tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: sailing

Looking Around

There are days when I wake up dragging. Of course I got a few excuses up my sleeve, but do you wanna hear them? Really? That’s the funny thing about each of us as individuals; we think we’re an exception to the rule. We tend to think our excuse will be the one that people actually listen to. It’s so damn easy for me to forget that there is a whole world of individuals out there trying to find their way, just like me. There are ones that think they’re The Gift to everyone they meet.  There are ones that think they are less than nothing. There are singular little souls that don’t know that they have bodies that will win gold medals in some future Olympics. There are the quiet writers with shy words that glimmer like silver fish in their minds. There are the bossy ones who march around and use a loud mouth to get attention. There are the ones who are confused and don’t know why and they can’t make a decision alone but always need someone to help them. There are the ones that are a spark, loved by all. There are ones not loved and are starving for just a moment of attention.

I’ve been looking around me at the types. I’ve been marking my thoughts. These last few days I’ve been just looking at people, my kind, humans. When I force myself to remain neutral, I can observe and maintain some form of attitude that judges less. I still judge, but it’s less. Mostly, I have come away from the experiment with a kind of guarded hope. Mostly I try not to hope, mostly I try to try. Trying is moving and working to make something happen, while hoping seems more like waiting to see if something works out in a way that’s pleasing. But sometimes, hope fits the bill. Sometimes that’s all you get, you get to hope. Kinda like when a baby is being born and there’s complications, well, I ain’t a doctor, so I hope and believe that things’ll work out. I guess that’s how I feel about Us. You know, the big Us. I hope that somehow kids that are born a hundred years from now will have evolved into something less selfish. I hope they will love bicycles more than Mindcraft. I hope they will want to play in the woods and point at the warblers in the Ponderosas more than pretend to be adults in a coffee shop talking loudly about some “fool” they don’t like. I hope that the public, in general will have realized that social media is not as real as realness and that virtual friends that are numbered in a friends box are not actual friends that will walk to the river with you and cry with you or laugh at some face you made that always makes them laugh. I hope that a generation will come out of this generation and not be afraid to not follow the charlatans who want to lead with big words but no wisdom. This is what I was thinking about as the people walked around me as I sat and ate a slice of pizza in the sun.

My hope definitely goes beyond people, but I gotta include them because, well, because We the people are here in all our gloriousness/disgustingness. Like when I hope for rivers that run from the mountains to the sea and I worry that they will be trapped by some energy hungry company that builds a damn and so damns the fish and the life that can no longer happen as it has since rivers first began, back when mountains happened and the skies were young. I think about this because I’ve seen the streams of my childhood put into metal tubes and buried under concrete like they never even were. All the mint that grew along the banks is gone. Every salamander gone. Crawdads gone. Some of the cottonwoods, the ones that made the cut, still stand and hold the memories of that time before the humans came and covered the world. There is a relationship between the sky and streams, the streams and the stones, the stones and the sea, the sea and the trees, the trees and the whales…and so on. It’s there whether you think it’s hokey or not. Maybe you don’t like to think about stuff like that, but it doesn’t make it go away. One of our biggest faults is simply not recognizing the existence of that relationship. It’s almost like a thing we are intentionally forgetting because it’s not convenient. It is convenient to flip a light switch, it’s not convenient to put everything down for a few minutes, walk to the trees and listen. I think the point here is clear enough, but like I said, it’s not comfortable to think about the things we’re losing while we pander to ourselves. I think about this a lot, mostly because I’m as guilty as anyone every time I ignore the little atrocities that seem to come from every direction. Believe me, I fret over whether to hear the news or pretend like nothing’s happening.

I think it’s a choice. It’s all a choice. With what do you share your soul? If the most soulful thing you do is post witty quotes or videos that begin with “this guy did this, and you won’t believe what happened next…” on facebook or insta, maybe you should try turning that stuff off for a bit and go ask your grandma about her first kiss. Or ask your mom about the house she grew up in, or maybe what her fears were as a child. Ask your dad about when he learned to ride a bike, or if he ever skinny dipped. You see, it’s my opinion that these things are good for your soul. Things that create our person and form us are where the soul hooks onto us. And it’s our soul that moves about and mixes with the wind and rivers. It’s in the dark ocean and stars and as far out as we can imagine it to be. It’s a shadowy part of us that doesn’t really translate that well in these computer-type things. It’s what stirs us on the inside when we stare at the panthers that are pacing in cages. It’s what shudders when we hear about the polar bears swimming for places that no longer exist. These souls of ours have giant sails, they are powerful and capable but useless if we don’t tend to them.

Here we are, all of us with our sails up. The winds are blowing and blowing and the water’s deep and full of wonders both magnificent and terrible. We are all around one another and the stars are sharp and singing, and the planets are spinning above us in unison around the sun. It is only life and death here. We have our own existence, but there is so much more than that! There are stars that were shining on this earth before the first clock was invented, before time enslaved us and taught us to check in with the numbers that tell us what we should be doing. We are a thread in the most intricate tapestry. We have options, we can tend sails and fly like the wind herself, or we can go below and lock the cabin hatch and pretend like we are not on the sea at all.

imaginary tendencies

i live in a toyota dolphin. it’s handy little rig, pretty small for a cetacean. i drive it around and park it where i feel like it’ll be unobtrusive. i make coffee in it. i sleep and draw in it. i listen to willie nelson cassette tapes in it. recently, i got the ol’ heater to work, so now i even kinda lounge in it. dolphins are cool to begin with, and now i have vehicle named after them.

this dolphin of mine reminds me of a sail boat. there’s all kinds of similarities.

~ to move it, you kinda got to pull up anchor, clear the decks, check for loose items.

~ it floats down the road, listing and swaying.

~ backing up is a pain in the ass.

~ speeding motorists fly around it as if it were a permanent fixture, much like powerboats do when passing a sailboat.

~ i have a dingy (my bicycle) that is very important once i’m parked (docked).

~ i took out the restroom because it was weird and i think it’s weird to carry a sloshing tank of shit around with you. (this could lead me into a story about a similar sloshing tank on a boat i spent months on before discovering the tank that had been capped for years. we always wondered what that lingering stench was, until that discovery. it made an impression on me and caused me to dislike tanks of shit.)

~ it’s slow.

~ the roof is in a constant state of repair. when you do not maintain it, it will leak. this is comparable to a sailboat and how it is always trying to sink. no up-keep, sinky boat.

these are a few of the similarities. there’s more but i don’t want you to amaze you anymore than i have already. mostly, i pretend i’m sailing while i’m in it. i see the stars overhead through my “escape hatch” and i feel the wind pushing the rig in the night. i wake and make coffee and step into the world. sometimes it’s a street corner in san francisco and i walk a block or two to the fontaines’ house. the fontaine sisters are strong supporters of my wily ways. they put up with the sand i leave in the shower and my project piles in corners and on porches. they see me living imaginatively and their eyes light up. they too, live imaginatively.

sometimes i land in the yard outside of chris and ethan. i float in and haunt their property that lies at the foot of the park in joshua tree.  there are bows and arrows with targets in the yard. there are stones all stacked with wild desert plants. chris (chrispy) is the hot mama of all things on this land and ethan walks around with shoulders as big as boulders. when i sail in, they shout and smile and throw food onto plates and tell me to stay. rowan is their boy. he’s a teenager now and still my friend. usually kids get too cool during a certain age, you know what i mean, and they create a little distance while they figure it out. rowan seems to have skipped it with me. we’ve been buddies all along. he makes me feel cool. the family listens to my same old, worn out stories and they are sweet enough to let me slide when i tell stories twice. when i stop there, their shine rubs off on me and i leave there a better looking man.

there are many ports. nick and elizabeth and the farm, where i spend part of my year in awe. tim and bonnie and the A-frame, where little ruby climbs the walls and dances for all. brian and summer and the urban oasis, where i see my old friend and we laugh. johnny thomson for the surfing and the swims. gus and amy and santiago de la trinidad, where i can be in the driveway or in the house or in the garage.  hunter dahlberg and the forge and the hammers and the shelf of books that i love.  my brother, josh, and the world into which i’m always invited. on and on and on….

so i’m a sailor. i sail to and fro. the world is an ocean and the skies are the map. there is an end out there somewhere, for sure. i picture the edge of the world, where everything dumps off into space, and that’s where i’m sailing. there’s plenty of sea ahead full of the stories that are yet to come. i’ve abandoned my compass. the charts i quarter are make-believe and i only do it for fun. these are the places i’ve been, these and others. when i’m lost, i wait for something to jog my memory, some distant siren, some floating hint. i keep track of the angles of the suns and the moons, each day slightly different, every pattern changing. i study the birds as they chase the poles and memorize stars.  the future unfolding into now, and here i am, caught in the colors that jump from what’s real.

imagination fills these sails. so much open sea!

between the devil and the deep blue sea

Imagethere is a cove in southern mexico, way south, where the mountains come right down to the sea. it’s a tiny cove, just big enough to allow a boat to anchor without being hit with direct ocean swell. on a map it shows as a little dip in the coastline, definitely not something you would think was worth a stop-over. i was sailing with two buddies. we were unsure of whether to anchor and get sleep or to sail through the night.

there are several facts that i should disclose here. i am not a sailor, although; i was on a sail boat for over six months. my buddies are not sailors either. we were sailing, we just weren’t sailors. all of us are capable in the common sense kind of way and all of us have had plenty of adventures together. we weren’t too worried. we were real happy to be doing something we didn’t know how to do. ok, so that’s the preamble. oh yeah, and we didn’t really know where we wanted to go…mostly, we wanted to go toward the sun.

so, back at the little cove…and the world and the stars and the sea and the wooden boat and the breath from our bodies and the beating hearts, all together. all in one place. we had sailed for 40 and a few hours without the modern sailing-conveniences of GPS’s and auto-pilot. we were tired. we dropped anchor and did everything we had read in Sailing for Dummies to make sure we didn’t end up on shore (a kind of rocky looking strip in the failing light) in the middle of the night.

i didn’t sleep well. i was worried about our anchor that had dropped too deep and seemed to be almost straight down. in the night, the waves stopped completely and i woke to silence…complete silence. it was like the universe was on pause. i stood up out of my sleeping bag and looked at the stars as they ran all the way down to the sea. beyond that amazement, the silky flat ocean was full of glowing plankton that were spaced out like the stars. it was as if the sky and the sea had come together and become the same thing. the truth is, they are…they are the same thing. i went to my bag and slept in the middle of the cosmos, for reals.

the morning was soft and wonderful. the cove was deep and blue. the anchor was stuck when we tried to pull it so i swam down to check. i went down, hand over hand, on the anchor chain and the clarity of the ocean was unbelievable. huge fish swam far below me and into the bluer farther farther. i worked at the anchor and several breath-holds later, we were loose and heading out.

i have always loved that saying, “between the devil and the deep blue sea”, and i know that it means to be stuck. i like to think of it different. i’m not worried about the devil and i love the deep blue sea. this is the truth i feel from living like i do; i am capable of any possible good and evil, the best version of myself is the one standing on the deck of that boat, in between the stars and the plankton. right there, exactly there…and hopefully someday, everywhere else too.