow tobacco out back and smoke it from a pipe instead of giving money to the big dogs.

Humans need to tribe up. We need to be more able to live on our own and pay less into the big machine. WE should dictate through consuming less. The machine is strong and we need to take the power back by being capable, thoughtful, simple, beautiful human beings.

All said, we need to kick more actual ass…not virtual.

 

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.

Wheelchair

From where I sit, I can see through the black, metal railing to the pool. Beyond the pool the Gulf of Mexico spills out on the horizon as far as I can see. The fella I’ve been watching is probably 35 years old. He’s got a couple of kids, a boy and a girl, and they’re playing in the pool with their mama. The woman is a blonde with a build that reminds me of a mom from the midwest– a form that is simple and strong but not affected by beauty magazines. But it’s the father I’m watching. He’s watching from his wheelchair. He’s watching his son who is dressed in his little swimming outfit, a superman one-sy. The man is broken, it looks like paralysis from the chest down. He has a little blue tattoo of a surfboard in the middle of his back, between his shoulder blades. I am wondering. I can’t help it.

Three black hooded sea-gulls are heckling from the sign above the cheesy beach bar that is attempting some Carribean theme that is failing in every possible way. The little boy is asking his mama about how a television works. He wants to know if someone draws pictures that move and then puts them in the T.V. She is answering with words like “pixels” and “HD” and “plasma”. The little boy pushes on with more questions about how the things that seem real get inside the television and who puts them there and whether they are real or not. I am listening and loving these questions. I can’t answer them. I love things I cannot answer. Finally the lady says, “maybe ask dad, dad’s smart.” I am watching. The father speaks of how things used to be and how there were pictures that flashed in front of a light real fast and that made things that were still seem alive. He said this as he sat still in his wheelchair, and he was looking out at the Gulf. He said that now things are more digital, the still pictures are gone and have been replaced by small dots of color that are controlled by codes, that the dots imitate what is real. He is thin and white, he is in the shade of a palm tree. He is in board shorts and his slouch is one that cannot be straightened. It makes my back hurt to see him sitting like that.

I’m here with a bundle of athletes. They are all fighters. Dan Henderson is an old buddy, someone I would like even if he had never stepped into a cage. He’s an olympian that came from older blood. His toughness outruns his health in a lot of ways. His ears are wadded up and his profile looks like some cartoon exaggeration of a person who has been punched in the nose many, many times. Brian Foster is a fighter himself. He has come to prepare Dan for the fight. The fight, we found out last night, will not happen because of some kind of substance taken by his opponent. Things are not like the old days. My allegiance lies easily with the friend that is staying in the next room over — Dan is a good ol’ dude. But right now, while the fighters eat sushi, I am wondering about the heart of the man in the wheelchair by the pool. Car wreck? Surfing accident? A 3 martini trip down a flight of stairs? I dunno. He’s wiping his face with the towel his wife just gave him. She is sweet. She scruffs his chin with her hand and allows her fingers to linger on his collar. His eyes follow her as she walks off into the bar for a drink.

This morning I swam down the coast with the water flat and smooth, as if it were made of something heavier, like milk or blood. I swam strong and easy. I walked back on two serviceable feet (yeah, they click and clack and give off tiny pains, but they’re certainly good enough) and made coffee. Henderson’s fans were fluttering to and fro when he checked to see what we were up to. Poncho, the big, good natured Brazilian, was joking and laughing. Gonzo, the lean and wily cuss from Aspen, was already scheming some kind of plan that will be one part fun and two parts trouble. Heath was smirking at me. Foster had his coffee and his blue eyes were looking at me, and I understood the look, deeper than most, and that our existence here on this planet, together,  is not lost on him.

When I think about fortune, it is not in a usual form. It’s tough to say this without it sounding trite, but I do know I’m lucky. I am so privileged. I have a free and beating heart. I can buy a brick of cheese whenever I want. My Ma calls me and tells me she loves me. My body is strong enough to dance under the stars and run down long stretches of dirt road. And my mind is fishing for awareness. That in all this, there are lessons that matter.

And two of the seagulls have flown. The last is silent.

And the little boy in the superman swimsuit is sitting on his father’s lap.

And the father is still looking out at the Gulf. I wonder if he is looking forward or back. I hope the former.

Life Metaphorically

There’s this life. My buddy Jason Arbetter could tell you how life is like a river. Each submerged rock is a possible problem or a moment of play. Jason floats a kayak like I walk on two feet, and I walk like a boss. My buddy Hunter Dahlberg might tell you how life is like hot metal. How it takes work and attention and muscle and heart to make an elemental chunk of Iron (Fe) to become a wonderful tool or a handrail in a friend’s house to protect against a fall. My pal Gary Begley might tell you that life is like a wind current. It can’t be predicted and cannot be discouraged. It will continue on it’s own until it has curled out in even temps under the bows of the pines where the titmouse sings. If you fly, you must understand that you are a passenger and the wind is the conductor. The train rambles, you ride. My friend Tim Easton might say that life is a song. That the ideas exist before the words put them to use. That there is nothing which hasn’t been felt since hearts began beating and so songs are simply an homage to everything that has ever been felt. And sweet life is a song. My friend Paul Turecki might tell you that life is a stone, because stones are always waiting and they are basic and they hum with the sound of the beginning. Paul’s face is a stone. Old Brian Foster might say that life is a fight. That punches being thrown at your face are simply an offering. The fight is easy because you are living. The end is sad because it is over. Everything in the midst is life in wondrous animation full of blood and sweat and spit. Katherine Fontaine might say that life is a building. A structure with hallways and arches and doors. Pay attention to stress points and defects and old weather wearings. And there are views and lights in the distance and moss on the bricks and grains in the wood. My kid brother Josh sees life as endeavor. It’s what’s in front of you with nothing left out. It’s Mom’s broken washer, it’s Dad’s love of God, it’s the kids’ inner workings, it’s his wife’s love of dogs and his older brother long wanderings through the extra thick fog. I think Dave Kenneally sees life as a breath or a laugh, but really, what’s the difference? Kenneally laughs with his breath and breathes in his laughs.  Dave Muller sees life as a line. It might be the line from the crest of a wave on the very outer sunset (the outer outer sunset where civilization gives way to wilderness and voices drop off and dolphins braid lines in the waves underneath) and it might be the line in a drawing or the line at the door of his restaurant or the line of a song that he’s singing. He might say that life is a line…non-linearly. Elizabeth Luma sees life as a shape. Whether clay or the flowers or the clouds or the food on your plate, it’s a thing you can see…it’s right there in front of you, you might as well get to know it!

I am in awe of of the hearts of the ones that I love. (And I have left out a good many…this time around) The folks that see through all the metaphors and pay attention to life as it is. Life.

I’m with these folks. I believe what they believe. I am walking behind them all, making sure they make it. These kinds of folks make a difference. We are all just children of the universe. Remember to believe.