tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: love

Furnace Heart

These things are all true:

Somewhere there is a Verdin with his yellow ochre mop and he is building several nests for his lover. He will show her each nest and she will choose her favorite and they will mate and have a family. His song is impossibly high and sweet.

Somewhere there is a Bowhead whale thundering through the inky deep of a southern ocean. Her people are all around her singing songs about her. She is the oldest of her kind with memories gathered from across three centuries of ocean travel. There is a massive scar on her left brow from a harpoon thrown at the hand of a savage born in 1804. The savage is long dead and the bone-carved point, made from the hip of a bear, is now fixed and calcified and covered over, as much a part of the whale as if she had been born with it. What a wonder that the DNA of that old bear would travel the belly of every ocean, learning the language of whales through songs and sorrows and dances that no scientist will ever understand!

Somewhere there is an Alligator collecting sticks between dainty jaws. She is placing them and scooting them and blinking from under those ridiculously serious ridges. She will make this nest with care. She is not clumsy nor half-hearted. This will be her third clutch and she will not loose them to raccoons like the first one. When the babies begin to chirp through the leathery skin of the eggs, she will hear them and she will tend them into the world of swamps and turtles and herons and foxes and mangroves and tarpon. There are no words to explain the heart of an alligator. Her cells were lit back when the scent of eternity still hung in the air from the birth of the earth.

Somewhere there is a child born, it is Detroit, it is Simpsonville, it is Stockton, it is Rock Springs. The odds are stacked against him. He will not be given the chances of the privileged nor will much be expected of him. He will not be taught but he will learn anyway. He will find the fire in his gut and he will understand it’s importance. He will learn compassion in the most significant of ways — like learning to love air because you nearly died without it. He will teach children. He will leave light in every room he enters. He will apply his body and soul and prove love to be most manly of all traits.

Every one of these scenarios are linked. There is one key element to each one. One thing connects us all — The Heart. It is the subject of so many poems and millions of songs. In truth, it is only the thing at our center that pushes the blood to our parts. It is faithful and essential. Without the heart, we cannot love. And so it is the engine, the genesis of all of our Being.

I feel a kind of divisiveness in the world today.  We seem to revel in it, or at least that’s how it feels. There is trolling and sarcasm and a kind of generic hate that ain’t healthy. In light of Valentines Day, the day of the Heart, I wanna talk about something that’ll fix our brokenness. If only we could all keep in mind (myself included…especially) that opinions and differences are important and needed, but they will be effective only if they are attached to compassion. Like it or not, everyone has a heart.

I’ll steal a line from Hafiz and paraphrase it into something I might say,

“My heart is a furnace, I’ll get it stoked up and you can burn your trash here if you want.”

Post note: This Essay is written in honor of Kayla Kosloff, the lady with one of the most beautiful hearts I know. What a wonder to love!


A letter from The Wild

It’s been weeks now since I’ve had any good sleep. I say sleep, but I reckon I could word it better, I suppose I should say rest. I never really sleep. I rest between the night and the dawn, do you know those hours? That secret time that sits and breathes after the last quiet call of the nightbirds. That’s when I find a kind of respite. It is the quietude. It is when the Dreaming slips between the cracks and forms like dew across the brows of children. It’s when hawks fluff against the cold, when even the mole, even the weasel, lie still. The world nests and quiets and the grasshopper mouse curls in on her bed of cricket legs and spider hair. After all the nocturnals return to their dens to rest their ebony eyes and before the moose lifts his bulk from the steaming grass,— I.

I drop into the stillness.

But lately, no. Not even then. I’m struggling to remember my geography. I’ve misplaced my internal maps. Maybe you can understand. I realize my language is puzzling but that’s because I am not as relevant in your life as I used to be. Not only am I losing my place, I’m losing you too.

I listen to my heart. Yes, it’s beating and that’s a relief. Do you ever do that? Listen in the quiet, to your heart? The swooshing of the liquid as it moves through the valve in your chest. This is something we have in common. The heart. It is the center of things. It supplies the working parts.

If it’s ok, I won’t call you by your name. I’ll just believe you exist and you do the same for me. Don’t leave yet. Don’t quit me just because I sound strange. There are things you should know.

These mountains I carry are built from the stones of the beginning. They are waypoints to our existence. I have been running to catch up with you, I know you are busy. I know. If you will give me your hand I’ll take you to the place where the caribou are making tracks across the tundra, following the maps in their hearts to places that exist in their souls. They are carrying their antlers. They are magnificent. And I’ll allow you the fox that sleeps and then peeks with a single amber eye into the center of your eye and on through you to the thicket that grows in the backcountry of your DNA. I’ll show you the bones of your beginning, your peoples and your reasons of being, the source of the songs you might sing if you could remember. We will run across the ramparts where the howls of the wolves trigger howls from the pica. High on knife blade ridges, dropping to benches cradling glaciers, and we will be wild in our decent, where foot falls where hoof falls where paw falls through scrabbling shale. There will be no trail where I take you save that made by your memory at the passing aspens and the herds of turkeys, cloud-crowded skies and bristlecone thickets. Oh come now! And feel that burn in your chest! Yes, legs will ache from this chase. But there’s so much to feel, we’ve only begun, so cough! Cough and exhume the beautiful breath in your ribs and come on come on come on. I noticed the way you looked at your trappings, it’s fine, don’t beat yourself up. I’m not here to judge you, I’m here to explain where I come from and where we are headed. Tune your ears. Fix your smell. We are here in the surf, these are the waves that make all the thunder. Feel my gut, feel that movement? Whales, of course. They are singing, they are traveling, they are guarding my belly. It’s their home, so I’m sure you understand. They are spelling out stories down there in the dark, they are dancing and laughing and loving and dying, because that is the way of the whale. I would show you some stones and some stars and some plankton. Some pipefish and pillbugs and wild potatoes. Some Elders and bushdogs and dogbane and lichen and springs lined with mosses and laden with snails. I would make you cough butterflies and put bears in your belly and fill your head with otters and snakes. All of this so you’ll know me the next time we meet, because I’m dying and I need you to love me. Maybe I’ll live if you can help me remind you that I am still here. I am still here. I am the Wild. I am the Wild. I am the Wild and I am right here.

Imperfections (perfections)

My Mama has age spots, she’s a true beauty. I know age is a touchy matter with most folks and I don’t know why, after all, it never stops happening. My mom’s spots started a long time ago and I just thought they were big freckles. I love freckles. Freckles and gap teeth. I have neither, but I wish I did. My buddy Nick has one of the best gaps in his teeth I’ve ever seen and it’s the finishing touch on his handsomeness. I finally got an age spot (probably inherited but earned honestly under the big ol’ sun) on my left cheek bone, just about where a gangster might tattoo a couple of tears. It’s a nice one, about the size of a dime. “You can get that burned off,” someone said, “there’s a treatment.” But really, I spent so much time getting it burned in that I’m kinda proud of it. Good job, skin, way to endure. According to the Mayo Clinic I get to keep it for the rest of my life! I look at it as a mark on a map or a coffee stain on the page of a book. This body is in use, I am busy being. It may show some signs of fatigue and I have long since lost the instruction manual as well as the warranty. I will wash it occasionally but I can’t guarantee it will smell good. I’ll do my best to keep it in good working condition, but I’m solid with it’s signs of use.

Both my folks have pure white hair. Dad’s hair used to be jet black, he’s Choctaw or at least some kind of mix. Mom’s hair was blonde with a natural lighter streak in the front. As my hair continues to change it’s color, there is a grey streak where my mama had one. My kid brother has it too. It’s really kinda cool, like a Sweeney Todd looking deal minus Johnny Depp’s face. I don’t think it’s bad to color hair and do things to change our appearance, it’s fun. I’m covered in tattoos, I get it. But also, I just want to say that age is both beautiful and exciting. You know the phrase, “in the long run”? Yeah, that’s life. Life is the long run. I love that. And the bushy eyebrows and hairy ears and the two toes melded together. The weirdnessess and the oddities. Bunions and age spots and moles and wrinkles, cracks and snaps and baldness and moments of revery — these are all proof that we are here. There is no expiration date for appreciating existence. We are not forever 21, that’s one year last I checked, and it’s a pretty cool one, but so is 32 and 47. I think you get my point. Anyway, this is just my two cents worth. I have to love imperfections, it’s all I’ve got to work with in this stumbling bumbling tumbling old carcass!

Spreading Mulch

I’ve never seen an aquarium where the fish don’t spend most of their time swimming against the glass. I reckon there are some fish that comprehend their fate — like puffers, I think they know. And I wonder what they see from the inside. Giant shadowy figures sometimes coming close, tapping unintelligently against the strange clear barrier that separates the two worlds. When I see fish swimming and swimming against the glass, I feel discomfort in the area of my soul. Oh don’t worry, I find ways of burying my thoughts about this kind of thing. Part of being human is figuring out how not to feel guilty about misdeeds, whether they be yours or someone else’s. But I’m not gonna carry on about things to make you feel heavy, if you’re like me you don’t need any help in that category.

Life is happening. When I’m dead, life will still happen, I just won’t be able to comment on it. As I continue to tick off heartbeat after heartbeat, I am smitten with the necessity to feel more. Like, I look to feel. I pay more attention to the lives of the lost ones and the strange ones and the forgotten. I see the fish against the glass. I’m not trying to seem like a Holy person, in fact, I spend much of my time feeling like a hypocrite. I contribute to the same destructive system as someone that doesn’t give a flying turd to the care of this lovely old World. I use gasoline. I buy plastic. I have bought stuff at Walmart. But unlike someone that doesn’t care, I will exchange sleep for an endless stream of thoughts about skinny polar bears swimming towards an iceberg that no longer exists and so they are swimming and swimming into the blue and disappearing from the real earth and only existing in the lists of things that were. And the walruses. And the fin whales. Ah boy,  I was trying to not get heavy, let’s move on before I start really dropping stones.

One thing I can say about growing up is that I’m not sure when the line growing up and getting old actually happens. I feel like I’m still growing up. In terms of making mistakes, which I would assume goes hand in hand with finally growing up, I’m still a shit-show. Mistakes? I’m skilled at them. I’ve gotten to the point where I can pull a couple off at the same time. Seems like I should be all grown up by now, but I have my doubts. I thought for sure I’d get wise, but I’ve only gotten weird. And it’s a tricky world these days. Humans have continued to figure out how to wrong one another in new and exciting ways. I’m waiting for simplicity to catch back on so we can be nice and disagree and then be nice again. I am behind the times for sure, but I search for signs of love in the hearts of men and women. I believe in this even though I’m an ornery cuss myself. When I shut up for a minute or two and really listen, I can hear the stars humming in the sky. That alone makes me feel out beyond myself. Here we are, all of us with beating hearts under these singing stars. The waves are rolling in from the storms at sea and the wind has tugged against the giant timbers and now carries the smell of the breath of the whales, and there are secrets galore both above and below and deep in the hearts of the songbirds. And there are things that will never be known by any human mind and there will be flowers that bloom and die unseen and there will be dreams dreamt and tears wept and blue veins that shine under paper-thin skin of an old and lovely woman spreading mulch over next springs garden.

All is not lost. We are not finished. There’s work to do. Hate is heavy, love is light. The horizons are full of sunrises and sunsets, put some love in your pockets and let’s go looking for some wonders!

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.

Dancing Preacherman

I have vivid memories of church. Church happened 3 times a week for me when I was a youngster. My Pa was the assistant pastor. He led the congregation in song before the message was given by the Preacher. My Dad is a showman, a regular circus performer who took his skills to church. I remember his rowdy acts I witnessed as a child: squatting tables loaded with men, handstanding on ladders, tiptoeing across the backs of seats. Smiles spread and songs erupted and laughter rolled like thunder. He doesn’t just lead songs, he dances and hops and jumps from the pulpit to the floor. He is 80-something and still does this stuff. Age has affected the height of his forays but his enthusiasm never wains. God is proud, I’m sure.

There was one song my old man would sing when I was real little, it was called Thanks to Calvary. During the part of the song where he refers to his son, I would trundle down the aisle and my Pa would pick me up. I remember looking out at the people as they shouted their “Amens!” When he was done singing, he’d kiss me and whisper me back to Mama. Back at my seat, Mom smiled and winked and beamed. Cory, my sparkly-eyed little brother, didn’t know it then but he was next in line to be the little boy walking to Dad while the piano played and the hallelujahs rained down like leaves in the fall.

Sometimes, not always, if I started to get too sleepy during the long-winded sermons, my Ma would shovel me under the pew (Pews are what they call the long, uncomfortable benches in a church. I don’t know why they’re called that, but I’ve always thought it was maybe because so many different rear-ends parked there through the years.) and let me sleep. Under the pew was a whole different world. From down there I would look out at the hundreds of ankles rising up from Sunday shoes, some jittering, some akimbo, some still as stones. Big fat ankles in strange, shimmering panty hose corralled by floral dresses. Tiny baby feet, hanging.  Stories were told through that forest of feet. The knobby ankles dressed in old man socks swimming in over-sized shoes that were nudged up against an oxygen bottle with the weird, clear tube that ran to the upper world and into the wrinkled nose of one of the adults. Teenage sweethearts using the cover of church to explore forbidden thoughts, their legs touching, searching. It was all something that no grown-up could see or know, but it was a lively drama for me. Sometimes I would pluck a bright colored blob of gum from the bottom of the pew and test it for lingering flavor, there were hundreds to choose. I was scolded never to do this, but I did on some occasions, depending on the level of temptation. I don’t chew gum anymore, I doubled up back then and I reckon that’s aplenty.

After church, there was much to do. Certain old fellas carried candy and I was careful to work the scene. Mr. Garcia always had butterscotch. Mr. Meachom had jolly ranchers. Now and then I got snatched up by some of the older teenage boys who would try and get me to spin some fantastic yarn about a monster that was real and living in one of the dark, upper hallways of the church. I remember being carried down long, unlit passages while the boys laughed at my earnestness over where the monsters lived. I gave instructions like the lead explorer on a desperate mission to discover something conjured from the wildest recesses of my mind. Finally, my Ma would round me up and we would pile into the old 69 Dodge campervan. No seatbelts back then, instead we fought to sit on the hump in the center. Up high where the road ran directly under your feet and the world was on a conveyer belt.

I don’t go and sit with congregations anymore. I don’t walk the aisle to have someone help me work through my sins. I do, however, have a church. I go where the big cedars sway with the ponderosas against whatever the sky is brewing. The aisles are full of curling ferns and meandering vines. I do daily baptisms where the red-backed crawdads patrol the creek bed, where the trout slip in and out of existence. My mind is full of the colors of the world. It’s good to empty out and allow the heart some relief from our contrivances.

I use my mind to remember. I use it to make little creations, drawings and essays and stories. I use it to build bridges between my heart and other hearts. I use it to tell my sweetheart how I love her. I use my mind to help comfort my dear ones that are sad or sick or afraid. I’m training and learning to be aware of the wild world and Her magic. I’m feeling heartbeats and breathing with intent. I’ve been here for almost a half-century and Life continues to produce mysteries and wonders in lovely succession. I know for certain that hate and bitterness reduce connection and inhibit the ability to understand and yet I see so much of it. I’m appalled by our acceptance of it! So much value in lovingkindness. It’s pretty cool to think that I have the choice to be a strong, aware, loving human being.

I can hear my Dad singing to the folks who are listening. His song is clear and he’s dancing and smiling and clapping his hands above and below. His cowboy boots are polished and he’s hopping down now in a crouch. The people are all smiling and slightly embarrassed at the antics of my old man. But now his head is back and his heart shows and his voice rises in that tenor that is sweet to hear. Now some tears from the eyes of the audience because my Dad is real and kind and full of love. My Father is religious, I am not…but love is good all around. There is room for us all if our hearts and minds create the space.

Show Your Teeth

Cannon is 4, he holds up four fingers with the thumb tucked when he says it. His folks let him be in the pool with me whenever they please. Cannon is safe with me. He’s safe with me anywhere.

Tonight I saw a meteor fall in the evening sky over Moreno Valley. It was the biggest light I’ve ever seen from a meteor. Green then white and then the colors of fire in an evening sky with a half moon. With so much light pollution, I just couldn’t believe how much light it created. I half expected to hear the impact and prepare for whatever that means. My lover, 300 miles north, saw the flash from her tent in Death Valley. The world is small in relation to the cosmos; so very, very tiny. I am smaller yet. And little Cannon, he’s smaller even then.

We talked in the pool, Cannon and I. He’s bright and worldly, like an animal. He was naked and full of that otterish disposition that I see in kids that love water. He was on my knees. In the midst of flying arms and flashing butt, he slowed for just a moment and said something I barely heard over his clamor. “All of Life is through my head.” I thought I heard it, but I couldn’t believe it came from his mouth. I slowed his wildness and asked him to say again. “All of Life is through my head.”

Do you hear this? Do you hear what my little love has said?

I asked him what he meant. I feared that too many questions would squelch the loveliness that had just flashed through the sky of the mind of the child. He said more, “All the things and the pictures and the dreams of the world are in my head.” And here I am laid low, a stumbling layman in the presence of God. Then the child’s eyes to the sky, “and that’s beautiful and that’s beautiful and that….” his finger pointing to eucalyptus trees and towhees and blue blue sky.

Are you here? I don’t think I’m the most intuitive of us all. I don’t claim to understand people. I struggle with being too cross with my judgements and too sure of my views. But when the bats fly over the New Mexican canyons I feel my heart become rivers. If the whale plunges from her world beneath and shows her belly to our sun, I will fall on my knees, I will worship. When pieces of the Universe fall and turn to fire over the hills in Southern Cal, I will listen, I mean I will damn listen and say, “I am here.” Then, when this child/god says to me, “All Life is through my head”, I will hear him and love him for his heart. I will follow him through the fire-hate we humans are tending. I will give him audience and room to speak and, in the end, I will trust him to bury me and bury me good and deep.

I asked him then if dreams were real. He told me so very honestly that he did not know. He said that some things were real and some things were made up. I agreed. I felt the time fleeting and I saw him falling away into the world I cannot reach; one where I’m included but not necessary. In these seconds that fall, I can’t help but chase and fail. It’s true, I’m no child. So he flew like the birds that are beautiful and I choked on my adulthood.

But give me words that mean something. Give me hearts that beat with fear of the wild wind. Give me eyes that look into the green and murky water and expect the swimming lions. Please, for the sake of the stars, allow me reverence at the altar of the wilderness. And send the storms. Save room for my knees so that I can worship. Hold me in the rip current and teach me the smallness of me. There are nights to weather and mosquitos to swat and accept, there are distances to cover, bones to break and pretty words to misplace in my buckbrush mind. There are friends to bury and races to lose. I have yet to be tired of a perfect morning, where my coffee is strong, my heart is full and my body finds purchase in the world into which it was born.

There is more to say, but probably less that I can say well. So instead, let me listen. Oh please let me have enough heartbeats to impress the ones that love me. I will fall down and pray to the children and the moon, give me heartbeats to show how much I love this wild, wild Earth. Listen, if to nothing else, that I love the whales and the tiny birds. That I love the little creeks in the aspens and that I’m a product of something good. And by good, I mean small but quite toothy. Also, please, if you don’t mind, call me an animal– nothing grand, perhaps a minnow or a beetle. Just call me something wild.

“All Life is through my head.” Things are beautiful. Follow the children. Show your teeth.

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


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,


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.