tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: toyota dolphin

Rarely Wise

I guess we don’t have to know one another for me to call you friend. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna try and hug you, I’ll just share these few things with ya. If I remember that you’re my friend, I feel quieter and sweeter, it keeps me off of my soapbox and closer to the heart. Yes, your heart. Maybe grab a cup of tea or coffee and I’ll send you some scrabblings from where I sit.

I woke this morning and walked into the dark of my brother’s driveway here in Colorado. There was a cold wind and the cottonwoods were clacking branches together. A cottontail was at the fence and I saw little puffs of steam coming from her nose. She was eating grass in the cold. Before I went back into my little Dolphin RV I heard a bird call in the tree behind me. I had never noticed a Spotted Towee before this, I had to look him up. I pshh-pshhhed him a couple times and he cocked his head. Two hops from that branch closer. A wing flutter and he was on the fence with one eye toward me. He was looking at me with that fiery red eye and I was looking back. Two hearts beating and four lungs breathing and the attention between.

I put an interview on the radio when I climbed back in my rig. Leonard Cohen was talking about words, his wonderful voice low and humming. It seemed everything he said was pulled up from the deepest parts of the sea, down down in the secret trenches full of the indigo-blue dotted with glowing plankton. He was a couple weeks from dying in that interview but his thoughts were rolling and lovely, lightning over the horizon. I wonder if he did not die into a river of poetry, carried out and set loose into the stars. Leonard Cohen could have written beautiful words for another thousand years if his body hadn’t given out on him.

Every so often, I’ll be aware enough to know that I’m right here, in my skin. I feel that way right now. It ain’t because I have some cool insight into satori. I am not a shaman. I am rarely wise. But I am here because of the sun that is shining through the back window of my rickety old camper. Also, I’m here because of the Spotted Towee who’s song is still bouncing in my ears. I am here because of the Red-boned hound dog in the next yard, Tara, who is a bit overweight but has amber eyes and whose bark is so soulful as to evoke the ghosts of all hounds in all the woods of the world, causing racoons to stop washing their tiny black hands and squirrels to launch across space between the oaks and mountain lions to squint and read the future with their nose to the wind.

There used to be a tree at the bottom of the hill by my brothers house. It was a huge cottonwood. From one of the highest branches someone had hung a swing. I like swings and especially like swings that have been done in open space. Whoever hung that one had to work at it. I still climb trees a good bit and I was impressed at the difficult placement of the chain, some 50 feet off the deck. Now there are town homes going in down there where the swing used to be. The willows are bulldozed and I doubt the muskrat is still whiskering around in the swirling creek. I am sad about this stuff. I just am. But I love this world and I am working on believing in my ability to change things. I think that change in both directions is natural. I can’t make everyone see from my angles, but I’m not giving up on the dreams that are born at the edge of the creek. Maybe I’ll go hang a swing from the high branch of a cottonwood today, in some spot that is protected from bulldozers and townhomes. In a spot where the wind will pull the memories up out of your past and make you laugh like you did when you were a kid.

Breathe in some air. Drink a glass of water. Listen to a songbird. Smile and be kind. 


Montana. In my experience, boats in the water are always sinking and my RV in the rain is always leaking. Such is the case even now, I mean, I ain’t sure about boats because I’m not on one, but my little Toyota Dolphin is only yards away–and she’s most definitely leaking. I’m resigned to this inalienable truth about my rig. I do complain some, but I understand that complaints are barking dogs: they might have purpose, but mostly they are just annoying. So instead, I do what I can to stem the tide. I patch and paint and screw and then, when all else fails, I make coffee.

Two magpies are working the sidewalk, they are peeking under car fenders and pecking into cracks in the pavement. They are together indelibly and tangibly and wanderingly in this world and I wonder of their night last night. I picture the hedgerow where they slept and shifted one foot to the other sometimes head to tail and sometimes neck to neck trilling and softly speaking that secret language of corvids that could and probably does include thoughts and dreams beyond the grasp of human understanding. They are black and white and some color that is something green or purple when the light shines just right across their tails. And their tails are dragging in the rain turned snow. And there is a trail of two but it’s fading fast and just like Salinger’s Teddy, with the orange peels sinking and sinking and disappearing into the sea, I am perhaps the only observer of a thing that will happen once and once alone in the lovely, splashing soup of time.

I wait for these things. Not to prove my importance, but to ensure myself that I am here. I  know what I am: a heart, some bones, skin and hair, blood, water and a subtle, slippery soul. I am put together by the whatever-else and I am a breathing, dreaming, running, coughing, crying, shitting, dancing, thinking, losing, hiding, scratching, sky-gazing, bird-watching, loving, two-legged walker.

Every now and then, when I’m left to myself, I will think too much and feel the darker side begin to creep on me. It’s in these moments when I look for something to pull me back. Sometimes it’s a book, sometimes a song. Last night it was a TV show. It was Louis C.K. in his show Loui. I’ve watched it before and I think he’s interesting. I think most of those funny folks are really sad on the inside. I see them bending their sorrows into humorous arrows and firing them off in all directions. I laid there and laughed and studied Loui with the freckled skin and the red hair and listened to him process the world as he sees it. He is both amazing and heavy like a stone. There is a reason that laughter produces tears. I hope you’re ok, Loui.

When I was a kid I thought a lot about dying. I thought about it mostly at night.  Sometimes I called out for my Mom. She would show up at my bunk and explain without lying to me that it would be ok. She would say we all were going to die, that all things that live must eventually die. There is something comforting about everyone having to die. We are born in need. From the moment we take our first breath, we begin to need. I reckon dying is our chance to give back. We will make a damn good mulch.

There are groves and meadows where the grasshopper mice are hunting and howling under tiny sliver moons. The mountains are marching and migrating by the stars across the millennia with infinity mapped out before and behind. Wind fills the hollows, worries the leaves. And storms push the waves and cause shearwaters to boil and streak down to feed with the sharks. Thunder is pounding like a drum on the deep and down and down, past all of the sound are lumbering mysteries that slip to and fro through the caverns and forests and ranges of our dreams.

We are humans. We should be here more.

Sewing Little Patches

This morning I spent over two hours searching through my tiny RV for some embroidery needles that I purchased while visiting my family in Colorado. I know they’re in here, but I’ve given up for now. It’s not like I was gonna do some embroidery this morning, but if I wanted to…well, you get my drift. I found every other kinda needle under the sun, and this particular fact represents a characteristic of myself that I find to be a bit discouraging. (and I think discouraging is the functional word here, although infuriating comes to mind, but that would create the image of me cursing and stomping around, a not-in-a-fairy-tale-but-in-real-life kind of Rumplestiltskin. So I’ll stick with discouraging and maybe insinuate that, at times, the veins in my neck bulge and a curse word may or may not be heard in a voice that sounds suspiciously like my own. This way I continue to prove that I really am the person most capable of pitching myself headfirst down this Life’s long, winding path to the grave) And the fact I’m referring to, if I haven’t lost you already, is this: I have a divine imagination that can create possibilities galore but it’s matched with a limited physical machine (the one and only, me). In other words, my dreams create a hype that my ass can’t match.


During my search for needles, the thing I noted that made me raise one of my overgrown eyebrows was that I have been storing a collection of multi-sized needles in the same pouch as a condom. This is one of those things I regularly wouldn’t talk about because, well, because it makes me look like more of an idiot than I perceive myself to be. I could defend myself by saying that the needles were in a hard case that was sealed, except for the one that was floating around loose. Besides, the condom was old and forgotten. This, by the way, wasn’t intended to be a commentary on my love-life. Just because I have a condom doesn’t mean I’d use it, I mean, I would if I needed to use one, but I don’t, and not because I don’t believe in using condoms…ah, nevermind. That poor, forgotten, little condom went in the trash and I was reminded of Uncle Rico in the film Napoleon Dynamite when he said something like, “if coach woulda just given me a chance….” It’s fitting that I’m having these thoughts this morning. I don’t feel that far removed from being a character in that movie that was full of strange scenes and awkward angles. I feel like a strange scene and I see at awkward angles.


The best part of sitting here in my little Dolphin and writing is the cactus wren that keeps popping in and looking around the corner. He just can’t help himself, curiosity rules his world. Speckled chest. A cute, rusty splash against his little bleepers. And that turned down beak that makes him seem just a tiny bit grumpy! I just love songbirds!  Here he is, checking in. Gone in a flutter.


I’m gonna be ok, folks. The needles are here, and if I never find ‘em, it’ll still work itself out. Maybe I’ll catch up to some of my dreams and pin ‘em down. Hell, I might really get some solid embroidery done and get famous and rich from all the cool patches I make. I’ve always thought I’d be a great action star in a film or something. People are dying to see some 48 year old dude in a camper sewing little patches with colored threads. Strange scenes, awkward angles…that’s me!

…and who comes to see me in the night…

At 4 a.m. I awoke to the sound of a skunk trying to crack into my cooler that was outside the dolphin door. I am fairly accustomed to midnight prowlers; skunks, raccoons and bears, sometimes all three seem to have declared a truce between one another in pursuit of the delectables I keep in my beat up green cooler with the broken hinges and handles replaced by tubular nylon. I do have a difficult time going back to sleep if it’s a morning hour. So now I’m up.

There are things in my head this morning. I do the typical dance and start the hot water for coffee. I creep out of the dolphin, careful not to startle the skunk, he’s busy anyway, like a frustrated bank robber with his ear to a new, unbreakable type of safe. I am careful around the skunks, even more than the bears, because they sometime spray out of whimsy and that would suck first thing before coffee. Like the other night when I left Nick and Eliza in their little house and marched down to the dolphin by the chicken yard (seems I’m always parked next to a yard of chickens with the one obnoxious rooster that crows at 3:40 a.m. just to prove how cool he is…”oh, i’m the first rooster up in the world…oh, i’m so cool.”) and began to smell strong skunk right as I reached my rig. Now, like I said, I’m used to this kinda thing. My rig always has food, it’s a rolling lunch box for the omnivorous type — a category of animals in which I fit quite snuggly, along with coyotes, ravens&crows, bears, pigs, rats, skunks, raccoons, bears and most of my friends. But as I drew near and reached for my door, the black cat (named Mew) touched her little cold nose on the back of my calf. I jumped so bad I almost pulled a hammy. I thought the skunk had come for me once and for all. This morning the skunk just glanced over his stinky little shoulder and now I’m in the big house here at Daisy Creek Farm.

Coffee is on and it’s 4:27. I put a dollop of 50 year old honey down into the black, some heavy whipping cream…stir. Oh man. I am browsing books on the shelves, looking for Hafiz. I do not know where the light switches are and so I am trying to read titles in the half light. I spend a good amount of time fumbling in the dark in other peoples’ houses because I cannot find the light switches. Recently I had a friend text me, “Please don’t come in the house in the morning, I know you think you’re quiet, but you’re not…” And so I didn’t go in. I picture myself turning into that guy and it’s both annoying and scary. This morning there is no danger of being annoying, I’m magnificently alone.  I know the Hafiz book is here, I’ve picked it up in years past, but this morning it eludes me. I am picturing the mystic poet laughing at me as I look for him, and he is hiding with all his wonderful thoughts written in english symbols, called letters, between all the other books, bound and waiting to be chosen. So many thoughts. And I can picture Hafiz telling me some kind of riddle about how I needn’t read his words to find that magic, that it’s everywhere already. Ok, sneaky Hafiz, I’ll stop looking. You win, again.

Last night I had a dream that Death came. I’ve had this dream before and the other time Death was a woman. Last night Death was a dude. He did not announce himself, He was just sitting at the far end of the camper and he was smoking a stubby cigar. I woke from my perch on the overhead bed and looked at his dark shape. I could not seem him clearly and whatever light reached him did not reflect off of him, instead it seemed to be swallowed. I could see a bit of a gleam in his eyes and now and then a flash of a smile. He was sitting very casual with one leg up on the bench, one elbow on the table. I asked him why he was in my rig and I told him I wasn’t dying. He did not answer the question and said that if I was dying, I’d be gone already. Under the table, in the dark I could make out a flickering movement and I realized it was His tail. There was a moment where I wondered if he was the Devil. In that way that dreams can be, in other words, there are no rules in dreams, my thoughts seemed to be known by both parties and so my visitor smiled. “Death, the Devil…I really don’t care what you’ve named me.” I wasn’t completely afraid in my dream. I was wary but not fearful and I was also slightly aware that I was having a dream. I think more was said but I don’t remember what we spoke of.  I’ve noticed things about dreams, like the crossover is thin and so waking and sleeping are sometimes intermixed. My sleeping bag fell to the floor and was a dark mass, when I reached for it, it became a kind of dark liquid and ran to the end of the vehicle where Death sat. “Are you cold?” was his last question.

I woke and my sleeping bag was on the floor. Now I felt afraid. I reached down and grabbed it and stuffed my naked little ass back into it. I thought about my visitor, at least he closed the door when he left.

Yesterday I learned that Oliver Sacks has terminal cancer. Oliver Sacks is incredible and wonderfully kind and amazingly curious. In his interview on Radio Lab, he talked about receiving the news and he spoke about his condition as if he were looking at a marvelous new specie of mushroom. He spoke of his life and loves. I’ve never read a single book by Dr Sacks but I have heard him speak many times and one thing that stands out is that he loves living. This is what makes me sad, the fact that he doesn’t feel like he’s quite done living, but he’s on a shorter schedule due to cancer. He is a very powerful, graceful man. I wonder his dark moments, his sorrows and his fears. We all have them, I just think we are really good at distracting ourselves in order to save ourselves from them. Oliver doesn’t come across as a person prone to distraction. I imagine he’s sitting across the table from Death, swapping stories, and Death being slightly jealous of the brilliant life the ol Doc has lived.

(and how do we say goodbye to people we don’t even know? I suppose we can just think of them fondly and use the heart as an amplifier to send those compassionate thoughts across the space that separates us, one from another. and maybe in doing so, we are not so separate after all. and maybe we can, in some secret and beautiful way, bear some of the pain and throw some light out into the dark. i reckon that’s my way of recognizing the minds and hearts that inspire me, that make me ok with being a human in process…so yeah, thanks Dr. Sacks.)

a pile of bricks

The last part of yesterday slid out from under the horizon way off to the west as the dolphin made it’s ever-slow way to the west gate. That long streak of orange wasn’t unlike the one that used to shine out from under my Mom and Dad’s door at the end of the hallway. Seems like the world’s full of things that refer to other things, or maybe they don’t, and it’s my mind that creates metaphors and similes, analogies and allegories. Who knows, without a way to relate one thing to the other, I probably wouldn’t remember a thing. But I don’t mind the moon reminding me of an old lamp on my Grand-daddy’s desk, nope, I sure don’t. So I’ll keep referring to old memories as long as you don’t mind too much, it’s my own way of finding myself in this big ol’ sprawled out life.

The dolphin (my little r.v.) pitched and rolled it’s way down and down through yesterday’s evening. The little desert creepers were starting their big-eyed scramblings and they bounced and fluttered, all ghosty and pale, across the beams of my headlights. There’s times when I’m working hard to figure things out, my mind a little machine with smoke boiling, then there’s a time like last night, my thoughts were still and hanging upside down in my mind, tiny wings wrapped up and tight, quiet. I drove along with the nothing in my head and the stars blinking on and the kangaroo rats bouncing and the sphinx moths zooming. All the sky and the comets and depth of forever over my empty head and all the me inside and clunking heart and blowing lungs and surging blood, nails and hair and spots. Like roll call in elementary school, “tobias?”…”Yes, present.”

With the end of the day in plain view, the only thing left to do was park. So I did. This is not exciting, perhaps this need not be read, instead, maybe, the writing of this is only a practice to stave off memory loss. Maybe it is only of interest to me, in which case I don’t blame you for leaving me now with my pile of letters making words. Game of Thrones will be waaay funner to watch than what I’m writing next. Go ahead, it’s cool. But yeah, I climbed up into my overhead space and picked up the book, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. The mute in that book is wonderful, he says nothing with his mouth, very little with his hands, but his eyes are the story of all things. I don’t remember falling asleep, but I woke in the night to barking hounds and the lights were off and book was placed to the side, the cover, separated from the book, marking my place.

Sleep. I don’t sleep that well, never have. And dreams, this I do like a champ. And so maybe because I allowed my mind it’s “nothing time” the evening before, I am dreaming mad dreams, one upon the other.

and i am driving an old blue vw van and it has rust spots behind all the wheel-wells and i am at the house of the person who owns the van. i am talking to him and i know he’s a friend but only in my dreams because his face, as i think on it now, is no one i know. he has straw colored hair and is stout. he’s a surfer. we surfed together somewhere in the past of the world of dreams because he is talking about having surfed with me. he’s cool. i like him. we are working on the van together, something is wrong with the starter. my blonde friend is getting a tool from the garage and i reach through the window and try to turn the key to start the engine. the van begins to roll and i try to stop it, i am running desperately to climb in the door as the van rolls backwards down a steep, narrow drive and crashes into a pile of old bricks and some brush. i am completely bummed about it all. the van. the accident. my stupidity. the yard with the bricks is below a tucked, little house with cool looking windows and a view overlooking the sea (which is directly below, the van fairly perched on the edge of the sea cliffs). The owner comes out and sees me and the van. He mentions the name of the owner (i can’t remember the name, but it’s the blonde guy and he’s friends with this new fella) and asks what happened. He invites me into his house. His name is Mikey Powell and he’s got a bunch of tattoos. On the bottom of his feet are the seeds of various flowers, he is 6 foot and says when he’s six feet under, the flowers will grow from his feet and find the surface and bloom so he can breathe again. He calls his wife “Sweet, Hot Mama, Child of the Sun.” Her arms are tattooed with dark, beautiful writings from old poets. Mikey says we’ll get the van running again, not to worry about the bricks. We go into a room he’s rebuilding and there’s a huge plate of wavy glass, 10 feet by 5 feet, slanting out from about waist level at a 45 degree angle. somehow he’s randomly cut holes out of the inch thick glass and placed old, broken bricks in the holes. the bricks are perfectly fitted and the whole thing is incredibly beautiful. from the bench we stand on, we can look through the glass at the kitchen below where Sweet, Hot Mama, Child of the Sun is putting the groceries away. The sun is shining through an even higher set of sky windows and the shapes of the old bricks are scattered throughout the house. Mikey  turned and said some things to me about one chance at making this particular life as beautiful as possible in order to offset the sadness. it wasn’t until then that i noticed he was missing a finger. something in the dream caused me to remember i was dreaming and i told Mikey i had to leave. he walked me out to the gate and i could see the driveway and the trees overhead and the ocean below. there were flowers along the fence. morning glories and poppies and pansies and daffodils. somewhere along the way, i woke up.

There’s really no way of telling exactly what dreams mean. They are collections from somewhere. Maybe they happen in a second. Maybe they are happening all the time and it takes that R.E.M. silence in order to hear/receive them. I don’t know. I do know that I really liked ol’ Mike Powell. I loved the way he looked at his lady and the way he was building pretty things to offset the sadness of this life. I liked his house over the sea and the flowers and the seeds tattooed on the bottoms of his feet. Come to think of it, I liked that entire dream, start to finish. If it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have felt good like I do this morning. I woke with the feeling you have when you’re close to things that are good for you. I felt like I was in love or something, and I was alone in my camper, under a waning gibbous moon and venus in the dark blue underneath. Hell, maybe I am in love…sappy as it sounds, in love with what I get to look at as I bump along this rolling river we call Life.

Coffee’s gonna be good today! Hell, yeah.

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!