tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: truth

The Beast in the Hollow

What is this heaving, this lifting from the deep?

I can see you down there where the trail loses itself, where there is no easy travel, and you are moving through the cedars and the larch and the oak. I have known about you since I was a child, back when you were calling me from the black timber and the rocks dropped from the haunches of glaciers. I know your shape: the twiny, horny thicket of your nape, the old-growth elders of your spine where the ‘poorwills with bellies full of moths call through whiskered maws and flit and land longwise on the branches and disappear. I know your limbs of thunder, I’ve seen your knuckle prints in the mud above the beaver damns and I’ve smelled your musk on the trunks of aspens. And where you leave your track, wherever there is sign, there is life in every manner.

Coiled millipedes and coral snakes and leaf-nosed bats. Rough skinned newts and pronghorns and orb weavers. Walking sticks with halting steps and pale crickets and ravens saddled with human superstitions. You leave behind roots and tubers that turn to herbs. There is medicine leaching from your skin, lacing your weaver beam tail. You are mythical and biblical and you dreamt me here. You dreamt us all and now we are.

When I’m out for long enough, I hear you, faint at first but each day more. Like moving upstream and closer to the spring that filters from out of the souls of stones and boils to the surface with everything complete. These senses mix with one another and I feel colors and see cold and hear fragrance and smell the songs of the birds. I taste dreams. And then I am less man and more creature. I am made small but integral. I become a part of the ebb and flow of all tides, the accumulation at the delta and the hollowed gorge of sky above the wild river where dip and whir the swifts the swallows the hawks. What was once a language spoken becomes a simple awareness in which communication is life itself with no need for explanation or interpretation. Each breath is a truth and proof of existence.

There are old songs in your belly, down where the bears are sleeping in the duff. Melodies from the bones of poets whose blood made the ground so rich. Your tongue is thick and mossy, the toads move between your teeth while the foxes and mountain cats shape shift with the shadows in the hollow beneath your chin. And now the otters and now the shrew, the mole, the vole, the heron, the boar, the stomping skunk are migrating through your mane. Painted ladies and admirals and swallowtails and morning cloaks and skippers and sulfurs under the sun, cecropias and lunas and sphinx by moonlight. Goshawks map out silver pathways through the forest sewing the trees together into the most beautiful tapestry. Flying squirrels look through chocolate eyes to calculate distances, the drop and drag and lift and destination. Since the beginning, you have been blending these wonders of life and death, always attending that souls and bodies be taken back, returned to the source.

Include me.  I’ll wait right here where the trees are reaching down. Where the sky of stars are just only out of reach. I’m filled all up with the blues and greys and olive drabs of dusk and dawn. I’m here breathing out of duty and offering dreams as gifts for the passage. My ego, no matter how big, always seems to leave me with an empty heart. So give me instead the bees in the mint below the creek that winds in liquid amber through the aspens whose shadows hide the trout whose speckled tails hold the blueprints to the cosmos.

Actual Ass

These are my thoughts on technology, which is similar to a chimpanzee giving a dissertation about the state of the economy. But whatev’s, a chimp might do a better job than a politician.

I like the idea of using modern devices to avoid icebergs, it’s smart and prevents ships from sinking. I don’t think everyone needs to be checking their phones for icebergs. And I don’t think an iceberg is any more special when used as a backdrop for everyones’ selfie.

I like to climb. I often climb alone, I have been doing it for years. I don’t want to explain this too much (boring) but there are systems that work if you are a student of the craft. I use these systems and know them well. Today, while I was setting up a climb, I noticed several climbers had stopped to watch. I paid little attention but noticed three groups had their phones out and were filming. Some groups had more than one person filming. I finally said something to the closest person. I asked if he was getting some really good stuff. He said, “I’m waiting for the kill-shot.” I realized they all thought I was doing something foolish and dangerous (I wasn’t) and they were filming me in case I died. Um, I feel like this is a place I can interject something. –This is a modern age of know-it-alls. At every turn there is someone looking up what has just been said in order to disprove it. I’m all for asking questions, but I’m more into the thought process that goes with knowing more. Looking something up on google does not prove your knowledge base nor does it make you more thoughtful. Actually thinking makes you more thoughtful. The world is fast becoming dummies behind little screens. And so climbers that didn’t know better, instead of speaking and asking questions, stood behind their phones to film me so they might be the author of an internet sensation. Excuse me while I just say this, bullshit.

It never hurts to ask how something is done.  I owe much of my knowledge to my mentors. Men and Women who taught me my stance. Men who taught me the language of my heart. Women who taught me that strength comes from a woman and is bestowed upon men. These are values to which there is no measure, they have made me.

I love pictures. I love the pictures we can share through the various forms of internetlandia, but….but, it’s just gone too far. We are not that cool looking. These cameras/phones, and yes, I have one, are little mirrors. Every time we check our “likes” we are looking in the mirror. Remember that when you hear those little beeps calling you to see who said what about the hot little picture you took of yourself in front of the buffalo/mountain/glacier/tree/waterfall/sunset/caged lion/thunderstorm/riot, you are petting yourself. You are looking in the mirror. I’m not saying don’t check your look, I’m just saying that there’s a max and most of us are too self-absorbed.  I’m not above taking a peek in the mirror to see if maybe I don’t look quite as stupid as I feel. Remember: the world is beautiful and we are most beautiful when we are aware of being. Pictures are not proof of our existence. They are images without a soul from our past. Sometimes we need to simply be here and leave the wonder to our minds, not our picturetakers.

Communication is good. I watched some fella on the telly giving reasons why he was checking his phone during his interview. He said he was staying abreast of the events so he could give the most up-to-date information possible. I was thinking, that I just don’t care. Folks aren’t as good at conversing as they were 10 years ago. It’s true. Coffee shops are not for talking. Even drinking coffee seems like just an excuse to be plugged into the web. My nephews, children of the modern age, are often unable to chuck a football with me because they were up all night pretending to be at war on their xboxes. By the way, it ain’t healthy for your kid to practice war on some game. Just like you don’t need to practice being miserable. War exists, we don’t need to glorify it. Training for war is rough enough, playing war and talking smack and thinking your tough because you play a game is delusional. I know what I’m talking about here, some of my most trying moments came as a U.S. Recon Marine. It ain’t a game. Yeah, so, where was I? Oh yeah, communication, it’s nice to be able to talk things out. Opinions are great and don’t really need to run parallel. As a people, if we all had opinions based on solid observation of our physical world, we would be doing ok. Political stance, race, religion, sexual preference and social status aside, we all have hearts and minds, maybe we could take some time and use them.

I want to point something out. I’m not against all things technical. I love typewriters. There’s nothing negative to say about an old manual typewriter, unless I’m in your house making a racket and typing at 4 a.m. because I can’t sleep. And bicycles, the world is a better place because of bicycles. Most of what we own is disposable. Convenience is a drug. Tiny water bottles and throw-away bags are no-goes. We gotta get better than that. Cigarette butts should be stored in our house with us so we can know that we might ought’a just grow tobacco out back and smoke it from a pipe instead of giving money to the big dogs.

Humans need to tribe up. We need to be more able to live on our own and pay less into the big machine. WE should dictate through consuming less. The machine is strong and we need to take the power back by being capable, thoughtful, simple, beautiful human beings.

All said, we need to kick more actual ass…not virtual.


My Pet Nasty

I admire the quiet ones, the ones that don’t seem to care if they’re noticed.  I have a few friends that stand and listen and smile at the things I am saying. I can be such a rager, but these folks have found a way to weather the storm, wait for the bravado to pass, and still be my friend. The quiet ones wait. They don’t pop the lock when feelings are pushing at the gate, because it’s in those moments when words run amok.

If babies had a full vocabulary at birth, I believe we would have a whole different perception of mankind. There is no sorrow or fury like that of a child. At least you can say that a baby’s not faking it. And when they fake it, they fake it with all their heart. The little ones make no bones about it, they want only and all of what they want.

Whenever I catch myself starting to exaggerate, I know that I’m talking too much. I know that, for one reason or another, I’m feeling inadequate. The person that I am is acting out and wanting more room inside the mind or minds of the people that I’m exaggerating to. I am unabashedly begging for attention. There are several reasons for why I might embellish reality but they all point back to me. I guess I could say it’s my ego, but whenever I talk about my ego I feel like I’m talking about something separate from me. Like my ego is a naughty little pet that is performing deeds without my permission. Have you ever heard folks talk about themselves in third person? “Oh, Tobias don’t like that kind of thing at all! That’ll just set Tobias off!” It really is a way of allowing yourself to behave a certain way but not lay claim to it. “Aw man, my ego acted up last night. Sure hope it didn’t hurt anybody’s feelings.” So I’ve been trading the word ego for a personal pronoun, Me. Come to find out, I’m my ego. Damn. Yeah, so it’s not my naughty little pet that did that, it’s me. And I’ll just go ahead and say it, sometimes I want attention just because. It’s pathetic. I don’t want to be blatantly adored, but adored nonetheless. I want my friends to admire what I do and how I do it. I think it’s a part of being a human animal: to desire to be needed and loved and admired. Exaggeration is just a lazy way of creating admiration, it’s creative but it lacks substance. It’s what I think I need to be without actually being it.

I guess the best way to be needed and loved is to be real. And being real will sort out who your friends are and are not. It will also force you to evaluate your actions. It will temper your selfishness with lovingkindness. In some cases, it will make you more lonely. Being a human is tricky. Life is all about dynamic adjustments. It does seem like we humans are masters at making things more complex than they need to be. Lies are complications. Truth is patient and solid and simple. It’s me that is a work in progress, Me, not my pet ego. It’s me that loves the friends that endure all my rantings and ravings. Tobias is working on himself and we’re pretty sure he’s gonna be ok. He’s got good friends and sometimes they call him out on things, and he’s ok with that. He’s a lucky dude.

real as rain

i’ve been doing some experiments lately. i’ve been conducting a series of interviews with youngsters. i don’t have any age parameters, just so long as they don’t change who they are when i start asking questions. ever noticed how difficult it is to be yourself once someone points a video camera at you? actors probably aren’t quite as affected, but i don’t know if it’s because they have just turned into the actor and have lost their real self somewhere in acres of video files, or if they’re simply comfortable in front of the camera. i’m affected for sure. i don’t like the feeling of trying to be myself. i tried these interviews with some video but it just didn’t work. there was too much hamming it up in front of the camera and i lost the connection with the kiddos. so i went old school and wrote the stuff down, that didn’t seem to bother anybody so long as i didn’t have too much silence in between questions. after all, kids live in a quantum physics world where time and space is different. they can be distracted 5 times inside of a second. colors are brighter. sparkles are more twinkly. words are more direct and honest. i like to ask questions that make them think, questions that give me a peek under the veil and into their imaginations…another universe entire.

the interviews are usually short. they usually end with me getting cut off in lieu of something more important, like a cookie, or a butterfly, or a firetruck.

interview with seidel (4yrs old): (setting: on the driveway in the sun. both of us lying on our backs, looking at the clouds.)

me: would you rather be the sky or the ocean?

seidel: i would rather be the ocean because it’s green and blue and also water.

me: would you rather be a tree or a river?

–small pause–

seidel: i’d rather be a bridge, made of wood.

(with that my mouth dropped open and i couldn’t think of another question because that last answer was so good. so i laid there for a few seconds and watched the clouds. soon seidel continued with more thoughts.)

seidel: and the trees are wooden and the red flowers are made of red and the green in the tree makes leaves.

she left me scrambling for my pen and paper. i think she wanted a juice or something.


connective tissues

whenever i hear my voice in a recording or on a video i wonder what happened. how does my voice sound so different when it’s not coming from inside me? i’m not going for self-deprecation here, i just can’t figure out how it goes from a tolerable sound to that squeaky thing playing out of some fool video. self-perception, man, it’ll throw you down the stairs and leave you piled up like trash on the curb.  truth is, i like to think that i’m moving along in the right direction, letting my soul follow the magnetic pull of truth, and not human truth, i’m talking a way bigger picture here. i’m talking about the truth you see when you look down into a volcano. the kind of truth you see when you are standing where the cyprus giants lean over granite ramparts and listen for the call of bowheads as they slip between sky and crusty mantle. THAT is truth. you gotta watch out for the truth that gets processed for you by some know-it-all with a fancy brain; seems like it’s real difficult to be human and not be manipulative. but hey, don’t take my word for it, go find it out for yourself. when you’re sick of hearing about how to make yourself 20 years younger or way more ripped or super rich, do yourself a favor — go out and watch a band of ravens on the wind. they’ll show you what life is all about, they are a pure representation of themselves. i have yet to figure out how to allow my soul this freedom, but i’m working on it.  i don’t think being 20 years younger would make me better and i’m more skinny than ripped, but i wouldn’t mind having an endless stack of benjamins so that i could thumb my nose at the powers that be and tramp off into oblivion.

i think it might boil down to something really basic. i think i am at my best when i am busying myself with a task that connects me to my origins. and when i’m doing this thing, my mouth is usually shut. and if i’m sitting next to you as you work on your task that connects you to your origins, we can feel connected. i think in this way we become more like them ravens on the wind. we are weaving our souls like smoke rising from a slow burning fire. and our goal is life. what i’m talking about here does not happen as you hurtle down some numbered roadway with millions of other hurtlers. in our cars we are separate. in our cars we do things uncharacteristic of our nature. we rage. we flip one another the bird. (what would happen if we did this kind of thing as we walk in the supermarket? maybe that’s where we’re headed if we don’t change. maybe we’ll figure out how to have a little floating screen above our head that is shouting at other people with their little floating screens…maybe we’ll find a way to never have to interact in a real way. i mean, conversation is so yesterday and communication is really kind of a pain in the ass, right?) no.  no.    i refuse to believe that we cannot find our way back . we have to.

i read about that ice-man guy that they found at the foot of a glacier, i think they call him otzi. i’ve been fascinated by his story ever since he was first discovered. he got spit back out from under the glacier that ate him 5,300 years ago and that’s where folks found him, lying there under the sun. there are all kinds of theories about what put him in that place and how he died and even what his position was in the tribe to which he belonged. more interesting to me, is what his dreams were. i wonder about the twinkle in his eye as his hands struck fire from stone in the days before his death. he had tattoos, you know? yeah, they were in the areas that he’d been injured and probably were a result of visiting healers. he died with an arrowhead in his back. i imagine he died alone. the cold came and covered his body. that ancient person, all he had seen as he hunted beasts and hopped across a stoney world, it all leached out into the ground that pulled him down and took him back. it’s lives like his that power the storms at sea. worlds turn on the fuel of souls. i have no idea of his kindnesses, his darkest deeds, but i am not more than him nor am i less. it’s our turning to dust that connects us. we are kinfolk. from the spark that lights a baby’s heart to the tissues that form our growing limbs to the mind that thinks upon itself enough to know that it is to the gaping mouth of that very last breath (yes, you and i will have one. we will have that last breath) to the wind that whistles a tune through the sockets of our skull. we all have this to link us together. and from the lowest to the highest, we all turn to dirt.

i sometimes worry over things undone. drawings i’ve not finished. shoes half made. friendships un-mended. promises shuffled under duties less important. i have words that i believe in that take dedication to arrange, dedication that i lack, and the words are all pretty but scattered and caught here and there like plastic bags against the fence. i will put one thing to the side so i can run and start something else that i’ll probably put to the side. i use examples of extraordinary people who i’ve read were scatter-brained like me and i hold them up as a shining light to what i might be. i run from the guilt that slaps me across the mouth when i find a half-written letter to my mama. and i find myself on the phone and saying things that aren’t as good as if i’d just finish the letter and send it. the ice-man was carrying an unfinished bow, arrows that needed to be fletched, he even had food in his teeth so i assume he hadn’t brushed. even five thousand years ago there were worries. i suppose worries and love were born on the same day.

i’m pretty damn sure i’ll be less famous than the ice-man. he is a great teacher. i’m sitting at the foot of his lectern and i can hear his lessons across the eons. we can’t finish everything in a lifetime, so work on the good stuff. love your friends in their failings. learn where the stars are hanging and teach a child to find them. don’t toss your cigarette butts out the window, it’s disrespectful to the earth that gives you air, water, sun, babies, food…um, that gives you everything. write songs and sing them, even if it’s to yourself. scratch an old dog on the ear. look at people and be genuine. make two cups of coffee and give the one you think is the best to your friend/lover. (although, if i make two cups of coffee, they’re both the best…i’m not kidding.) write a poem and send it to someone, like my buddy, brian, did for me.(thanks brother)

sure, it comes back around to me. it’s all opinion, the very thing i warned you about.  sometimes it’s not even put in a way that makes sense. on days like today, when i struggle to say what i mean, i’m more likely to end up with an essay that ends with the delete button. but after all that talk of unfinished bullshit i refuse to send this to the refuse bin. i have to look on the bright side, at least i’m not having to listen to a recording of myself reading this out loud. that might kill me.

alright, the end. (for now)