Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Boyhood /
1950ish, @ K. 2002 08 19
pk the Bell Ringer
By now there are already a number of references to the church camp I attended over a series of years. It was called Denton Lake. The girls stayed in dorms on the administration’s side of the lake; the boys slept across the water. The mess hall was closer to the boys’ dorms than to the girls’. The beach was on the girls’ side: the same side meditations and classes and such were held on. Most meetings were out of doors, but if we met inside, it was in the administration building. There was a great tree in front of that structure. I wasn’t much of a botanist in those days so I can’t say whether it was an oak or an elm or what. But it had branches with real character. Now that I live in the south, I’m picturing a live oak in my memory. But of course down-state New York has no evergreen oaks: certainly not the south-Atlantic coastal kind.
One afternoon I’m swimming. I was fascinated by how the lake held so many distinct temperatures: warm here, cold only a few swim strokes away. I don’t remember anyone else in the water at that time: or more than a kid or two in the area. It may well have been well on in the afternoon. Suddenly, time is flash-frozen by lightning. All color indexes to blue-gray. Ka-boom! The thunder follows. Splat! Wham! The rain drops fall. Then they’re hurled. Then they’re shot. The rain splats hit so violently they hurt. The rain too had different temperatures: warm, warm, then frigid and piercing. I’m in the water with nothing but what’s in my bathing suit. I head for the main building: the closest structure other than the tree. The tree may keep some of the rain off me till I get there. Barefoot was fine for this kid, but not at speed, not while I was being pelted by all the sudden violent effects: lightning, thunder, and rain. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch … Not while I was tiptoeing amid the tree roots.
I think it was my head that was in danger of cracking, not that giant outdoor bell.
And I woke up in the administration building with every adult female in the camp hovering over me.
pix no longer supported, sorry
I got relieved smiles and close physical attention. They were applying an ice pack to my forehead. Aiyaiaai! When I put my hand there, it was warded off several inches away. That bump on my head wasn’t a goose egg; it was a stalagmite.
Denton Lake hung a great iron bell from the great tree. That’s how we were called to prayer, to dinner, to a meeting. The bell could be heard well up into the wooded hills on the other side of the lake. I’d clobbered myself against it while concentrating on my tricky footing. “The Bell Ringer” I was called the rest of that visit and the following year.
I was reminded of the incident this noon while setting the table. I poked myself in the forehead with Catherine’s chandelier. Seated at table, the light fixture is overhead. Standing over the table, it’s right in your eye. It’s always there. It doesn’t move: not normally. I first entered Catherine’s mobile home in day light. I wasn’t breaking and entering at night. I saw the thing. I see the thing every day. How, after thirteen years, can I possibly bump into it by accident?
“Because” the eye glasses I never had to wear before age forty-six train your eye to look only in certain areas of the lens depending on your purpose at the moment. Where depends on your focus. You look through the tops and sides of the lens if you’re looking in the distance, you look through the bottom center when doing any close work. I was setting the table or at least checking her table setting. My focus was narrow: downward. Wham, I bump into something with my forehead. Before age forty-six I never bumped into anything — I could see in front of me. I could see above me. I could almost see behind me — with that one dramatic exception. Boy, I bet they’d worried that I’d wake up a total idiot I must have bashed that bell so hard. Somebody saw my body and men were quickly recruited to carry me in to the sofa.
Who knows what I’ve done to my brains over the years? One time I planned to wash my bedroom windows by running the hose on them from the roof. I had the ladder up against the back roof. I had a nozzle on the hose so I could carry it up the ladder holding the spray off while I climbed up and over and onto the shingles. When I got there, the hose was heavier and clumsier than I’d expected. It also seemed to be caught on something. I glanced backwards over the side of the roof, tried to clear the hose by swinging it, and gave it a yank. Good — that ought to be plenty enough length now to give my windows a good squirt — when the hose re-contracted after the vigorous stretch I’d given it. The hose’s elasticity yanked me back over the end of the ladder and into mid-air a lot faster that I’d gained the other direction. Whoops. Boom. I landed on the concrete walk, dividing the impact pretty evenly between my head, my neck, and my shoulders. Splat. Then the rest of me landed. While my head and shoulders were bouncing back up again. I bounced a couple of times, waving like a ribbon: like half-cooked lasagna.
Well, I thought. I think I’ll go inside and have me a little lie-down on the couch. See if I’m alive or dead. If my brains are addled or just scrambled.
I rang the bell with the front of my head: my forehead. I played falling-carpet with the back of my head: the base of my skull. One blow to the cerebrum. Then a wave of unsympathetic crunches to the medulla oblongata. My mother informed me that my grade school teachers had said I was stupid. Could be. I certainly never knew what the hell they were talking about. (Now I firmly believe that they didn’t either.) By somewhere in grade school, I had at least one teacher who was a firm fan: wanted to get my writing published! By the time I was a senior I had several teachers jeering that I couldn’t even graduate: while at least one maintained that if I wasn’t already what education was for, then education wasn’t for anything.
Sir Fred Hoyle, the daring astronomer, posits that human progress, both in mental paradigms and in mere matters of health, is driven by accidents: infestations of alien viruses, “mutation” via strange diseases …
I like to think that what makes pk distinctive came from a couple of cracks to his skull.
In any case: both those accidents came from discrepancies between what I was focused on and what I needed to be aware of. Now that I’m an old fart, sometimes clumsier than pk the kid-on-a-bike or pk the dancer or pk the aggressive skier would have believed, I find that what my senses take in has shrunk to what’s under my nose. So I’m always getting jabbed under my cap brim by stream side branches, poked in the eye brow by the chandelier, ducking, but not low enough …
This still have somewhere to go but not this session.
2013 06 03 Rocky, Jan’s handyman, was helping me do this and that the other day and both of us kept clonging against the chandelier. I removed two links from the chain it hung by. Rocky still bonged against it. So he removed all the links but one. Now, finally, it’s out of the way whether the table is under it or not.
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