tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: ma

We have a little lost boy…

The Villa Italia mall is a memory. It no longer exists, not even a bit or a piece. It used to set back in the center of it’s parking lots on the corner of Alameda and Wadsworth in Lakewood, Colorado, where I grew up. Whenever I’m chatting it up with my buddy, Nick, especially about home, we somehow bring up the Villa Italia Mall. We both chime in and sing the ditty that was played on the commercials, both radio and telly. Nick has a knack for remembering the things that make me laugh anyway, and so we sit around and laugh at the memories of a mall long since torn down.

My Ma worked at Jocelyn’s, which was a kind of Macy’s or Nordstrom’s from back in the day. When I was a wee tot, just learning how to ditch my Mom in that weird way that a 5 year old can do, I somehow wandered off. This was back when there wasn’t as much baby snatching and stuff. My Ma had 5 of us kids going this way and that, and so, it was easier for my to pull a stunt, like a quick walk down the wrong aisle and on out into the oblivion of lostness.

I kinda remember the first few minutes of not knowing where Ma was and they were similar to holding your breath for too long. A dizziness right before hysteria. Absolutely no logical thought at all. Then running and some quiet crying before turning it up a bit and then full on, like a siren. I think I was corralled somewhere up the mall near the Orange Julius, a lady that knew my Ma saw me with a security guard. The word was on the street, I’d been found. I heard, as if I was a part of an international emergency, my name mentioned over the loud speakers; the usual, weird, mall music interrupted with, we have a little lost boy, named Toby, he is at the security station at the center of the mall. It was only minutes and my Ma was picking me up with twinkling eyes and the knowledge that I was me, a little wanderer, even way back then with 5 years tucked firmly under my belt.

There is a grand timberland on the western slope in Colorado. The Uncompahgre Wilderness stretches for several hundred square miles across some of the most wonderful land in the United States. The high country streams are full of trout and the Aspen groves are miles long. It’s full of elk and bear and winding passages that crawl up the flanks of 13,ooo foot peaks. If the Rocky mountains were a mama, she’d be proud of this pretty child, The Uncompahgre. When I was 17 I went out into the hills for a week or so. I did this kinda thing often, but mostly with my buddies. Kevin and Kelly, two tough ranch kids from my school, were always down for a good fishing excursion. Fishing was always just a good reason to give for any kind of mountain adventure, so when we said “fishing”, we really meant runningswimmingclimbingwanderinglaughinglyingandeverythingunderthesun. I loved the thought of leaving and being in the woods. But this little meander was different, I was out and walking over country, alone.

As can happen, it got cold. A bit of snow fell and I was a day or two out from where I had left the car. I was intimidated by the onset of the cold and I decided I should loop back in the direction of my vehicle. I remember that I was confident as I followed ridgelines back to the place where I’d started but I also noticed that everything looked slightly different in the snow. Darks were light and mountains changed shape. The birds, ravens, jays, and hawks tipped and slid across a rugged Colorado sky. My pace was fine but a little quick with a little anxiety as I thought about my route back.

When I came across some footprints in the snow, there were several thoughts that passed immediately. Who the hell is out here this far? How old are these tracks? and then a kind of comfort in the thought, i’ll bet this person is going to the trailhead as well. I kept on with my direction but was, I guess, a bit more carefree for some reason. It’s human to be drawn to humans.  About 2 hours later I came across yet another set of footprints. I was tired and I sat down and looked out as the two sets of tracks rolled off in the snow.

You know that weird sickness that you feel when you’ve made a mistake? Like when you walk out of your friends house with your morning coffee after saying goodbye and you see that you didn’t set the emergency brake after you started your rig and now it’s rolling, mowing down mailboxes? or like when you get up to the ticket counter at the airport and start to dig for your ID and then you remember it laying there between the seats of the taxi where you set it to put your gloves on because it’s damn cold in NYC that time of year! or like you just dropped out of a helicopter into the pacific and you are a mile from shore and it’s night time and you realize the strap on your left fin has broken from hitting the water. — Well, that’s the kind of sick I felt as I realized that those footprints, both sets, were mine. I had just walked in a huge circle for the second time. It was early evening. With a tightness in my throat that is the onset of panic, I forced myself to walk, not run. I studied every slight variance of my trail and finally saw my mistake: I had followed a false ridgeline that skirted the top of a large plateau. I dropped off and stayed steady, soon I saw a marker and knew I was ranging back onto the trail system that led down to my rig. Being lost in a circle is a strange thing.

I hope I don’t sound like a know-it-all here. I ain’t one. Getting lost really isn’t that terrible. For some reason, it feels bad but I really do think it’s because we are not in control when we are lost. Control is a contrivance. It is all dependent on the environment. The most lost I feel these days is in the middle of huge crowds that have given up on being aware. Like when the Peregrine slammed into a dove and dropped into the middle of an outdoor coffee shop in LA, bounced off a table, hissed at the onlookers and then flew away with bloody coup in her talons and I hooted out loud and everyone looked at me like I had caused this terrible thing and were aghast that I loved it…yeah, like that! Awareness isn’t some new age word that can only be used in yoga practices and Sanghas, it’s simply looking with a wide open lens. So, instead of being wrapped up with being separate, it’s believing in your inclusion, understanding that sight is only part of seeing. What we do with what we see is more a part of being aware than simply seeing. When I’m too self-conscious, I am more lost. I think that’s why I feel lost on the highways during rush hour, because I can only want out but I am driving in a long line of souls and we are all kinda sad that we are trapped in our worlds of confusing, fast, raging stuff. I include me because I gotta.

But every now and then, when everything stops, I’ll look over into another window, and I’ll see a soul and that soul will see me. Contact made. Humanness for a second. A chance at realness that includes a heart, lungs, eyeballs, smelliness, sadness, hands, wrinkles, and feet that could, if given the chance, make marks in the snow next to mine. And I wouldn’t be alone, or lost for that matter.

mama’s tea

out the back door of my parent’s house

at the bottom of the stairs,

where the ghosts of the dogs of my childhood

gather with lolling tongues,

there is a world.

that yard is smaller, less steps to the side gate.

time made it shrink.

the old bikes are mostly gone, those that remain

are quiet on flat and rotting tires.

they lean in repose, remembering.

down the hill is the creek in it’s sandy bed,

ancient races of crawfish, shellshod and blue-eyed,

hunker down into muddy holes.

this same creek that watered comanche horses

before england and spain came.

the hill home is steep on a single speed.

banana seat and coaster breaks.

mama bakes in the kitchen while pa studies

the words of the prophets.

the smell of tea and coffee.

in between the words birth and death

there lies a distance.

our eyes collect the colors and our ears

hear the clunking heart that will tell us

when we are going home.

the lines in my brother’s face

i’m sick. so’s my kid brother. i probably caught it from him because i worked on his neck and shoulders the last couple days. he’s close to my dna. we’re close.

the line of thinking was easy tonight in the garage. i was drawing dresses for my 6 year old friend, ruby. my brother was lining out work for his crew tomorrow on the construction site. these two things are not so different; we’re both good at what we do and we both take it seriously. so, as i draw a pink party dress with matching shoes, josh is telling his boys what time to show and what inspections are coming. he’ll be there at 5 a.m. and i’ll have had coffee with him come morning time.

while he sits across from me, he is my kid brother. at 38. he is still my kid brother. the lines show. he is looking down at his hands and they are thick and tough. his beard is long. when he looks up at me, i see the blue behind the hazel and i see the distance and the time we have traveled to be here, in his garage. his boys are in the next room. i am saying things to him and he listens…he really does. we are best friends.

i recently wrote down the names of my mom and dad’s moms and dads. i also wrote down their moms and dads. i don’t know why, but it bothers me not to know who they were. i don’t like forgetting where i came from. my dad’s mom’s dad was named charles. i said this to my brother, who didn’t know that, and he said, “so dad’s named after him?”  i said yes. he nodded and sipped his beer. i sipped some tea and whiskey. then my brother remembered back. he said, “i remember when grandma was dying, she spoke to dad and called him chucky.” josh was only 5 or so and i was surprised to hear that he could remember this. i said yeah, she did.

here i am, at the tail end of another day. my ma is visiting my grandma betty who is turning 90. ( and i love to say “turning 90” because it means that the world is moving around the sun…it is in it’s turning. and the turning is what we all do, whether we like it or not ) mama will say good and true things to my grandma and they will laugh. i spoke to the lady who is my grandma, who is turning 90…i spoke to her on the phone. she sounded sharp and strong and ready for forever. she still sings in her choir, she believes in her voice. i was humbled under the light of her being.

i am lying down. i’m coughing, like my brother in the next room. tonight, we spoke of the folks who made us. i looked at him in his mortal skin. here we go, as worlds are turning.

have you ever heard the migrating geese in that early light between the night and the sun? it holds a sad and lovely quality. it is life.  and i love it in it’s blueish greyness.

a day.

first of all, you might have something better to do. i’m sure there is something else to read. for sure there’s something else that you can watch on youtube. someone jumping upside down, face first off of a urinal. someone talking about something that is so stupid you can’t look away. so this is a disclaimer. if you have something better to do, do it. otherwise here’s a record of a day. it started this morning at 5:30 when i heard my kid brother go out the door to work.

up when it’s dark. colorado. i have a hand grinder for my coffee beans and it’s my early meditation. so yeah, i did that. and then coffee. i bought heavy whipping cream to celebrate the new year, i guess, but it might be just because i like heavy whipping cream. i grabbed my computer and stepped over the dog gate at the top of the stairs. (my brother, josh, and his wife, farah, own a great dane that’s bigger than me…so a gate is necessary in order to keep the furniture in place and stuff). i took two steps and missed a step and fell down the stairs. ’twas 5:40 a.m.

the bump on my elbow is a by-product of falling down the stairs with two things you’re not willing to lose. coffee in one hand+computer in the other hand= bump on elbow. no worries, i like it.

i have a condition. it’s some weird thing that makes me mull over products in the grocery store. i look for non-gmo stuff because i, personally, am planning on putting monsanto out of business. i’m also obsessed with truth. truth about origins and sugar and time and fair trade. i can’t prove a godamn thing but i sure as hell do read the fine print to see if i can bust one of these businesses trying to lie to me about whether or not they shook some farmers hand or not. i’m probably an idiot, but i eat with a decent conscience…pretty much.

so you probably figured out that i went to the grocery store. i got the makings for my food for the day and the drink i wanted to have tonight. then i called my mama. she was at home. it’s my real home because it’s where i spent my entire childhood. it’s still on the same street. it’s under the same sky. what has changed is that my mom is older and my dad is older and i am older. i asked ma about using the sewing machine. she said she only had one bobbin. i went by the jo ann’s  and grabbed 10 bobbins. i was gonna buy 5 but there was a 50% off deal and the lady selling it to me had just had heart surgery. (i ain’t sure why that has anything to do with me buying 10 instead of 5 but it did…maybe because she seemed excited that i was buying bobbins for my ma and that it was a “singer 600 touch and sew” machine, which is old and cool) i bought the bobbins and some needles for other stuff.

ma was waiting for me, i could tell. she loves it when i roll in. she helped me set up the machine and i sewed up my sweater. she said i did a marvelous job and looked handsome with my custom fitted garments. ma’s cool. she really is. i found a picture of her with my older sister in her arms in the sewing drawer under the buttons. it is a tiny picture, maybe 2 inches by one. mama was probably 23 in that pic. soooo hot! i stole it and told her i had pocketed something from the drawer downstairs as i was leaving. she said what she always says when i do something like that, “tobe, you’re so naughty.”

this friend of mine is a bartender in san francisco. he works in a cool little spot called “outerlands” it’s in the outer sunset, where it belongs. anyway, christian, made me this drink once with whiskey and chartreuse and orange rind that might be the best drink anyone has ever had in the history of the world. that’s what i wanted tonight. just one of those. so i stopped and tried to find the chartreuse he had used  that also happens to be made by monks in the mountains somewhere (maybe france?), but i couldn’t find it. it’s pretty integral to the drink, christian said so and i believe him. i did manage to find an orange.

for about an hour i sat with my nephew and picked out animals that he and i are gonna draw for my buddy, brian foster. foster don’t know i have this little art project goin’ for him because he’s busy growing a baby into a person. having a baby, come to find out, is quite a big deal. like, you can’t just work on it for a month or two and then set it down. it’s like adopting a river or something. it’s like adopting the ocean. so yeah, he doesn’t know i have this huge art project with my 11 year old nephew where we’re gonna draw rare and cool animals for him. he’s going to be stoked.

i went out to dinner with my mom and dad. i tried not to rage at all about government and insurance and how i’d like to break into the whitehouse and rearrange the furniture and leave selfies in weird places. no. i tried to be mellow and talk about other stuff. ma and pa are cool. they somehow have learned to love me no matter what. ma told me i was valuable…that’s pretty cool, coming from mom. hugs and kisses in the parking lot. 2 pictures on mom’s camera; one of me and the old man, one of me and ma.

back at my brother’s house. i’m invited to the party across the street, but i stayed back. i made a half-ass drink without key ingredients that ended up being kind of a whiskey with an orange rind in it. i called my brother and had him walk me through turning on the tele because i basically have a worm’s brain when it comes to that kind of thing. i listened to a few people talk about trivial shit and how to change your life with new year’s resolutions. i turned off the tube, which is easier because you can just pull plugs from the wall to accomplish that. i drank water out of fear of the strength of my one drink. i sat down with sleepy eyes and stitched a couple of words into a pocket i’ve been making for my pencils. then i looked at my computer. the thought occurred to me that the only way i’d be able to write tonight is if i used a good bit of sarcasm. nice that i was able to avoid that at least. so yeah, no sarcasm from this sweet lipped tulip.

typing out words. wondering what the hell i have to say. there’s a fine line between a waste of time and what’s worth while, i guess it all boils down to the heart. i spend a whole lot of my time shoveling bitterness out of my gut and looking to the stars for something that’ll keep me putting letters together. if it weren’t for the lovely souls i know exist, i’d most certainly stop this business of arranging thoughts. but they do. they exist. so this was a day. tomorrow’s another. some folks march alone to the grave, i prefer dancing with my friends till the lights go out. and with that, i’m done for the night, done for this year. looks like it all worked out.

a list…and some other stuff

i dreamt that my sister came to me in the night. there was that old look that i know so well because i’ve seen it on my own face, it’s like certain things expressed in the genes but that you can’t quite put your finger on. some stuff we can hide, some stuff we can’t. anyway, my sis’ wasn’t trying to hide a thing. there was broken-heartedness spilling out all around her. i invited her in the camper and pulled open a drawer that was full of tiny records, about the size of a silver dollar. i picked one out that was labeled “for the broken-hearted” and put it on the player. we sat and listened to perfect words that i cannot recollect and looked out at a moon-filled world. she sat and drank tea. i drank coffee. we both looked out the big picture window in the back and the view was from the top of some high-rise in downtown manhattan, and i felt the dream seamlessly blend the real and the other. malia, me and my camper, looking out over the lights of millions of other hearts, some happy, some broken, some deciding whether to stay or to go, some loving, some losing, some never thinking past the money. i don’t know what really happened after that, but i remember that things were kinda starting to be ok.

life really is just a continuous series of feelings. it’ll run off and be pretty damn selfish if you don’t pay it proper attention. that’s where the soul comes into play. way out there on the end of it’s tether, close to the stars and the circling birds, the soul is outside of races and species and dictionaries and languages. it can’t be accurately weighed and measured and timed, even though we try. it ain’t science. it fills us up.

and life is the result, with it’s sweet, little goods and nasty,stumbling bads.

walking along minding your own business and running headlong into a painful yesterday. creosote in the sandy washes. the tiniest vireo. the smell of rain against the monzonite. the quick tracks of the coyote and the pearly light that hides the bobcat, the huntress, at dawn. the barn owl that peeks at me from deep in that one cave (yes, you know who you are, tyto alba, in your lair above the rest of us). my elbow, clicking and hurting. the sky that holds the moon, much as that cave holds the owl. and that moon in her death throws, here at the end of her cycle, running before the sun with the last of her light…the last of her light. and my coffee that’s strong and cooling. and dad with his thoughts as he lies there next to my mama. and mama with her thoughts lying by my dad. and the rocks on the slopes that hold the recordings from the beginnings. and the puma in the wash with her twins. and the nolina that stands 20 feet tall where the lightning struck the pinon and the pinon crushed the oak. and that heartbeat that sometimes flutters and reminds me that, no matter how healthful i am, no matter how much turmeric i ingest, no matter my meditations on the spirit, i will someday drop deader than a pair of worn out socks. the words that i arrange to say what i mean in varied degrees of success. the cities that hold humans close. the cicada waiting in hiding for that 7th year. the wonderful song that is in the heart of the one who has not yet lost the love of her life but will and who has not yet begun to sing…but will. the colony of pill-bugs beneath the old plastic bag at the end of the road. the abandoned roadrunner nest above the door to the chicken coop. the old man that puts more sugar in his cup than coffee, and who does’t have teeth, and who seems like he’ll live forever anyway. the shack where david lives. the way ruby sings when you play an A-flat. the saddest book i’ve ever read, that i can’t talk about.  my younger brother josh, who i wanna grow up and be like. the distance that i worship because it holds everything including what is near, because what is near is far when you move away. the ocean and her need for us to be more careful and love her more and also to love her heart, which is every beast in her belly. the thoughts of kenneally as he walks toward mindfulness with the wildest of smiles. old photos when my belly was round and my mama had my brother cory in her belly, so her belly was rounder. memories of swimming with guns and radios and men who could use them. twisting lenga trees on the bench where the wind will blow the skin from your bones. barefootedness. openheartedness. the lone and honest sun, who, if you let him, will bleach out your faults, like old bones, until they are lighter and easier to carry. the winding down and the end, which is as perfect as birth but not nearly as popular. this breathing which is now, and doesn’t need to be labeled or claimed…it is simple and should be left that way.

this is what i think is, this and all the other stuff i missed. a collection of sorts.