tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: whales

Furnace Heart

These things are all true:

Somewhere there is a Verdin with his yellow ochre mop and he is building several nests for his lover. He will show her each nest and she will choose her favorite and they will mate and have a family. His song is impossibly high and sweet.

Somewhere there is a Bowhead whale thundering through the inky deep of a southern ocean. Her people are all around her singing songs about her. She is the oldest of her kind with memories gathered from across three centuries of ocean travel. There is a massive scar on her left brow from a harpoon thrown at the hand of a savage born in 1804. The savage is long dead and the bone-carved point, made from the hip of a bear, is now fixed and calcified and covered over, as much a part of the whale as if she had been born with it. What a wonder that the DNA of that old bear would travel the belly of every ocean, learning the language of whales through songs and sorrows and dances that no scientist will ever understand!

Somewhere there is an Alligator collecting sticks between dainty jaws. She is placing them and scooting them and blinking from under those ridiculously serious ridges. She will make this nest with care. She is not clumsy nor half-hearted. This will be her third clutch and she will not loose them to raccoons like the first one. When the babies begin to chirp through the leathery skin of the eggs, she will hear them and she will tend them into the world of swamps and turtles and herons and foxes and mangroves and tarpon. There are no words to explain the heart of an alligator. Her cells were lit back when the scent of eternity still hung in the air from the birth of the earth.

Somewhere there is a child born, it is Detroit, it is Simpsonville, it is Stockton, it is Rock Springs. The odds are stacked against him. He will not be given the chances of the privileged nor will much be expected of him. He will not be taught but he will learn anyway. He will find the fire in his gut and he will understand it’s importance. He will learn compassion in the most significant of ways — like learning to love air because you nearly died without it. He will teach children. He will leave light in every room he enters. He will apply his body and soul and prove love to be most manly of all traits.

Every one of these scenarios are linked. There is one key element to each one. One thing connects us all — The Heart. It is the subject of so many poems and millions of songs. In truth, it is only the thing at our center that pushes the blood to our parts. It is faithful and essential. Without the heart, we cannot love. And so it is the engine, the genesis of all of our Being.

I feel a kind of divisiveness in the world today.  We seem to revel in it, or at least that’s how it feels. There is trolling and sarcasm and a kind of generic hate that ain’t healthy. In light of Valentines Day, the day of the Heart, I wanna talk about something that’ll fix our brokenness. If only we could all keep in mind (myself included…especially) that opinions and differences are important and needed, but they will be effective only if they are attached to compassion. Like it or not, everyone has a heart.

I’ll steal a line from Hafiz and paraphrase it into something I might say,

“My heart is a furnace, I’ll get it stoked up and you can burn your trash here if you want.”

Post note: This Essay is written in honor of Kayla Kosloff, the lady with one of the most beautiful hearts I know. What a wonder to love!



Running from the dark is a form of pretending. I know it is, because I do it sometimes. But there is no end to the darkness and the night will always find you. Our personal expression, our internal lamp, can’t shine if we are fearful. Out in every darkness there are single points of light. They are people who shine like you. They are the Ones who’ve covered the ground we are walking. They are the early hearts. They are the way givers. But before they found the way, they ran from the darkness. And they looked to the Ones before them. And so this is our fashion, this is our way. To fear and flee, to find courage and look for light, to set our bearings on the light and navigate the darkness, then, when we are ready, we shine the light for others.

These are old metaphors. They’ve been around since the early hearts struck fire from the stones and danced in caves and drew their imaginings across the walls by firelight. But there is a reason that things like this continue while generations of brilliant minds turn back to dust –that old and wondrous, five letter looking glass: Truth.

Shine. At least a little. For the babies. and the whales. and the foxes. and the sequoias.

Shine to help the young hearts find the way.

Take your time. Know your truth. And then,


Flight School


It’s not like I’m an expert at this or anything. I’ve never even really been able to say when it’s gonna happen or why it’s happening. Once when I was talking to Ruby (Ruby is 7 years old), she told me that she can do it whenever, but only just a little at a time. Flying might not be for everyone, but I personally don’t know why you wouldn’t want to. That fourth dimension that is so not linear, the movements in every direction. The blueness that is all around you. No wonder Ruby says she can fly, she’s so little and light; a bird in everyway. I remember her looking up with eyes made of sky and saying, “Tobe, um, how is the sky and the birds, I mean, are they hooked together?”  If you ever wanna melt my heart, and you’re talking to me and you wonder what words you can use to gain my attention, just ask me that kind of question. Hell if I know, little Ruby, but they might be connected from way down inside to the tip of their wings. No wonder the birds sing!

My younger brother Cory and I got our hands on a huge, red and blue umbrella. I was 4 years older than him and I could, especially then, talk him in to just about anything. This particularly pretty winter day was one of those ones that I remember like it was yesterday. We were on the roof of our two story house on Newland St., Ma and Pa still live there and maybe they are even sitting there right this moment remembering when 5 kids ran wild through every room and hall. But yeah, Cory and I were talking about flight and all the possible freedoms it offered. We could float to the hills and go fishing without even asking, you know, we can’t be blamed for floating up into the sky! Ma and Pa would understand, and besides, they’d be so proud that their sons had been so brave. But first a test flight, and Cory, as I explained to him, was smaller and lighter and so more suited for the job. Brave little dude furrowed his brow and looked at me as I, half believing it might actually work, nodded and gave him the thumbs up. Part of my theory was that if you left the umbrella down, kind of half collapsed, that it would flare open after you jumped and then drift up onto the breeze. Little Cory white-knuckled the hook handle and jumped up and out right after giving me the I’ll-see-you-after-I-float-back-to-earth look. Two things happened: The jump up made the umbrella snap in the closed position and Cory crashed into the cyprus bushes growing by the front porch. My mother, who was cleaning in the kitchen, saw my brother fall past the big front window. I covered my ears and ran down off the roof and towards the front yard. My ma ran out, still carrying the broom, and Cory thought she was coming to give him a whack for having jumped off the roof. I turned the corner in time to see my brother crawling like a hurt bird as my ma ran towards him with a broom. It all worked out. Cory had two sprained ankles and a sprained wrist along with some solid scratches on his forehead. I was grounded from the roof and any further flying experiments. My ma is still appalled to think my brother thought she was gonna beat him with a broom. I’ve learned that flight takes more than just a good imagination and that any such real attempt to fly should be left to birds, bats and aviation experts. Unless, of course, you happen to dream.

The majority of my flight dreams involve me doing something awkward in order to gain altitude. In my most common dream of flying, I gotta run in a straight line and then, slowly but surely, my strides become longer and longer. Sometimes I’m able to leap a really long way but I tend to turn sideways if I try to go too far. Flying takes great concentration, at least in my experience.

Swings are kind of like flying. If they’re big enough and over a river, you can feel birdlike for a second or two. Being in the tops of giant trees allows you to peek into the world of the birds as they move both above and below. Like when Markus and I broke out of the top of a giant cyprus tree in Golden Gate park and the ravens flew from all around and landed on branches and stared at the two of us. Their curiosity was obvious and they just couldn’t stop chattering lightly between themselves. Markus and I had to laugh. We just laughed and sat in the sun and looked out at the ocean where the surfers surfed and the seagulls seagulled and the boats boated. I think I climb trees because it separates me out from the rest of the world. Maybe it’s a little like flying.

I’m sure an orca would tell me that swimming is just as cool as flying. He would probably tell me about his forays under the ice where the world becomes aquamarine and the only sound is his thunderous heart. He might tell me of his hunting technique and how he has tipped icebergs and swallowed seals whole. And there would be stories of older orcas who dived to amazing depths and maybe he would roll his big pink tongue and tell me their names with reverence. I would want to know if he can see colors from sounds and if there are monsters in the depths and I would ask him about his preferences in music and love. Oh yeah, and I would wanna know about migration and whether or not he communicated with other worlds. I would ask him about his dreams and his terrors and if there are languages among the creatures of the sea. Does a whale from Japan have a heavy accent? Can he understand the tongues of the fish and the birds? Does he think about getting old and dying? The ocean is such a mystery, perhaps I might rather have the power of deep water diving, like a whale or elephant seal, so that I could bear witness to that wilder world.

Instead I am an earth dweller. A ground walker with an overactive imagination. I’m a dreamer of the flights of the birds and the deep water divers. I am forced to wait for the night so that I can fly while the stars, those wonderful conjurers, kick-start my dreams. I’m no more than a single soul, touched by a terribly beautiful world in which I have learned to stumble around and fall through loves and hurts and frights and wonders. I was a kid full of dreams who did a bunch of laps around the sun and became a kid full of dreams and wrinkles. I like Ruby’s take on things…that every time I leave the ground just a little bit, I am flying.

ol’ Steinbeck whispers

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

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

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

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

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

Hoofed Beasts and Hurtling Cars

In the heart of any city, desperation is always only a few steps away. I slept in an illegal parking spot on Lincoln, right next to the park last night. I looked for a while for something better, but finally gave in and decided to risk the ticket. Before I went to sleep, I stepped up into the thicket of low lying bushes and watched the city as it happened. I like to do that kinda thing, hide and observe. I know it’s kinda creepy, but so is watching the News on television.

From my spot in the park I could see the long row of houses on the other side of the street. I could see that kinda blue-ish glow of all the flat-screens at once, some windows included the back of someone’s head with the t.v. beyond. It’s easy for me to get sad when I’m doing this kinda thing, easy to make the world into a kind of relentless tragedy. I see them human silhouettes and the mainline that is filling them up and up, I see the branches of the trees outside their houses and the coughing person that is slumping in the doorway, I see the cars hurtling down the lighted streets as they hurry towards the parking spots that will be created as another car leaves to find another parking spot created by another car leaving. There is a madness that I feel creeping up on me when I’m watching all this, it’s creeping, but it sure ain’t quiet and I am looking over my shoulder.

I don’t sleep so well when I have these kinda thoughts, so I didn’t sleep well last night. In the morning haze I tried to put together some kind of plan for the next few weeks. I couldn’t even get past the morning, I couldn’t get past wondering if I had a ticket on my windshield — wouldn’t be the first time.  My planning fell apart. Depression will follow soon if I don’t take action. I know this worn down path all too well, my footprints are everywhere. I should get in the ocean, she always sets me straight.

I love it when I find the sleeping spots of animals, especially when they’ve just been vacated. The heat from the body of the beast still lingers in the ground, and the smell hangs in the air. It’s like a little bit of the animal remains, can be felt. Sometimes I look around for the remnants of their dreams. Those things that cause eyes to roll under velvety lids while wet noses pull down all manner of smells that form colors and stories in wordless languages that are formed from spiraling DNA and patterns passed down through evolutionary reincarnations. The tilting of the head. The feigned indifference. The dances and gifts and displays. All these things must be a part of each animal’s dreams, along with their fears and dreads. I wonder about all that when I feel the heat in the grass that was mashed down by the body of some marvelous ungulate as they slept.

This morning I noticed a human sleeping spot just a few steps away from where my r.v. was parked. There were bloody napkins crumpled all around. Trouble in the night. I’m sure, more than a little misery. I moved the dolphin to a better parking spot, vacated by a work-goer. Coffee at the local shop. Outside the 7-11 there is heavy talk among several homeless folk. One had very little voice left, I wondered if he’s maybe losing it for good. They were talking of displacement and the good ol’ days and people that have been taken away. One caught my glance and we say hello. The old Thai man that haunts this world and this block on Judah street was there, outside the coffee shop. I said hello and he smiled and recognized me even though it has been 6 months since that last time we nodded to one another. He is coughing more these days and his smile seemed strained. I sat and listened to the hubbub and the gossip. Every block in every city is a tiny world.

The walk back to my rig was slow and easy. I saw a kitty-cat, orange and white,in a comfortable window. He was looking down at me and I looked up as a raven following the roofline dropped just low enough to pass within a foot or two of the cat. As the raven passed, the kitty couldn’t help himself and he lifted a paw and placed it on the window. The raven flew on and the cat dropped his little foot back into place and looked back at me, embarrassed. I smiled at him and shrugged.

The grass that grows along the dunes is gray and brown, kinda green in places. There are marks of the scurrying animals in the sand at the base of the grass. There are lost feathers and broken crab shells. There are sand dollars and polished sticks. The foam on the beach is being combed by the sand pipers and their kin. Seagulls are making themselves at home in the air all around. There are two-leggeds and they are running and some are walking with leashes tied to their pet dogs. The ocean looks wild and gray, on the horizon the sky is a lighter version of the ocean it holds in place. I wonder how the whales are doing today, way out there in that massive cold sea. I wonder if they slept well last night.

i, messenger

ages of man

i am a messenger, kill me if you want.

i carry the message from the sufferers whose voices are too weak to be heard,

my voice is strong because i don’t suffer, not yet.

i need to speak to the greedy.

(who are the greedy? i think it’s fair to say that they are those that have plenty but want more.)

i need to speak with you, mr. senator, with your fancy suit and your big words. do you suffer?

how about you, mr. president, who would do all things popular but nothing without an agenda…when did you suffer last?

and you, exxon man, in your castle of dinosaur bones, do you think indigestion is suffering?

we are led by the educated, but not the wise.

difference? the educated are students of success, dollar stackers. the wise are students of life, nurturers.

the greedy have made a machine. the machine teaches those with less to strive for more. work hard to become the greedy. and the greedy collect from the needy. they pay smarter folks to use big words to prove that it’s all ok. there are labs that can spit out all kinds of sarcasm to throw at the person who asks, “why are the birds dropping from the sky?” or “what does radiation do to the fish in the deep blue sea?” or “what about that godzilla monsanto (that fire-breather, that farmer eater, creator of agent orange that-is-eating-my-friend’s-lungs, creator of PCB’s whose side effects read like a horror script  and that were dumped into lake michigan in ’54. how much was released? oh, just one hundred thousand tons is all. there is a brutal disregard for life and a lust for money here, can you see?) who is stomping and consuming and then settling sweetly into the laps of our leaders, what about that?”

some say, “we need to fix the machine.”

i say, break the machine. crack it apart into a million pieces and let the greedy run frantic to collect it back and make it whole again.

like hogs over slop.

can you hear me? if you can, then there’s hope for us. and there’s hope for the sufferers.

do you know the term, the eleventh hour? the meaning is plain, it means, it’s very late.

there ain’t time to pass bills and scratch old bald heads. there ain’t time for that, man.

this is not ranting. these are the words from the sufferers.

they say things like. use what you have and love things that are useful. they say, grow gardens that contain life and include the bugs that eat the leaves. be kind to the farmer that sells greens with holes in the leaves, they taste the same and they weren’t sprayed. drive less, use your bike. know the cycles of the moon, i’m not joking. love the migrating birds. pray for the monarch butterfly. refuse to be bullied by mass consumption. find your tribe and trade with them. use hand tools. lift stones and make your arms thick and your legs sturdy, go out under the sun and let it feed you. walk. give the animals a break, they don’t have much room. try to remember to take bags to the store, use them again and again and again so that they don’t end up in the belly of a bird on some sad island in the middle of the blue blue sea. care. kick your heart door open wide. show the greedy that less makes room for better. take the power in your strong and simple body and shine like a star among many. look at your neighbor and help them shine. teach the babies to love the greenest leaf, the smallest bug, the greatest sea, the deepest canyon, the wildest wind. bare your teeth at the ones who would tell you it is a waste of time to try to change the world.

these are the words of the sufferers. they sent them to us.

awareness is simple. it is the will to see. i have not slept well lately because of all this stuff. i know i know, it’s my problem. but i can’t not say something. what else is there to do? while i’m still strong, i am drawn to fight for the wild things. i would rather scream these words towards all the shining towers than weep at the foot of a dead ocean as the whales wash ashore.

now what?  start.

“step one: get a drum”

i pedaled back up the hill. it’s chilly tonight. as i rode up on the property that nick and elizabeth call home, i could hear a drum.

a single drum, not a drum circle or a group, just one. i rode in through the gate and parked the bike and followed the sound into the house. there was nick in the half-light, head down, slapping the skin of the drum that elizabeth bought for him.  i think the drum is from senegal or somewhere close. it’s sound is deep and mixes well with nick’s disposition.

i danced for about ten minutes to the beat. nick finally took a break and we talked about drums. i spoke of the movie, “the visitor”, and nick asked me about it. i told him how it was about an old man finding music through a drum. i think that movie changed the way i think about music. it helped me connect the dots about how music is in our blood, regardless our culture or upbringing, it’s there, like a dream waiting to be remembered.

i wondered aloud to nick about the old days, in africa, when tribes pounded on drums to tell other tribes how they felt. we both imagined that feeling. nick and i are not that far away from that kind of communication. he and i could speak through smoke or drums or whistles, no problem.  we talked back and forth about the use of drums in human evolution. he said, “it’s still here. it’s still possible,” and then after a pause, he finished, “step one: get a drum.”

i let my imagination go quite often. i like to imagine what it would be like if our leaders really did believe in the preservation of our planet. no, i mean, like, they really did mean it. what would it mean? first of all, i think there would be more dancing. i think there would be more talking between one another. i think music would thrive.  i think war would abate. the oceans would get cleaner and life as we know it would become more simple. we would need to re-learn basic skills and everyone would get callouses on their hands. hard work would make a come-back and billionaires would become extinct. wrinkled faces would be beautiful and beauty magazines would be used to start fires so we could dance to the beat of the drums. the stars would seem brighter because people would be noticing them for the first time in their lives. the seas would return to their pre-industrial silence and the whales would sing wildly through the blue with their massive, ancient tongues.

and up on the land, the drums, man, the drums.

extra medium

there are things i just can’t spell out, no matter how hard i try. i can’t make you feel the freezing, crystal, colorado mornings from my childhood. and the ice at the bottom of the stairs in the backyard by the woodpile. and the squeak of the snow between my shoes and the ice. and the way the wood splits under the ax that is different than in the summertime.  and the way that the world is quieter because sounds can’t fly as well when their wings are cold. 

there is a part of me that is still the 8 year old boy who is walking toward weir gulch at the bottom of harlan hill. i still carry a butterfly net and some fishing line and hooks. i’m prepared to catch things and witness the world that lies beneath the mint plants at the edge of the creek. i’m ready to assign names to creatures and feel the whirl of the earth. all my mindfulness is barely enough to give me a cupful of real, honest wisdom. instead i think with awe at what i’m missing and how i can’t explain the things i actually understand. growing up is a trip…and i think i’m grown up. or at least it sure does feel that way. 

i have a friend who always gives me a hard time. he says things like, “hey, tob, the eighties called and they want their hair style back.” he will ask me whose little sister gave me the pants i’m wearing. he says i like my t-shirts that are extra medium. he really loves his own jokes and, quite honestly, they are pretty good, even though i bear the brunt.  but about that term “extra medium”…well now, that’s a good one. it’s funny because it makes no sense. i relate to that. i’m in the middle of my life (i think) and i might be a little beyond that. that might make me “extra-middle”. 

writing tonight is just barely worth it. it feels like when i am groping around in the dark for a toothbrush that i can’t find, so i settle for the old toothpick i find in my shirt-pocket. i feel caught somewhere between the delete button and the bourbon bottle. i might use both, one for sure. there’s little beyond the force of practice, but that i do believe in. i never planned on a pulitzer and i wouldn’t have a place to show it off,  beyond the dashboard of a 1983 toyota dolphin. that might be kinda cool though. 

earlier today, before the rain came in, i watched the little black kitty hunt and catch a tiny vole. she’s a great hunter and the vole just didn’t have a chance. she caught it and began the long, drawn-out session of catch-and-release. i finally took heart for the tiny vole and tried to pull the cat off so i could finish the job. the cat turned and bit and i let her go. she continued to be a cat, i continued to be a strange, melancholy, two-legged observer. some don’t care. i care a whole helluva lot. it’s all so beautiful and terrible. do you know what i mean?

there is so much.  so much to worry over. so much to love.  there will be crops that fail, babies will be born with tricky hearts, a sparrow will fly headlong into the window and leave a dust print like a tiny angel. our oceans will suffer from our addictions to convenience. the moon will swing and swoon across our sky. the robins will hop and tilt and stab and pull the worms from the fresh turf on million dollar golf courses. whales will swim to where the ocean goes quiet and there, in the extra-middle of nowhere, they will love one another and they will breathe the sky and drink the ocean and they will wonder if everything is going to be ok. they will wonder about folks like me and i will wonder about folks like them. 

one more sip, no more words, a few more thoughts, a trillion stars. that’ll be good for now.

off to the ’83 dolphin. the dashboard is safe from clutter.

rivers, roots and passages

there are things happening. some of them seem very important. sometimes i feel like we are witnessing the changes in our earth, our home, that may very well spell out the extinction of our species. i do want to emphasize that, although i am a cynical son of a gun, i’m not a fatalist. i don’t have my “end of the world” sign stapled to a stick so i can stand on the corner and frown at the people as they drive past.  no.  i don’t want that. i don’t like to think about it all. i don’t want to know that chunks of ice the size of rhode island have fallen off the ice cap. i don’t like it when i hear the glacier i know and love in patagonia is now 6 miles from where i used to walk and meet it.  i am sad when i hear about lost migrates.  hummingbirds in the wrong hemispheres and pelicans eating seagull chicks.  things are changing and the decided ignorance of our race is nothing less than a type of denial. i have noted that most of the people who argue that nothing is changing, spend little time out in the wild. temperature controlled office buildings do tend to make the weather seem like very little else but something that fills a slot during the news hour.

but what if it is the big change? i think about my own life and my little march toward the day that i will cease to breathe.  i remember being a child and thinking about death. death was what happened to grandpa. i didn’t hold the death of an ant as significant, but a human, that meant something bigger.  we as people are able to categorize death into levels of importance. the death of someone famous is heavily grieved while some unknown child in mexico or tanzania is a passing note. even on the news small tragedies are mentioned and, in the same breath, some hair-sprayed dude will talk about someone’s dog doing tricks. and all the while smiling and smiling and smiling. weird.

i think we are off.  we hold ourselves above the laws of life in this world.  as if we should be allowed a better chance.  there are feelings of allegiance to our race over other species, to our country over the rest of the world, to our religious affiliation and then down the line to friends and family.  the truth is that the lives are a part of the bigger world. one is not without the other. maybe this is boring and typical, but we cannot expect to live in a world that we continue to disrespect and ravage. if we are watching a big change here, it is a pony we’ve been saddling up for a long time.  i just don’t think we’re ready to ride.

i have a buddy who has the merced river drainage tattooed on his forearm.  he spends his days moving rocks and building trails north of san francisco. when he is free, he goes to where he was raised, down by the river that is rendered on his arm, down in yosemite valley. i’ve gone there with him and surfed on the waves below his house. the river flows and eamon skates like some strange superhero on the glass above a huge reversal. he does it better than anyone else…home court advantage, man.  but the tattoos on his arms look a bit like a root system and they also mysteriously resemble the veins that course in blue and carry the red-salty blood under his skin.  and maybe the three are not so different. roots, rivers, and passageways are simple manifestations of one another. all things moving and flowing. even our own paths as they form organically along the lay of the land are very similar to the streams that are running, will forever try to run, back to the sea.  the end of our being would not spell the end of the world.  when the last of our clocks tick to a stop and time is no longer counted, the animals that are left will do as they have done. the river otters will bounce along river banks. dirt will fill the balconies of the high dollar high rises and the elk will bugle in the city parks. concrete will crack and decay and old rivers will find there way back to their old bellies.  migrations will adjust. whales will swim through silent oceans and speak across the black with their beautiful tongues.  no more jet trails…no burping industries.  all that is radioactive will begin the long journey back to being stable. healing and healing and healing.

i suppose if it can’t happen with us here, it will happen when we aren’t. i don’t want humans to fail at being good to this world. in my life, i’ll do all i can to give it my heart and love. it will take more than me. we all gotta love it. we need to find our roots and wear them like tattoos on our hearts.

while we fight for the rights of our race and argue over the importance of our governments, the world we stand on is trying to get our attention.  we all need to quiet ourselves and take a walk through the woods, or maybe take off our fancy clothes and swim into the ocean. connection is our only hope.

Melville’s world (the Nantucketer)