tobias crabtree

defining lines; drawing and writing

Tag: words

Random Case of Funk

Words. They spell out our feelings, kinda. Depending on how well we use them, they transfer our thoughts into the heads and hearts of others. We explain ourselves. Well chosen words are magnificent.

Lyrics and quotes and poems and sayings. My life is filled with the thoughts of others. I comfort myself with words written by someone long dead. I can read Rumi’s poems and learn to be better at being. The back portion of my RV is lined with books. I can see them when I lay down at night and I can feel their presence. Thousands of thoughts held, like butterflies in an aviary.

I am less a writer. More an illustrator. I have more control over the lines in a drawing than I do in script. I try to write. Most of the time I feel like the fella who showed up for the triathlon in jean shorts and flip flops — I’m down to try, but I ain’t gonna impress anyone.

It does seem like the old-fashioned use of words is changing. Conversations are not the same these days. Distractions are rampant. Words are being traded in for digital expression. Misunderstandings thrive in a world of texting and shortened messages.

I sure do like sitting with my friends and seeing them see me. I like laughing out loud with my lover, in person. I like to see the expression on a person’s face as they speak to me. Words with heart. Words with smiles. Words that I need to hear coming from the face of a friend. Words that hold the sound of my Mama’s voice, warmed by her wonderful heart. Words that tell my good people I love them. Words in the night, with the stars overhead. Whispered words. Remembered words spoken in earnest. Words that tell a story and hold the precious attention of the little ones. Words kept for the sake of the fragile. Words properly placed to help a limping soul.

We set a lot of store in words. We even choose what we will say on our tombstones! Us humans are a crazy lot. Seems like we always have one more thing to express. I’m included. This morning, I’m here, trudging away and writing with one of those little black clouds over my head. Grumpy. Bad night’s sleep. Barking dogs. Upset stomach. Right smack dab in the middle of this life. I reckon I’ll end this pile of writing with a misunderstanding. I’ve always kinda liked the band Rage Against the Machine. Yesterday at the tattoo shop I heard a song by them that I hadn’t heard in a while. I was drawing mountains. As usual, I knew some of the lyrics but not the name of the song. So I was singing, “it’s a random case of funk, it’s a random case of funk….” I looked at the name of the song and it is,  Renegades of Funk. No biggie, I’ve just been singing Random Case of Funk for 16 years at the top of my lungs and no one has told me that ain’t right. Thanks a lot everyone. And you know something? I like Random Case of Funk better anyway. It fits me.


More Genius-er

I’ll admit, I’ve had a little trouble writing lately. I don’t mean that I don’t wanna write, I mean that it all just doesn’t seem that interesting. There seems to be a huge gap between me being amazed by what I see and then me transferring that amazement into words that can be read and enjoyed. There are so many quotes by folks smarter than me about how we each have our own distinct view of the world. I mean, I can’t even be sure that the red I see is the red you see. With that in mind, it makes me feel almost useless when trying to explain my love for something complex in a way that I feel you might also feel. Damn.

I have an example. I’m really into the elements and the periodic table. The other day I was riding with a good buddy, we were going for a beer, and I was talking about my newest discovery (and by my newest discovery, I mean my personal, simple, elementary understanding of Hydrogen and it’s role in the physical universe) from this book I’m pouring over about the periodic table and it’s order and stuff. My buddy, who I might add is a real smart dude, surprised me by asking why I am talking about that and what am I trying to prove. He wanted to know, genuinely, if I was trying to seem smart by talking about that kind of thing. Now I’m not above wanting to look good, in fact, I have a helluva ego that can really take over and ruin whatever I’ve done to make it seem like I’m a nice guy. But in this instance, I was talking about something that was humbling to me. And so, when asked why I was even talking about it, I didn’t have an answer. Honestly, I didn’t have an answer because of the oceans of thought I was swimming in. You could have just stood me in front of everything that ever was and asked me, “why?” I would have had the same stupid look on my face. I don’t know, but I love it and I’m amazed by it and so, sometimes when I think I might talk about it, I try to find words. Mostly, I can’t. It would be like me going for a ride in an F-16 and then, while my heart is still pounding from the ride, I tell you that I’m a-gonna build one of these suckers…from scratch. You know, like mine the ores and build the rockets and make the computery thingies and chop down some rubber trees and shape the wings and make the glass outa the crap that glass gets made out of and polish the windows and, while I’m at it, weave myself a flight suite out of space age materials that I harvest from a space age farm.

I reckon I was defensive under my buddy’s questioning because it was insinuated that I might actually understand it all. I don’t. I’m pretty sure you have to be at least a bit of a genius to begin to get a handle on most of that kind of stuff and, while I consider myself to have passingly good common sense, I can say that I’ve never been referred to as a genius (unless you count the times in the Marine Corps where someone screamed at me for doing something incorrectly and used the word, brainiac…and, although I do think that word is funny, I don’t believe it was intended as a compliment). And so, since I’m not a genius yet, I seriously doubt I’m gonna get any genius-er as I get older. Most likely, it’ll be oppositeville. Anyway, it sure did make me shut my mouth about my amazing little discoveries concerning the physical world. I know what my buddy was thinking, “shut up and go watch some star trek, you wannabe physicist.”

Trouble is, I still wonder. I stopped driving at about 3 a.m. this morning. I pulled over somewhere in the mountains and listened for the creek below me in the dark. My legs were aching and my heart was really, kinda heavy. Sometimes, for all the reasons there are and maybe some there aren’t, I just feel sad about things. Trucks were ripping by me on the highway beyond the trees. For a second, there was a break in the endless line of traffic between the Oregon highlands and LA, the sound died down to the wind and the trees and the creek. There were clouds moving, big ol’ dark cattle in the sky, and they were heavy heavy with rain. A few spatters began to snap off the black-berry leaves in the gully and I saw through a break in the clouds. A single, magnificent meteor streaked all green against a backdrop of forever. Out there, where the hydrogen shines purple and yellow and green, beyond my vision and my comprehension, is the stuff of wonder. Perhaps it’s better left unsaid, maybe even unwritten. Then again, fuck it, I’ll sing how I want.

a ribbon between the keys

I love writing from my brother’s garage. I don’t know exactly what it is that I love about it, something…something old and nostalgia based. Maybe it’s from the memory banks, back when all us boys used to hang out in the ol’ bus garage, when my Pa moonlighted as the mechanic at the church. I still love the smell of old engines and greasy parts, oil drenched benches with big vices for clamping things that need clamping. I’ve never been much of a mechanic, I’m the guy that will take something apart and THEN call for help, sometimes losing a part or two in between feeling confident and lost. Both my brothers are better with that kind of stuff. Cory will help me get my computer going again, over the phone. Josh is the one who tells me to label the parts, put ’em in a bag, take a picture before you take it apart. Yeah, I’m more like the guy with greasy fingers and a hammer and a weird look on my face because I just realized i haven’t a clue as to where this one extra part goes. But none of that changes anything about me liking to write in the garage. The only thing I can loose while I’m writing is my train of thought and, if you’ve ever read anything that I’ve written, you know that’s just part of the ride. If I thought I had any style at all it would be based on big, looping circles that drop down into the creek bottoms, cut under bridges, follow old deer trails, go up and down trees, and finally, if we’re lucky, end up somewhere that makes some kind of sense. But don’t count on it.

Last night I went to bed early. I read from A River Runs Through It, and promptly had dreams of big mountain rivers with monster trout, lurking in the foamy swirls. The literature that calls me most these days is the stuff that leans into an older, more loving view of the world. I am reminded, on the daily, how much there is for us to learn from the woods, the ocean, the rivers. I don’t need anything that takes batteries or a power source, I need only to give time to the world that formed me. These Wild Things put their mark on me. They put wrinkles around my eyes, muscles on my body, and memories that can stir a fire in the heart of the kids that will bury me. I wonder, as I think about the way things are, if the time of the Story Teller is over, replaced by shiny devices that give us so much pleasure through beeps and follows and likes. Let’s face it, the human being is a specie so in love with itself that it is in danger of losing it’s vision, walking head down and staring at a pretty screen right out into oblivion. Don’t believe me? Drive by a middle school when the kids are let out and count the interactions that don’t include a smart phone. Coffee shops aren’t for physical interaction anymore, they are cyber-world. I wonder what would happen if something happened, like a solar flare or something, and the ability to use the web went away. I’m not wishing for a stone age here, I don’t want us to loose knowledge, but would kids even know how to look stuff up in the dictionary? People would be lost in their hometowns because they’ve never learned about street addresses, how there’s a North and South, East and West division to every town and the street numbers increase from that point. And what would happen in coffee shops? For a while, people would talk about losing the web, but then what? Everyone would be forced to look up when they’re walking in Central Park. People would begin to say Hello again because the ol’ cop-out of pretending to look at the phone would be gone. Maybe kids who no longer have their ipad would like books and crayons again. And I’d be typing on an old typewriter (for those who don’t know what a typewriter is — and I just met a kid that didn’t — it’s a machine that hammers words onto paper by holding a ribbon of ink in between the swinging keys that have the letters of the alphabet. It’s wonderfully noisy. It was created not long after the cotton gin).

I’m intentionally sarcastic, but I’m including myself in this wave of stupidity and dependency. I don’t want things to regress, I would much rather see us progress and use what we have in a positive way. Convenience is not always the correct choice, nor is comfort. Frustration is an important part of our development, it’s good to have to deal with it.

Being smart and simple is so damn refreshing! I’ve got the simple part down, the smart part is still a work in progress. I do, however, spend time with the Ones who are marvelously smart and wise enough to listen and good enough to teach and simple enough to enjoy the moments where the only sound is the thumping of their own heart and the whisperings of a forgotten world.

one word at a time

i haven’t been able to write lately. oh, i write, but it’s all pithy blather and i throw it out. that delete button is handy. i do believe that in order to understand how to say things, one must practice even when it seems useless. and then sometimes you just gotta go and do other things. there will always be things to say and there will always be the words that say them the best, i’m the little idiot running wildly with a butterfly net trying to catch and deliver meaning, maybe with some semblance of intelligence as well as a good old fashioned helping of soul. it’s possible, i know, i just have my ups and downs. lotsa downs.

so it figures that when i awoke this morning and decided to draw some stuff, i had no sooner sat down with pen and paper that i began to feel the need to write some thoughts. writing is such a jealous lover. and fickle. she will wait until interest is bent in some other valid fashion and she will walk out all arrayed in beautiful style, words flashing like sparkles in a fountain. ideas and wonder moving like the shadows of trout in some colorado mountain stream. she is beguiling and breathtaking. there is much to be felt and transferred but there is nary a promise. i will say this, when she wants to dance, you’d best dance or she will leave and you’ll be left with vague memories of beautiful things that might have been.

i jumped on my bike. 5:21a.m. it’s raining this morning in santa cruz. i criss-cross puddles on the way to buy cream for my coffee. i am thinking of words. and words and words. these symbols of sounds that send thoughts to other minds.  they whirl in many forms and are used and misused for good and bad. there are somewhere around 7,000 languages. think about all the words! an italian fella named roberto, whose story is as broad and spectacular as his mind, swims in the ocean at china beach. we spoke after a swim one day when the sun was just barely warm enough to stay undressed and wait, like turtles, for the heat. he told me a bit about his life. i was asking about the language of his birth. in a non-bragging way he finally admitted to knowing 5 languages. i learned spanish when i was 33 and i still speak with less fluidity than the average 5 year old that was born into it.  language is wonderful. words are brilliant. think about it, allow yourself the freedom to imagine; there is this thought in your mind, some bright and shining thing that you would like to share. so,  you create the way to say things that will turn this thought into a shape that will be discernible to another mind. there is care to be taken. proper craftsmanship is not a requirement, obviously, but a thought well-crafted will hold up better under scrutiny. for an example of what the shoddy use of language will get you, think about how many times you’ve been misunderstood in a phone text. when care is taken, less words need be spoken and, in turn, there is better communication. in other words, we are better understood when we think about what we say.

i read that by the year 2100 between 70% and 90% of all the languages spoken at the beginning of this century will be extinct. words are dying. when they aren’t used, they just go away. all those native expressions that said it from the level of the earth will be lost forever. they become the past. skeletons of the thoughts of the ancient ones. i don’t like it. not at all.

my gramps used to speak choctaw. he would say mentay elientempa, ysiki soma…i don’t know how to spell it, nor do i know exactly what it meant, but when he said it, and when he pointed those words at me, i squealed and ran to him and he hugged me. he said the names of animals in his native tongue. it was pure magic. i was my light. he shone his language of the past into my heart and i became a part of his tribe. i cried for the birds and the sky. i ran with sharp sticks. i was convinced that, one day, i would ride off on a pony into the mountains where the cities dropped back and the drums of the tribes would guide me in. and fires and stars. and dances in the sweet grasses and skins stretched and painted with all manner of symbols. and caves and trees and feathers and the old way to love. the light from my grampa’s words still heat my heart. i feel the fire from his ways burning in me even now. it will never go out…not if i can help it. i give it to the kids, to the ones that hear me. the rubys the rowans the leithians the lochlans the masons the tuckers the hudsons the bellas the santi’s the m’sos the josh’s the cannons the olivias the luc’s the seidels…and i could go on.  some will respond and carry the old fire and, with it, the wonders of the earth.

could it possibly be that simple? probably not. but it’s a start. i think that when kids are officially starting to grow up is when they stop saying what they think. ever been called wrinkly? or fat? or weird? kids’ll call that shit out. at some point they realize that there are things that hurt and things that could be left out in order to be in a better space. some of it’s tact and some of it’s manipulation. so much to sort through in order to be accepted and understood. the world is at the mercy of the humans it has spawned. in order to make change, we must choose our words wisely. we must be mindful in order to offset ignorance.

i’ll end with a reference to a book written by rick bass. it’s a novella called the sky, the stars, the wilderness. there is a part in the book where an old man has a stroke and looses his speech. his love is the birds. he retains the ability to do bird calls through whistling  and so he sits on the porch and whistles all day. his calls become so ornate that he’s able to call in even the rarest of birds. at some point, he shapes a word through his whistling. his grand daughter hears it and begs him for more. he forms more words. he speaks to her and tells her all the things he had wanted to say after his stroke stole his tongue; his words more beautiful than ever in his life because they are part and parcel, words from a birdsong. they speak for days. it wasn’t long before he died.

all had been said, through the song of a bird.

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.

collection: get a jar

my childhood window-sills were filled with jars; in my memory, they remain that way. i was, and always have been, a collector of things. hundreds of sad little spiders died inside the screwed down caps of old jelly jars. caterpillars passed their lives being fed, not so consistently, until they sewed themselves up inside their coccoons and turned themselves to liquid in order to reanimate once again as some beautiful fluttering inside the jar. if i was present, they were most often set free. i was a nasty little tyrant in those days. some insects never made it back from being collected.  but i was not just a collector of life, i have filled many a box with rocks, many a bag with sticks, many a book with flowers and leaves. i  recently came across a birds nest i kept and in it were hundreds of feathers. there were ones that were 14 inches long and ones that were a speck in my palm. there was a feather from a bald eagle that i had seen fall from it’s owner as she launched from a tree in washington. the tiny, bright, magenta feather i plucked from that one hummingbird i found on the trail where he had died (and i remember wondering if the magic had just run out of him, if the swirling, spinning sparks on which he lived had quit him, if the star from which he was born had gone out in the same fashion) was still buzzing among the drab, mothy feathers from nightjars and owls. for some reason, the desire to “own” those speckled coverings, those traveled instruments of flight, ran out of me. i set them free that day in the wind behind brian’s house.

so i’m a collector of sorts. i guess that’s what it boils down to. i still collect rocks, but i’m more prone these days to set them free once again in new and wild places. and i love words. words from sarah fontaine. words from brother foster. words from my mama. words from mr. erickson. words from ex-lovers (maybe future lovers, who can say?).  words from my teachers. words from rumi and hafiz (i put them together because they are similarly beautiful but they are different and i hope they don’t mind that i put them together but i’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind because they are who the are, they were who they were). words from melville, that wild-beard from the days of the whales. words from mary oliver, who carries my own sadness for me because she is stronger than me and because she is what i would be if my heart was only bigger. (see: how to have a bigger heart) yeah, a collector, that’s me alright.

i use my pockets to the max. i have them hold stuff that i find right now. i also use them to hold pens, which i collect. i even made a little pocket that i can carry in my pocket. i call it an extra pocket, and it is. i wish i had a pocket that would hold my sadness when i’m done feeling it. old sadnesses, they make me a little sad because they went away. i can’t explain it too well, but i am very aware of a feeling that has run it’s course and the river that has created a canyon in my heart loses it’s power, no longer rages, slows to a trickle and stops. the roaring falls are silent. and the image that i swore would never fade, fades. the face that i swore i would never close my eyes to, disappears in the distance of my faulty memory. if i had a pocket that would hold my sadnesses, i would pull them out now and again so that i could feel them for a second or two. i’m afraid of the mundane and sorrow is anything but mundane.

i have collected old pieces of paper with little things written on them. sayings and quotes and books i need to read. i recently found one that had a palindrome on it. in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. written under it was the translation which has to do with wandering in circles in the night and being consumed by fire. i got that little scrap years ago, before the world wide web was everybody’s best friend. i carried it, along with all the other scraps, so that i could be reminded of all the mysteries that are suspended within reach of my imagination. them scraps of paper are waysigns for my  wandering mind. i guess you might say that they help me remember to not forget to wonder.

can i make a suggestion? i mean, you don’t have to listen so i’m gonna make it anyway. get some jars and fill them with little bits and pieces of this world. hold them up in the light of the sun and look at them everyday. if you start to forget about them, set them free and renew your wonder with something else. we all need to do this, it’s important to your humanity and to your ability to feel. the water that runs in the creeks is polishing stones for our eyes to see. the wind that bends the trees is bringing you molecules that have rubbed up against dinosaurs and lions. there are magnificent complexities in a handful of sand, even proof that you are connected to the outer most reaches of the universe. there are songbirds out your window that can find their way across the world by following magnetic fields and celestial markers. life is the sweetest thing and you were born into it. take your moments and use them like they beg to be used. we are certainly gifted, we humans, but i’ll be damned if we ain’t wasting our gifts on complicated baloney. take a little back why don’t ya?

end note: my friend, shaney, reminded me today that a heart that fractures is a heart with more room. rumi agrees, and i continue to learn. peace.


a list…and some other stuff

i dreamt that my sister came to me in the night. there was that old look that i know so well because i’ve seen it on my own face, it’s like certain things expressed in the genes but that you can’t quite put your finger on. some stuff we can hide, some stuff we can’t. anyway, my sis’ wasn’t trying to hide a thing. there was broken-heartedness spilling out all around her. i invited her in the camper and pulled open a drawer that was full of tiny records, about the size of a silver dollar. i picked one out that was labeled “for the broken-hearted” and put it on the player. we sat and listened to perfect words that i cannot recollect and looked out at a moon-filled world. she sat and drank tea. i drank coffee. we both looked out the big picture window in the back and the view was from the top of some high-rise in downtown manhattan, and i felt the dream seamlessly blend the real and the other. malia, me and my camper, looking out over the lights of millions of other hearts, some happy, some broken, some deciding whether to stay or to go, some loving, some losing, some never thinking past the money. i don’t know what really happened after that, but i remember that things were kinda starting to be ok.

life really is just a continuous series of feelings. it’ll run off and be pretty damn selfish if you don’t pay it proper attention. that’s where the soul comes into play. way out there on the end of it’s tether, close to the stars and the circling birds, the soul is outside of races and species and dictionaries and languages. it can’t be accurately weighed and measured and timed, even though we try. it ain’t science. it fills us up.

and life is the result, with it’s sweet, little goods and nasty,stumbling bads.

walking along minding your own business and running headlong into a painful yesterday. creosote in the sandy washes. the tiniest vireo. the smell of rain against the monzonite. the quick tracks of the coyote and the pearly light that hides the bobcat, the huntress, at dawn. the barn owl that peeks at me from deep in that one cave (yes, you know who you are, tyto alba, in your lair above the rest of us). my elbow, clicking and hurting. the sky that holds the moon, much as that cave holds the owl. and that moon in her death throws, here at the end of her cycle, running before the sun with the last of her light…the last of her light. and my coffee that’s strong and cooling. and dad with his thoughts as he lies there next to my mama. and mama with her thoughts lying by my dad. and the rocks on the slopes that hold the recordings from the beginnings. and the puma in the wash with her twins. and the nolina that stands 20 feet tall where the lightning struck the pinon and the pinon crushed the oak. and that heartbeat that sometimes flutters and reminds me that, no matter how healthful i am, no matter how much turmeric i ingest, no matter my meditations on the spirit, i will someday drop deader than a pair of worn out socks. the words that i arrange to say what i mean in varied degrees of success. the cities that hold humans close. the cicada waiting in hiding for that 7th year. the wonderful song that is in the heart of the one who has not yet lost the love of her life but will and who has not yet begun to sing…but will. the colony of pill-bugs beneath the old plastic bag at the end of the road. the abandoned roadrunner nest above the door to the chicken coop. the old man that puts more sugar in his cup than coffee, and who does’t have teeth, and who seems like he’ll live forever anyway. the shack where david lives. the way ruby sings when you play an A-flat. the saddest book i’ve ever read, that i can’t talk about.  my younger brother josh, who i wanna grow up and be like. the distance that i worship because it holds everything including what is near, because what is near is far when you move away. the ocean and her need for us to be more careful and love her more and also to love her heart, which is every beast in her belly. the thoughts of kenneally as he walks toward mindfulness with the wildest of smiles. old photos when my belly was round and my mama had my brother cory in her belly, so her belly was rounder. memories of swimming with guns and radios and men who could use them. twisting lenga trees on the bench where the wind will blow the skin from your bones. barefootedness. openheartedness. the lone and honest sun, who, if you let him, will bleach out your faults, like old bones, until they are lighter and easier to carry. the winding down and the end, which is as perfect as birth but not nearly as popular. this breathing which is now, and doesn’t need to be labeled or claimed…it is simple and should be left that way.

this is what i think is, this and all the other stuff i missed. a collection of sorts.


one little god

for whatever reason i love the overhead. i was born with these fancy fingers, this simian form. i reach and clutch for a higher view. i’ve never been dis-allowed by parent nor fear. the fear would be the fall but my hands and feet have proven themselves up till now, and so i trust them with my heart and fragile head. they carry me aloft. and there i sit and watch, like a little god,  the world in it’s spinnings.

there are patterns. maps. lines. tracks. weavings from the earth bound. sometimes the sweetest of views, the passing raptor and it’s sacred, speckled back. to look down into space and see a raven in it’s element is to see it anew.  i dream in flights of fancy, i imagine the world of the birds. the sky is to the bird what the sea is to the whale.  it is the fourth dimension in which flight and gravity interact and create beautiful arcing loops, gut-twisting turns that swing through the clouds and plummet to within inches of the stones that will someday claim every flying thing, every marching army, every twisting fin. the stones are the most patient of them all; they know that each prodigal heart will return to them, will lie down against them and stop.

and from the top of the rocks, i can see the below-ness.  with a little wind and the november sun, i shut my trap and think about the things that i read from the script that the desert provides. there is a pellet from the gullet of a barn owl in the crack at my feet. i see the skull of a mouse that must have been caught in the open. them quiet, strange owls…all white and silent like a moth. i know a cave where a barn owl roosts in the coldest parts of the winter. i’ve climbed past her as she sat in her torper, awaiting a warmer day, storing energy. and i climbed in close as she sat atop a pile of sticks built in the stoney, black hole where two monoliths meet. almost too cold to climb, my hands stinging from the cold. i passed the barn owl close, maybe 6 feet, and she opened just one eye and moved her head slightly. the medicine between she and i was good and her eye floated closed. what a privilege. and for that second, in the eye that was only black and darker than the space between the stars, i was seen. what are the dreams inside that creamy white skull? can you imagine?

but that was a time last winter and not now. now is warm and the sun is sweet. out from my perch, i am moving toward the ground. i am coming down.  from 40 or so feet above the joshua trees i see the lazy j marks left by a traveling rattlesnake. they are clear from here. i follow them to a thick creosote bush and there, in the sand and freckled shadows, is the maker. a group of climbers with a dog are walking the path.  i am watching and i start to say something but the space between is enough to let the world turn on it’s own.  the dog wets on the other side of the bush. the snake does not blink. now i am down and i squat to look at the one that goes without being noticed.  there is no rattling, i suppose there is no need. i wait to see if there is anything more and, without a sound, the snake moves out across the sand, leaving it’s j’s in cursive behind.

there ain’t anything more. there isn’t a finishing point. there is only the perfect distance and the chance that my heart doesn’t decide that it’s too tired to continue. and your heart, too. here’s to our hearts and the rhythm in between.

birth, death and the tricky in-between

when i sit down to write i am confronted with a number of certainties. the first is that whatever i want say has already been said…and it’s been said better.  the second is that i’m in debt to the beautiful things and the dreadful things that i see in the world, they expect me to say something. the third is that i’m a hack writer and arranging the words efficiently from out of my mind is like chasing marbles down a steep flight of stairs; not only is it difficult, but there is a good chance i’ll fall and break something. too many words and you lose your peeps, too few and the message is cryptic. too pathetic and folks’ll roll their eyes and tell you to put on your big-boy pants. too shallow and, well, too shallow and you might as well be updating your status on fb or whichever one you choose to tell everyone that you just found out that you’re allergic to dairy and it makes you “gassy”.

when i do end up writing, and obviously i sometimes do, it’s mostly about the things i cannot fully comprehend. the mysteries out beyond the rolling waves. the glimmering stars and the dots of light that move between them. love, and the hey-i’m-tied-to-the-tracks feeling of love’s loss. bees and their sweet geometry. i’m always digging away at beginnings and endings of things to see what i can find. and what i find is usually so wonderful that i don’t know the words to express it. or maybe i have the words but i can’t dress them up properly so’s they’ll be noticed. i march the little words out in some form or another and they don’t have the talent to catch the ear of the reader. they move past and fall down into little piles of “a’s, g’s, and lmnop’s” and i give them a little nod and tell them that it was a nice try. it’s the best i can do. so many marvels have lived and died in the hearts of people that did not feel the need to tell the story. i wasn’t blessed with a quiet tongue, for better or worse, i’m a story-teller.

and it is in me to pay homage to the forgotten things. when i open up the paper or read the articles on line i feel a terrible need to rant about the pandering that’s going on. we are so much more amazing than this! it’s one thing after another that tells us to be card-board cut-outs of the whims of our cultures. we do not need to have pouty lips to look beautiful. we don’t need the drugs with all the x’s and z’s in their names. i might be crazy (and i’m quite sure i am a little crazy) but i think folks are pretty when they are sweating in the sun or bundled up around a fire with the wind drowning out the sounds of our cultural machine. i have never been so turned on as by the singing and dancing of a girl in the wide open desert while a fire burned and the stars screamed and the barn owls winked from odd shaped rocks. i just don’t want to think we’ve all been duped into this other world of plastic lips and hips and boobs; a world where we are urged to buy products that will give us our “original” colored hair (hey man, my original color hair is what’s happening right now…ain’t no better “original” than the present and the present has grey in it). there is a this-is-what’s-cool-so-use-it-and-be-cool-too kind of push. i’m for pushing back and doing whatever makes me the wildest, smartest animal i can possibly be. and i want to run with that tribe. and i want that tribe to change things.

see, a little rant. not too big. just a little one. don’t be mad. these are just words and the source is questionable, at best.

there are wonderful, wild days to come. we should be ready, and by ready, i mean aware.

love proof

words jump around.

the same word can mean very different things.

i used to play a game with someone while we drove across the country. it was kind of a homonym game but i would always cheat and twist words to sound like other words. like i would say, ” i got one, inanimate.” and then i would give examples, “that rock is inanimate,” and then, “i’ll be out… “in-a-minute.””she would laugh a little and tell me no, no, no, you can’t make that shit up like that.

in context, the game we played was proof of a certain kind of love. love of company and time spent. love of travel. love of sky and distance. love of love. i mostly avoid thinking of all that now, but somehow those times re-conjure themselves in the night. things that were then, become now. it’s like a trick that life plays on the sad and the sleepy. i think about heartache sometimes and i try to send it on down the river. i try to let it go, but damn, them old thoughts are strong swimmers. they can come back up stream like salmon. so it becomes a ritual; each day, sometimes more than once, i let ’em go. now i look at it more like letting the dogs out for a run…i know they’ll be back, but at least they won’t bother me for a bit. and in the interim, maybe i’ll fill the space. maybe one of these days, they won’t have room to stay and they’ll just go somewhere else.

if proof is a noun, it means to give something legitimacy or make it true. proof, as an adjective, is resistance. water-proof, bullet-proof, or whatever-proof.  i wonder about love; applied, it is probably our most worthy aspect. if it weren’t for love, i don’t know that we would have anything that sets us apart and gives us a good enough reason to be on this planet; however, it brings with it the possibility of evil. where there is something so powerful as love, there will always be a way to abuse it. it comes in the form of feigned affection. fake love, man, that shit is wicked. it can topple the powerful and crush the determined. what’s worse is that everyone is likely to experience it. some will be the dealers and some will be dealt. oh my, these tricky hearts!

if they made a love-proof jacket, i don’t know if i’d buy one, but i certainly would check to see if they had it in my size.