tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: moon

ol’ Steinbeck whispers

When I was a kid, growing up meant getting old. Now that I’m not a kid, growing up is realizing that I need to listen more, talk less and understand that I will eventually die. It’s easy to write these words, but living by them is difficult for me. I struggle. My mouth flaps, my ears close and death is a thing that happens to everyone else.

A while back I found a baby rattlesnake with a broken back. It had been cracked in a door at a campground and was wedged there waiting for life to pass. I pulled it out thinking it might not be hurt, when I set it down it could only move its front half. First I walked away. Then I thought about starving to death and I went back and killed it with a rock. It was just a little tiny thing. Real pretty.

When I was a kid I thought I needed to have things. Snakes, turtles, mice, crawdads, bluegills, hawks, raccoons, sparrows, trout, foxes, rabbits and squirrels…I brought them home. My mother would look at the beast and check it’s condition and decide if it’s chances were better in the wild or in my handsy little clutches. Some I raised and set free. Some I lost in the house. Some died in ways that make me shutter to think about all these years later. I thought that by having these things I might be closer to them. It’s the opposite. Having them steals the connection. There’s a kind of deadness that happens  when wild things are taken away from the wilderness. I saw a big Dorado dragged onto a boat once and the most cosmic colors I’ve ever seen where pulsing through it’s skin, like it was translucent and the insides were glowing. As it died, the colors bled out and slipped back into the sea. The fish became flat dusky gray and I couldn’t help but think that maybe we’re gonna pay for the things we do. I ain’t against killing to eat, I just don’t think we should do it mindlessly. We are mostly mindless these days, just look next to you on the freeway. Look one car over. Look around you in the lines and crowds. All is not lost, but it’s going in that direction.

Did you know the moon pulls the sea? Have you ever walked with your feet in a tide-pool (and if you haven’t , you might need to and you might need to go slow and take a day and give it to that and only that…and you might hear old Steinbeck himself whispering soft as a summer breeze cool stuff in your ear about secret places all along the edges of that big old sea) where the miniature oceans have tiny monsters? There are caves along the ocean where the little crabs are wedged sideways with clockwork hearts and trilling gills along the walls and under the stones that are stacked by older oceans and waves pushed under Mesozoic tail fins. Did you know that some birds migrate across the oceans and follow the stars. Some fly off the push of the sea and rarely flap their wings, the sweet Mother carries her babies aloft. Some of those same birds, like the Sooty Shearwater can dive more than a hundred feet down into the sea, down among the sharks, for food. Their journeys are like some wild dream, a life of endurance. Some of their kind live for 50 years. What wonders! Little wings. Forever hearts. And the tides of the ocean that are pulled and pushed by the moon live in the forests and the deserts and mountains as well. Everything with fluid is pulled and pushed by that moon, affected by her swooning passage. You and I. We aren’t apart. Within our riverine blood vessels flows that salty red stuff, that old connection to the start and the path to the finish. And while plants push up to meet the heavy full moon, so do the roots find the sliver of silver that floats up and down with Venus. The word Cosmic comes to mind, and the Cosmos goes as far inside as it does out. I’ve come to love the not knowing of it all. Oh my, this little heart of mine, it’s only here for these few billion heart beats if I make it to be old manish — the fortune is easy and sweet and I certainly don’t need to prove it. It’s cool that I am. Cool that we are. After that, it’s all guesswork.

While the majority of our kind fumbles with cell phones that record our every moment, there are herds of whales migrating under antarctic stars and they are singing songs passed down from the beginning. They are rolling their massive tongues and they are smiling at the calves that are learning to soul speak and they are swimming and swimming to the places that have feelings and the stars know all this and so does the moon and even the tricky little penguins with their chattery snouts and golden ears and so on and so on it all goes…with or without us. I reckon any one of us can tap into it, the wise ones say it’s there, just like air, all we gotta do is breathe. So if Hafiz can shine from out of yesterday, and if Mary Oliver can glue broken hearts with ten sad lines, and if a dude named Maurice Sendak can scratch lovely stories from the prettiest of minds so that kids can smile in their pj’s when the lights turn out…well, if all that can be then I think I could maybe find a way to find my way. Here I go. Breathing happens. Heartbeats happen. I just so happen as well.

A Letter about Today

This is from a letter to a friend. Sometimes it’s easier to write the real shit to a person that knows you. After all, the ones that really know you, know where the skin gets thin and the darker blood flows closer to the surface.

in the process of living i end up spending a whole helluva lot of time thinking about the could be’s and the would be’s. it’s probably pretty stupid. i doubt the whales do that. or the bats. or the bristlecone pines. i always figure that them things with wilder souls don’t think about the maybe’s they just breathe and live and see the stars. wild as i wanna be, i’m a pale, frail, little shadow that can’t even concentrate on the moment i’m in long enough to be in the real, honest to jesus, midst of things. what a flop.


i swam today. i went out where the seals and sea lions are herding through the sea grass. the ocean pushes and pulls so much out there that i can’t ever tell if i’m even making any headway. looking down, it looks like i’m in soup and i’m just part of the ingredients being stirred up. the distance, i think, was about a mile, point to point along the cliffs. someone told me they saw a shark from the cliffs not that long ago. “thanks,” i said. when i was done, i hauled my sorry ass outa the water and up the sea rocks to where the big pools that look like goldfish bowls are holding water, waiting to give it back to the sea when the moon pulls the tides up like stockings. the moss was slick, green grease and the smells of dead and alive and everything in between filled me up and up. there ain’t no rhyme or reason to why i do that shit, i’m a little scared of it. sometimes, like today, when i’m out there far enough and alone, i wonder about my heart and when it’ll just kinda have enough of this shit i put it through. little flutters. hesitating life. 


there’s a bar down the hill. i went down and had a beer and a bourbon and a burger, the triple b’s.  seems like everyone in this town is beautiful, almost like they were all made for each other. i feel old today. and worn. neck hurts. body aches. grey in my beard. hard to find the good looks between all the wrinkles i’m cultivating. back up the hill on the bike, it’s steeper than usual. where’s the moon anyway, i think she’s waning so maybe she’s out later. the sky is empty tonight. i’m sick of words and drawing and stuff that i do, i think that’s a good sign that i need to move along. go out and out a little farther. i’ve been thinking of going somewhere else in the world, but i’m pretty sure it’s just me running from something that’s buried down there in my nasty squirmy guts. i think the trick to everything is giving it all less power. the wishing and the loving and the lifting and the pulling…just turn away and walk toward the open spaces. 


i was told that my dreams are abnormal. i went to see my psychiatrist, did i tell you i have one of those? isn’t that weird? lot’s of questions about lots of stuff. i guess i do like it a little, i just haven’t ever had someone that doesn’t know me ask me those kind of things. they got their theories and i got mine. i don’t ever tell them everything, that’s probably why they always want me back. cat and mouse. they gave me a ton of pills, i could make some good money on that stuff! instead they all just sit and roast in my little r.v….i don’t wanna flush them, i worry over the ocean too much to put that weird stuff in the water. i will have so many pills by the time i’m dead that i’ll be able to dope the government and make them stop being idiots. that’s the plan, i’m saving all my pills so that i can dope the government and make them go to sleep, they do less harm when they’re sleeping.


anyway…that’s about it. not much else to report, captain. 

tick tock

i woke up this morning in the camper and saw Time sitting at the end of the bed.

“Don’t you ever sleep?”

“No. I don’t sleep, never have. I’ve been waiting up for you all night.”

I glanced at my phone, 6:07 a.m. The days have been getting shorter. I noticed that Time was wearing a sweater. He was just sitting there, smoking a cigarette with a little smile on his face.

“Leave me alone,” I said.

“I didn’t say a word,” Time replied.

I climbed from my bed and stepped under the skyfull of fading stars. Ah, my favorite moon, the waning moon at dawn. teacup moon. I stopped and looked up for a bit, Time shouldered past me and cleared his throat.

“What? Why are you acting like that?”

Time was surly, impatient. “You have a lot to do, I’m not so sure you should be looking at the moon. I’ve noticed you forget to check in with me when you stare at the moon too much.”

“Maybe I’ll just stare at the moon all day,” my reply intentional and direct.

“That’s silly talk, come on, you know what they say, There’s no better Time than the present.” Time walked in front of me, anxious for coffee.

I didn’t respond, it’s incredibly arrogant to give quotes that include yourself. Time irritates me and he knows it. He tags along, always smoking and quoting himself, thinking he’s so important. He waits for me all night and then gets involved with nearly everything I do. He puts his numbers on my phone and on clocks and watches. He’s an impatient, pushy acquaintance. I tell him i don’t want him around me, influencing my decisions so much. He just laughs and says, “come on, we’re going to be late.”

Over coffee, he asks me when I’m meeting my first appointment today. “Don’t lose track of…” I break in and tell him to shut up, “You are so damn arrogant, man, do you have to use your name in every sentence?”

“Hey man,” Time says, “you’re the one who made me so important, you and your kind. Before you humans came along, I barely existed. I lived like a wild thing, only recognized by the animals as light and dark. I almost wasn’t a thing at all. You humans began to recognize me, you named me. You began turning over hourglasses and giving me importance. You worshiped my numbers and built clocks on towers and honored me with gold watches. You took me to sea and used me to navigate the oceans. I helped you dominate the world. So stop acting like you don’t need me. I am in your life till the end…right down to your final hour. And when you die, if there are humans around to see it, they will write down the Time, even the minute, when you are declared dead. I help define you, start to finish. Even you, Tobias, the one who thinks you don’t need me, check your clock several times a day. Even you depend on me.”

I looked Time in the eyes. And then i stared up at the moon, fading in the morning light.

As I walked away, he followed. Right now he sits, lazy eyed, looking at me and waiting, drumming his fingers on the table. He lights another cigarette, knowing full well his importance.

August 27th, 1967

Way back, when things were different, there wasn’t time. There was no time and there was nothing to keep it. The sun rose and set, so did the moon. And the tides did what tides do and the skies held the anvil clouds that promised lightning and rain. In those places we call lonely, there was nothing, but lonely is just a word we give it. I’m not sure if it’s true.

But yeah, way back, before the two-legged’s started naming everything, there wasn’t time.  Somewhere after those nifty hands spun the first flame, two-legged’s decided to measure life. We’ve always been watchers and thinkers. There was that yellow sun and it crossed our skies, so did the moon. We started counting, then we divided, then made stuff that could keep track of those divisions.

Eventually a fella made a timepiece that could be carried. People with thumbs used them to count the hours and minutes and seconds as the stars twirled in the sky. Mostly, it was used to keep from being lost at sea. I suppose it’s good to know where in the world we are. But really, where are we? I mean do we even know where we are in this giant, spinning soup? Hell, the smart guys can give it all the names they want, but I say “nope, we are lost,” or maybe, more accurately, “we don’t know where we really are.” Just because you can name planets and stars and galaxies doesn’t mean you know where you are.  There are things beyond those things. I have a feeling that everything we know is what is floating on the surface of and impossibly big ocean that we can’t even see.

It’s easy to know what time it is these days. Everything shows the time. On my last trip, I failed to charge things and failed to keep things up to date and failed in general. I didn’t know what time it was but I wanted to miss LA rush hour so I asked an older fella what time it was. He looked at me kinda weird, and then he gave me the hours and minutes as he read them from the watch on his wrist, a rarity these days. It was 4:05 and, once I knew, I was the same as I was before I knew it.

I picture Time as a giant master with little tolerance. He is ready to tell you what you don’t wanna know, things like, “your time is up,” or “There is no time left.” It’s funny that us two-legged’s created him, we made our master.

Now i ain’t about to get too crazy tonight, not with this thing. I was just thinking about the beginning of stuff and it led to time. So often i’m off track, it’s so easy for me to be off in the weeds rousting around after who knows what. I guess I’m just happy to see the stars at this point of my life. To look up and see the universe, cuz man, it’s there, it sure is. And it don’t matter whether you know it or not, you’re lucky to be in a world that holds whales and hummingbirds and seagulls and raccoons and rolly pollies. You’re godamnn lucky, and so am I.

If it weren’t for the big other, i’d not have a reason to search. And without a reason to search, i lose my breath. And without my breath, I’d turn to dust…which isn’t really that terrible, as long as it’s not in a jar or a tin on the mantle with my three gold teeth rattling around.

But yeah, beginning is cool. We all started at some point, at some time. My start was into this world at 7:44 on a sunday morning, 3 days from a full moon in the month of August, the 27th, in fact. And the finish is out there too, in the pretty future. It’s all so easy.

“Row, row, row, your boat,

gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily,

life is but a dream.”

And maybe so.  Maybe it’s a dream….


the biggest problem with bad news is that it’s hard to know what to do with it. do you share it? i mean, then someone else has it as well, and it doesn’t make anything better, not really.  so do you hang on to it? just let it rot inside ya? i personally like to take my bad news for a nice long run or a cold ocean swim. i treat bad news like a training partner that i want to ruin. sometimes it works, but it really sucks if the bad news turns out to be tougher than me. oh man, then i tend to spin out a little. i always tell myself that someone, somewhere is dealing with something bigger and tougher than anything i can imagine, and i know i’m right about that, for sure.

tonight i walked up 4th ave to rose. there’s a whole foods on the corner there and i needed some greens. i built my expensive little salad, walked outside, told a fella i didn’t have a smoke to offer him, and sat down at the next table. he stared hard at me to decide if i was lying about the smoke, so i said i wasn’t lying. he blinked, got up and walked away. somewhere down the sidewalk there was loud laughing, i think it was coming from behind a grocery cart piled enormously with anything you might imagine.  what i noticed about the laughter is that it wasn’t the kind that is from something good, it was the kind that comes from a person that has nothing left to do but laugh. like the kind of thing a person might do as they were lowered into the fire. and man, it went on and on. i finished eating and glanced up to see a dreadlocked man with big hands walk into traffic, long steady strides, while cars locked up their brakes and people laid on their horns. i walked down the walk with my bottle of newly purchased goddess dressing and some greek yogurt. a young kid cussed out his girlfriend in spanish on the corner. a cute girl rode by on her bike with her 9′ longboard in tow.  evening had set and dark was coming on. in the distance i could hear the hidden laugher, still laughing.

there’s this, on a single tuesday night on 4th and rose. and there’s a million things more. i know there’s good stuff going on. of course there is. but maybe it’s like when i’m sad, how i can only hear the sad songs and the happy songs somehow seem kind of stupid and off key. maybe that’s just how we are as a species, we see best through empathetic lenses.

sometimes i gotta look elsewhere. i go outside of the human predicament to look for some kinda light in the dark. all i need’s just a little, you know, like even the slightest glow can keep you from falling in a hole. i look at the old dogs that are full of lumps and weird bulges and i see how they wag their tails. or like the redtailed hawk i saw flying in the thick red smog hanging over highway 10 as i drove into the heart of LA.  hell, i even find comfort when i see the moon remain so faithful to her ocean. the fact that we can’t last forever leads me to believe that it might be worth our while to appreciate what we got, while we got it.

tonight, while i sleep, i’ll be breathing the same smog that that ol’ redtail was flying through. i am alive in this world with all the whoevers and all the big-timers and the mean ones and the beautiful ones. the ones that hurt unimaginably. the ones that will live and die sucking on a silver spoon. the ones with the evil hearts. the ones with enough good to carry us. the moms. the sweetest of sweeties.

one of these days i’m gonna work this all out, make it better. it really would be nice to fix things up a little bit around here. yeah, that’ll be a good thing to do and i’m gonna.  but first i think i should probably try to figure out if that laughing wasn’t coming from inside my own head.