tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: time


Give me the backroads, please. The ones with potholes and pullouts. The ones that make less sense and sometimes swerve to allow the tree to stay.

Yeah, backroads, please. Don’t bother listing them on the apps, just leave them be. Let them be found by real eyes and accidental turns.

And what about that old motel? And the old woman cutting roses in the shade of the cottonwood. With miles of open land on every side. And the sky, sitting quiet, watching the silliness below. That sign that says, No. No wifi. And that makes me laugh because that’s a funny thing to make a sign about. She’d rather be cutting roses than answering that question, so she made a sign for her motel.

Here the road turns in Merrill, like it did in Janesville, like it did in Lakeview. And there is little for the average. But for the looker, oh my, there is so much to see.

The annoying needle on the gas gauge is giving me the news. It’s been a while since any sign of a station and the forward progress of my half-bald tires is threatened by the fuel consumption. My foot is lighter on the gas and the dolphin sways with the cottonwoods and the grass as the wind pushes back. There is Paisley, population of 239. The sun just came up and the town is sleepy. Gas station opens at 8 a.m. The diner says Open. I park the dolphin and get the eye from the two women talking at the drive-thru coffee kiosk. I imagine Mayberry (Andy Griffith’s old town where he mostly kept Barney out of trouble–if you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s ok. But it’s a T.V. show. Back when t.v.’s had rabbit-ear antennae and a knob that changed channels and only 4 or 5 channels to choose from. Back when black and white television was a thing.) might have been like this, minus the coffee kiosk. Something about that show made me sad and happy, both. I loved that Opie and his dad were walking to the creek with fishing rods while the song for the show whistled along. The episodes were everyday-type things. Nothing over the top. Just regular stuff with Barney being a genius buffoon.

Inside the diner there are 4 men at a table. Jan comes from the kitchen. Coffee and an egg sandwich. Paisley, according to the census has had a -4.0 population change since 2000.  The average income is $30,000 or so. Jan is nice and wants me to have meat on my egg sandwich. The 4 men leave with fanfair and jokes for Jan. A woman my age and her father come in and sit. I hear the old man talk, he’s a product of Paisley. His views are apparent. His jokes are easy to read and his daughter is patient as he speaks in circles. I begin to wonder if all old men are destined to be the same. I drop into my memories and picture the middle-age fellas with peculiar cars and hairy ears, and the Me of  now would have been one of these fellas to the Me of then. So will I be the old man with circular speak? And who will be patient as I follow my own footprints, looping in circles through the thick timbers of my darkening mind? Yikes! I shake my head and pay. Goodbye to Jan. Goodbye to Paisley. The dolphin has gas by 8:05 and the road goes on swervilly.

The Doyle grade goes up by Lost Creek where the brook trout are like 10 inch footballs. They are fat and full of lightning. I’ve pinched down the barbs on my hooks so they don’t cause unnecessary damage to them bony little mouths. The stream flows from some source and bounds down through the granite and the chaus and across my shins. The wind speaks in smell. I am tripping through my thoughts about being, about my being in particular. I wonder how many bodies these molecules of water that I’m touching and drinking have been through. What dinosaurs have guzzled these same atoms of Hydrogen(2) and Oxygen(1)? And of the wind. How many trees have these winds been through? Who last breathed this air? Bobcat? Bluejay? Bristle-backed boar? And the smells are colorful and the colors are songs. This is what the senses are for!

I’m not a middle-aged man. I’m not a boy. I’m just an organism in the middle of a giant organism. I am moving to and fro. The world around me moves inside the system to which it belongs. And that system swings on the Orion arm of the Milky Way. And this galaxy dances with Andromeda, while something bigger moves beyond my comprehension. I can’t comprehend it but I see it’s shadow flickering in the corner of my mind. I am wondering. I am everything that ever was. I am absolutely nothing at all.

Hold my M-40, I’ve gotta find my bird book

21 years ago, give or take a month or two, I came to a stop on a steep hillside.

my buddy, Brian, waited patiently for me to move, I was looking down

at a nest with two blue-ish eggs the size of jelly beans in a miniscule nest laced

into the branches of a dead mustard plant.


Brian moved to my side and asked me why I was stopped.

Time is of the essence during this kind of training, clocks tick

and superiors comb the terrain with high-powered lenses.

There is not space in the day for contemplative moments and tiny wonders.


But there we were, in the hinterlands above the pacific, as witnesses

of a secret place where life moved under blue-ish calcium husks

and where helicopters searched for two snipers in training

and where the Future stood on it’s tippy toes to look back and see how Now would arrive.


And Now arrived yesterday as I sat in line for a coffee, Brian at the wheel,

and we talked as old friends do, about anything, because we can.

and I pointed at the California Gnatcatcher in the spindles of a tree

as he looked under leaves for spiders, hiding from the rain.

Oh my, from out the wild mind.

Ruby’s 7. She’s been my friend for the same number of years as she’s been alive. It’s cool, i’ve been friends with her Ma and Dad since they first got together, so I get included in stuff. I love it. Little Rube’s been playing the piano for a little while now and she’s been singing for as long as I can remember. We’ve been thinking of putting a band together, we don’t have a name for it yet, but what we do know is that she’ll be playing the piano and singing and I’ll be backup singer and dancer. So far it’s just the two of us, which is cool by me.

She told me that the notes to a piano sit in the strings on the inside. She said they sit there and wait to be chosen so they can make their sound. I pictured that in my mind; the notes perched like pretty little birds on the wires and waiting to be flushed out by the felt and wood hammers. all flying around the room and into peoples’ ears, causing a stir, making eyes to sparkle and dreams to flow. She was very interested in thinking on the inner workings of the piano. She pointed out that it’s not electric, that the sounds were not made by something else except those little wires where the notes wait and wait and hope for a chance to play.

I don’t think I’ve ever loved the piano as much as when Ruby talks about it. It is so pretty to picture it the way she describes it. if i could choose any place to visit, Ruby’s mind would be at the top of the list. I’ll bet it’s an amazingly wild patch of wilderness!

I hadn’t seen Ruby in almost a year until yesterday. We caught up while she bounced from the bed onto a mattress on the floor and then up again onto the other bed. She might have bounced down and up and back over 200 times, i don’t know, but she only stopped when I got up and walked out for a drink. She is a real live Sprite from out of the old fairy tales. Hundreds of freckles, long, wild, ruby colored hair, and enough energy to start up the sun, should it ever go out.

Later in the day, I had a chance to ask her the “Would you rather” routine that I like to do. Grown-ups don’t like to play it that much, well, some do I guess, like Foster and Johnny Thomson, but for the most part, only kids play. It went like this:

Would you rather be:

the sky or the ocean?   answer: the sky.

the wind or a cloud?   answer: a cloud, because the clouds can go get a sip of the ocean and also rain or lightning.

a cloud or a bird?   answer: bird, that’s an easy one.

a bird or a unicorn?   answer: a unicorn.

a unicorn or pegasus?  answer: i’d rather be an anicorn which is a unicorn with wings.

me: oh, really? so that’s what that’s called?

ruby: yes, and they’re beautiful and white or black.

me: did you know that there’s a whale that has a horn like a unicorn? it’s called a narwhal.

ruby: yes, but it doesn’t really come out of their head, it’s more like a tooth.

me: oh.

a turtle or frog?   answer: turtle.

ruby: please don’t tell me you’re gonna ask a horse or a cheetah.

a wolf or a bear?    answer: wolf.

a wolf or a horse?    answer: horse.

a horse or a cheetah?    answer: ohhh, man, that’s a really tough one. ummm. oh, i can’t even choose!

me: ok, here’s the deal. i’ll let you be one of them on the weekend, so for two days you can be one. The rest of the 5 days you get to be the other. Which one do you wanna be on the weekend?

ruby: ummm, the horse.

me: so you’ll be the cheetah when you go to school?

ruby:  cheetahs don’t need to go to school.

me: oh. you’re right.

the sun or the moon?   answer: the sun.

the darkness or light?   answer: the light.

sand or mud?   answer:  oh, if i choose sand do i have to be the deep down sand or can i be sand on the top?

me: whatever you want, little rube.

ruby:  ok then, sand on the top.

me:  why?

ruby: because it’s warm and nice to feel and it’s not cold and dark.

me:  you like the light don’t you?

ruby:  uh huh. i like being warm.

a flower or a tree?   answer: uh, do you think we should walk down and see what the ocean is doing?

me: sure, do you need a sweater?

ruby: naw, it’ll be quick if we just hurry.

me:  ok. should we bring a snack?

ruby:  naw.

me:   ok.

postscript: i’m increasingly aware of the distance between my beating heart and the grave, it seems a bit of a catch 22. i love to run and make this ol’ heart clunk, while all the while it is clipping toward it’s end. at times, it’s heavy for me to think like this, other times, no. when i sit my heart next to a life that is so brilliant, like Ruby’s, i am lifted, caught up in the vapor trail of her rocket engines ripping through the blue. oh, life will pass, sure enough, but not without me filling up with the little birds that are flushed from the wires by felt covered hammers. c’mon Ruby girl, let’s us have a dance!

monks in the leaves


I had a dream last night that I walked into a group of monks saying prayers to fallen leaves. The leaves covered the ground all around them and as far as I could see out into the forest. As it often is in dreams, I somehow knew what they were doing without asking them. I mentioned to one of them that there were too many leaves, that they would never finish praying. One smiling monk looked at me and said very simply, “true.”

Several nights ago, I had another dream. I was with my friend, Sarah, and we came across a snake. At first it was a Gopher snake and then it changed and grew rattles. It became a Rattler in front of our eyes, neither of us seemed concerned. Outside of dreamlife, I’m not afraid of snakes. I don’t worry of being bitten despite sleeping on the ground in the areas where snakes move and groove. It ain’t because I’m brave, it’s just that I’ve always liked snakes and I’ve noticed that they just don’t want much to do with us humans. They are focused on smaller things, things they might hunt and eat. In the dream, the Rattler was crawling across the plastic lid from a discarded trashcan, as we watched, a meadowlark landed on the edge of the lid. I told Sarah that the snake didn’t eat birds, and then it did. It struck and swallowed the bird entirely.

I don’t have any insight on dreams. They are as real as everything else, I reckon. They affect me about like the other stuff. And also, I’m tired of my opinion. Lately, it seems stale and old. I’m tired of my own voice when I’m trying to say what it is that I believe in. My beliefs change daily, even if ever so slightly, and so to say them is a bit of a waste of time. I’m tired of trying to drag bigger thoughts up out of the murk only to lose them at the surface; left with only the silver flash and a story that I may or may not be able to convey. I just might not find the words. Lately, I don’t have them. Them monks might have been onto something, sitting there praying to the millions of falling leaves; at least they know what they are doing.

Despite my misgivings and my forgettings and my empty jar of marbles, I do feel compelled to write about a thing or two. If, for some reason you’re still with me, I’ll do my best to keep it short, for all our sakes. These are words about a trip, a drive, but more than that, it’s about stones and mesas and things too old to understand.

When I started my Toyota Dolphin at 4:15 or so, there wasn’t even the slightest hint of dawn to the east. Stars? Yes, by the billions. And that little moon, She was there, dying again in front of my very eyes. Agendas are something I shy away from, for better or worse. I really love to not have one. So was the case as I pointed my nose, and the nose of the dolphin, to the east and the desert that the east held and the thoughts that the desert held. I believe the desert holds old thoughts, not just mine. I think that maybe the old stones and trees have been recording the happenings since before the first minute hand began to click and clock. The Earth remembers on Her own, with or without our recognition. Our own sense of importance has reached a fever pitch. (If smart phones were mirrors, and they are essentially a way to look at ourselves, imagine how many times we are looking at ourselves every day in every conceivable way. ) Narcissus is alive and well, walking miles and miles in our shoes. And with these thoughts, I would beg you to remember the world that made us. Remember what gave us our first imaginings. Our eyes have been fixed on the wonder of a turning world since we were skin-clad tribes and before. This is why I feel inclined to write, regardless of my reckless choice of words and caveman punctuation. Allow me this space to tug your sleeve in the direction of a wonderful, forgotten hollow. Some hidden meadow. A river that still flows with mystery in it’s belly to an ocean that is doing Her best to forgive us our sins.

When the Sun came up, it was across the flanks of Iron mountain. I’ve heard that Creosotes may be the largest ancient organisms, that they are all linked in the roots. Even if that’s not true, I want to believe it. I’ve heard that Aspen trees are linked in the roots as well. And then, while we’re thinkin’ about roots and links and connection, there’s the world of Mycelium. If ever there was a way to be lost in a forest, it’s on your belly where the Mycelium are interlacing and allowing the harmonious breakdown of all that is dead so that everything can live. Mushrooms stand on the fringes of infinity, for sure. And so I saw the Sun shine through miles of Creosote branches, His orange light diffused. My heart beats a little different in the morning, dawn treats me sweetly. Signs warned of a soft shoulder; no pulling off the side of the road ’cause you’ll get stuck. People have died in the desert on the side of a road because, well, it’s the desert and they didn’t have water. The desert and the ocean have much in common, it’s easy to die in either one.

I stopped when the road in front of me pinched down to nothing, as did the road behind me. Straight and flat and foreverish. I climbed out of my rig and walked up the road, the only sound was a kind of a hint of wind, as if it was out there sneaking around in the hidden washes. i looked back at the dolphin, it was perched in the center of the road, and I felt like i was committing a crime. I guess that is a crime, leaving a vehicle on the centerline of a highway. What a wildcat I am. Above me, the sky was laced with the controversial trails of jets, far too many to be a normal thing. Chemtrails or not, I hate that they’re there, blocking me from an empty sky. As far as I’m concerned, even dumping that much fuel into the sky shouldn’t be ok. I walked back to my rig and started it’s fuel driven engine with guilt. Me and the jets, dumping our poisons into this amazing place. I know I’d feel better if i was cranking on a bicycle, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be to my brother’s house for Christmas.

The sign above the highway as I entered Arizona read, “Drive hammered, get nailed.” I have always thought it was crazy that bars can even exist. Since folks drink at a bar, and they usually drive there, ummm. Humans are weird, man. The Mojave and the Joshua trees gave way to the Sonoran desert and the Saguaros. I drove through the day, my thoughts rattling like cans behind my rig, you know, just-married style. Somewhere, I stopped and made coffee and a quesadilla. As evening fell, I crossed into New Mexico. Traffic fell away and the sky showed as a beautiful open hole into the universe. Sleep was all over me, had to stop. A pull-out and a back lot, ice on the ground, the rumble of diesel engines doing their all night burn. I went to sleep wondering, “what ever was wrong with trains anyway?”

4 a.m.  Coffee blacker’n Satan’s heart. On the highway it was me and the stars and an occasional big rig. Miles and miles of shining highway lines. As the sun started to shine from under the sheets of the night, i could see the clouds in front of me.

As I write, presently, it is tempting to use words that might be misconstrued. The word, “alien,” for example, is maybe not the best word for the job. Alien, as a word, is loaded with connotation. It’s not just that I believe in something way bigger, it’s that I must. Moving through these deserts and feeling the wild world compounds with each step i take away from my vehicle, from my devices, makes me know that there is much more than what I see. Everything taken from actual living is far more valuable than learning it some other way. So the feeling of mystery becomes real and then I begin to see signs that aren’t going to be found in books or computers, they will only be found in the quiet spaces between my heart and the stars. Way out there, I am not surprised by visions. And all those things, like the things beyond usual, become more and more likely. The New Mexican desert, with it’s mesas and haunted cloud formations, is a portal through which we may travel. The words of the Ancients are carved into stones and all the Others from beyond the stars are standing just out of the corner of our eyes. Go. Be alone and be quiet so that you can hear. Nothing needs to be posted so that you can feel validated, leave that till later. Turn things off. Walk some miles under trackless skies. Drink some of your water and watch the wind sneak through the canyons. Be an alien to what is regular and chase the things that are older and more important. Leave time behind so that you won’t be distracted. Un-name your days. Pull the hours apart and leave them scattered on the ground.

I landed in Colorado. My dolphin spent a night in the town of Elizabeth, where I visited with Stan and Goldie. We sat in the kitchen and looked at the prairies that come from so far away. The little songbirds, the ones that brave the cold, sit outside in the bare-branched trees. They sit on the carcasses of thistles and sunflowers. They come find the seeds spread by Stan and Goldie. Story time with Stan, Lt. Col. Austin. We trade tales that cross one another with familiar names. We served at different times but our community was small and names carry weight. So we laughed and lied and told the truth in no particular order. History is a tangled thread. Stan carries his massive biceps under cantaloupe shoulders. His thick neck is the result of thousands of hours bowing against the tides. He’s a sight. We compare gray beards and laugh at the ticking clock. It’s nice that I can visit some of my heroes. Crazy Horse is gone, but Stan lives on.

From Elizabeth to Golden is only about an hour. My brother waits in the drive. Josh is always lean and mean. We have a beer in the garage while someone swipes my wallet from my rig out front. I let my guard down, I lose a little cash. The wallet gets tossed in the bushes a half block away, the person who owns the house recognizes it as something handmade. A call is made to my brother, Josh, “is tobias here? there’s a wallet in my drive that looks like he made it.” So I get the wallet back minus the cash and cards. Luck isn’t good or bad, it’s just the name we give to what we like and don’t like. You wanna know what I like? I like the thought of monks, under the trees, praying for the fallen leaves.

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….

a touch more seasoning

i’ve had little to write about lately. or maybe there’s plenty to write about but i don’t know how to do it. i think i might start this way quite often. i suppose there’s little things here and there, and if i was a better writer i’d be able to do something with them. like make something out of nothing, the way jesus and houdini did, but i ain’t and i don’t. i’ve wanted to write about the people i’ve seen. some of the waves i’ve been involved with. the owls in eamon’s trees. i’ve even wanted to write about my glitchy shoulder that turned out to be my glitchy neck, but i knew that would lead to whining and self pity and, while i really do love to carry on about myself in a cry-baby kind of way, it’s just not tolerable to read. i save that shit for conversation when i can just blame it on my runaway mouth.

i also wonder if my lack of writing stems straight from some kind of genetic deficiency. some old fashioned folks might call it laziness but i don’t like the sound of that, and i certainly don’t want to blame that on my mom and dad. i just think there’s something wrong with my thyroid. maybe even my thromboid. i’m sure it’s something. you know, one of those things i never knew existed nor do i know exactly where it functions from within my body. i would know more but i haven’t found any lumps, although i rarely check for those. checking for lumps of any kind makes me paranoid. if i do happen across one, i pray for it’s twin on the other side and will settle for almost anything in a general proximity. can you tell i don’t love doctors? or maybe i should say, i don’t like doctors who are checking me over. i don’t mind them if they’re walking down the street.

i love the seasons. there’s this set of prints by alphonse mucha that i think are called the seasons of man, and if they ain’t called that, they should be.  mucha mostly drew and painted lovely women with long, flowing hair, but in the seasons of man, he threw some fellas in the mix. granted there is still an emphasis on women but there are four male figures. the first is a child being held, the second is a youth being taught, the third (my fav) is a strapping dude having his hair braided, and last is an old grey beard teaching a group of ladies. seasons. for me they match up to my age. i loved spring as a kid. then summer became my favorite, but kind of a spring-summer mash up due to all the fishing and romping that would be done in the summertime sun and the beautiful, starlit colorado mountain nights. fall is creeping in. i notice how much i love the turning leaves. there is a wistfulness in the fall along with the clearest of skies. autumn winds are full of melancholy and the colors seem to match. i look to my tribe and see what they’re doing.  nick and elizabeth gear up for the harvest. hunter feels the heat relent in the forge and swings the hammer with an easier pace. eamon moves the stones under clear skies above san francisco. johnny paddles out. foster mulches his trees. turecki checks the landscape, inner and outer.  my kid brother, josh, takes his family for a jaunt in the aspens where the calling phones can’t follow along with the frantic questions of his workers. the fall is alright. and if it fits where i am in life, so be it.

i like how the word works in several meanings that cross over one another. if i refer to some fisherman as “seasoned,” it means he’s been out many a season and the marks of the weather are worn on his face; the nautical miles traveled,  show in his gate. if you season a meal, you give it more taste. that’s what living a full life does, it adds color and taste. wrinkles are a part of the process. wrinkles and limps and gimpy parts. grey in the beard. scars and hair in the strangest of places. twinkling eyes and slow grins. mis-grown toe nails and age spots. all these roll in like the tide, and ah my good friend, even the pretty ones deal. the fall is a rendering. an evening. it is a sweet reminder that winter is coming and, while beautiful and essential, it spells the end.  of course there’s always next year, but with life and it’s seasons, we come around once. sure, there are assurances on many fronts about eternity or a possible return as a nifty, rebuilt version of oneself, but i’m down to simply not be anymore. i love the thought that, in the end, we change shape. whether you get incinerated or buried in the dirt, eventually you become dust or ash or both. and to think of dust and the way it is particular in nature, it reminds me that we are infused into the world. kinda like the cinnamon that’s spinning in my coffee, i’ll swirl into the cosmos in pieces. as for my soul, i’m sure it will find it’s color and blend right on in…probably in the early morning greys and blues.

here we are. and we’re sitting in the world. and time is passing. and we are here. after this, the other.

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.

the lovely edge

the shanty



the world is raining. i’m sure the moss on the roof is loving it. there’s a deer feeding on the poison oak just outside the fence that runs past the shack i’m calling home. there’s a gray veil over the valley. a hound is baying from somewhere down beyond the dips and curves. southern oregon; it’s good.

i don’t have the blues, no more than normal, but the rain is sneaky; it’ll let the sad thought seep through. not yet though, i’ll push them thoughts back for a bit, reschedule them for later. i have coffee in my mitt and that is something i want to enjoy. joy and sorrow can mix but you really got to stir them.

last night i stepped outside to take a leak and i saw the moon glowing from behind the clouds. i regularly might not mention something like that but there is some significance to it. that natural bodily function that calls also requires a moment or two of stillness. in those moments i often look to the stars or into the woods. i stand, and breathe, and think.  the ponderosas were lining the hill with drooping limbs, all in black, and beyond, the sky alight with the lemon moon. beauty is difficult to describe; too often words over-used words lose their potency, thus the described reality, already second-hand goods, is relegated to the mundane. i have learned the hard way that some of my most brilliant experiences lose their magic when i try to dress them up with words. some wonders are best left to wander along the edges of my memories. reproduction is futile. re-enactment serves only to cheapen the original; glowing ambers, periwinkle skies, blood reds, and ferny greens quickly turn into some dusty daguerreotype, framed and suited for the shelf with all the other past experiences. i find very little difference between things that really were and those things that were dreams. they both are not happening. they neither one can be animated and shown as what is real. (sure we can film stuff, but it is not the same. in film there is only what is in the lens, what of everything else? what of the world behind the camera-man? what of the smell of the wharf? what of the colors the camera can’t capture? what of the whirling planets and tumbling stars?) i’m not saying the past is unimportant, nor am i saying dreams are as important as our past. they are simply a part of our life and life is best used immediately.

i have a friend who is pedaling across the country. she’s on a bike in montana and she’s pointed east. life for here is watching her feet go up and down and round and round. life is the thoughts that are buzzing around her like the bugs around a lantern on a porch in south carolina. there is the feeling of her legs. there is the sound of the approach of vehicles from the rear. there is the incessant sound of wind in her ears. there are ever-changing horizons. there are mice at night and mosquitos in the morning. there are the people along the way and the help they provide or not. she is on a mission to change awareness. she is fighting a bigger fight, but it is working itself out in the miles she covers. it is laid out in the miles to come. go sarah. i love your fight.

while i’ve written this little bit, plants have grown. the deer beyond the fence moved off into the deeper woods. i finished my coffee and checked the time; my coffee was cold at the bottom and time was still there, tapping his fingers. the rain has picked up. the birds are singing gloriously. i’m sure some news announcer somewhere is talking with a smug look about what someone else is saying about global warming or about so-and-so who is fighting cancer. i’m sure some mother somewhere is wondering what to do, how she’ll ever make it. i’m sure someone is waking up from a bender and looking to see if he has any money left. somewhere a little kid is laughing with his little sister (that laughter from the kids is a medicine for sure). we are all doing our thing. i wish we would all do it with a bit more care, me included. i’ve found it’s good to start with me and work my way out; that should keep me busy for a lifetime.  i wonder what my ma is doing…maybe i’ll give her a call and tell her about this spot at the edge of the garden and the woods. what a lovely edge. gotta go, ma is waiting.

tattoos, children, and 16,705 days


 his name is Blue. he’s standing in my lap with both hands on the wheel of my 1970 jeep. the dirt road is empty except for my rig and whatever time is ticking off on some clock makes absolutely no difference to me nor my little compadre. Blue is maybe 5 years old and a complete wonder to behold.

there he stands, his legs are planted and his shoulders shrugged. “you got the wheel, Blue. you ready?”


“i’m gonna go slow, but you gotta steer. now, you ready?”

“uh huh.”

i let the clutch out and the old engine torques us forward. the jeep has a great granny gear, so it’s slow. as we begin to cover ground, Blue is just hanging on. i have him by the waist, keeping him steady. he’s gripping the wheel but not steering. he has never done this and so does not fully understand the power at his disposal. as we begin to veer to the edge of the road lined with joshua trees and yuccas i speak. i tell him he must steer us to the safety of the middle of the road. as he turns the wheel and the jeep responds, he becomes aware of his responsibility. now he is working! now he is over-correcting and frantically turning each way with his little tongue sticking out of his mouth from the massive amounts of concentration. as we come toward Blue’s parents i can see them laughing. they laugh at their little wild man because they see his wild eyes, his wild heart. they see his innerness glowing out and lighting the spaces all around.

when we are done, Blue climbs down and looks at me. he looks at me anew and the reason is because i showed him his power and allowed him to use it. so i was seen and the power was given back in a more pure form. it’s like how a bee turns nectar to honey and allows us to taste nature in it’s wildest, sweetest form. they help us with our immunities and our allergies and our deficiencies. Blue is like a bee; he transforms something simple that i’ve given him, into something far more universal, then he gives it back. i am nourished. i am better than before.

i have a secret. i’m in good with the children. i’ve seen parents look at me and shy away. i’m maybe a little scary, depending on the demographics. i must be patient in the communities that are not used to a person who lives outside of the usual accepted boundaries. i am tattooed. i smell like woodsmoke from the fire that i use to make me warm. i don’t have any particular hair-do; it’s whatever it is when i come in from the wind. my folks taught me love by giving me excessive amounts, so much, in fact, that i have yet to run low on the precious commodity. and so it is that the kids eventually discover me.

i guess it’s been about 12 years since i first started the long process of learning to tattoo. needles, machines, ink, terms, techniques, blood-born pathogens, flash, stencils, tracing paper, tradition, appointments, cancelations, ridiculous desires, vanity, memorials, deposits, waivers, misnomers, and every imaginable desire to be represented in some way upon the body…this is tattooing. i have seen the art form change even in the twelve years i’ve paid attention. i can’t even imagine what the old artists have seen. grand changes! i’ve seen the amazement in the eyes of my costumers. people walk different when a tattoo is exactly what they wanted. it is an interesting perspective, this way of the tattooer.

i hear people say quite often, “yeah, but it’s forever!” when referring to tattoos. i understand what they mean, but i must disagree. tattooing is far from being forever; in truth, it is quite similar to what the buddhists practice when they draw beautiful pictures with colored sand. when they walk away, the wind blows and the drawings that took amazing skill and many man-hours are blown away. tattoos go away when life ends. if you were to draw on a piece of paper and put it in a sealed box, it might last several hundred years. make no mistake, we are here for but a moment. we are like beautiful lines of colored sand before the wind.

sometimes, i’ll take colored markers and set up shop at a music festival. i draw on the kids. i don’t take money. the kids ask their ma and pa and then they give me the nod. there are favorites of course. flowers and butterflies and dragons. i have many photos of the look on some little punkin’s face as i draw on their arm. it is really quite amazing how much it makes me feel like a rock star. the children. my goodness, they can swarm! i never knew how it feels to be famous until the children. i have been in the middle of a mass of giggling, wild-ones as they clamor over their dreams and desires. i become the instrument. it is waaaay bigger than me. it is the feeling of immortality. it is a higher power.

there was a day, 16,705 days ago, when i was born. it was in the morning; a sunday. my mama held me and my pa looked on as i breathed the air of the world outside of the womb. my mama gave me the necessary bacteria to be equipped for survival. they named me tobias and kept me in their world that was full up with love and teaching. i was a little kid and wild and running. time went by, i think it was minutes, and then it was today.  what of this spectacle we have labeled “life”?  if i may, i will tell you my goal for this carcass that my soul inhabits. i would like to be good at being human. this human animal with complicated thoughts and grand schemes is a child of the sun. and down here, on the surface of the world, i think i’ll nurture the things that are simple.  my heaven is being wonderful in the eyes of the kids.