Thursday, June 30, 2011

...or more like slightly singed.

A photobooth image an hour or so after...

So much going on these days. So much to be grateful for. So much that I am still waiting on. So many people that are reaching out. So much great work to see, to discover, to absorb, to create.

This past weekend, I just about electrocuted myself. I had been warned. I was being careful. But obviously, I wasn’t careful enough. The electrician I spoke to about this whole episode tells me I am lucky to be here. And while I feel fine, for which I am exceedingly grateful, I still don’t really know exactly how to process such a close call.

So, my lovely girlfriend and my family and I are moving back into Richmond after the past some years living in the sticks of Goochland. And while working at the new place this weekend I was clearing a stand of bamboo along with my son, Walker, and his brother, Luke. Luke was working the chainsaw and I was handling the falling shoots and Walker was hitting the stumps with an earth unfriendly potion. These bamboo were probably twenty-five or thirty feet tall and it turns out this is quite high enough to reach the rear service electrical lines behind our new place. I did mention I had been warned about this, right? When we bought the house, the inspector had said that this was a problem and to get a licensed landscaper or electrician or someone qualified to handle this sort of problem. Someone made entirely of rubber maybe? We had been working a few hours on this particular task and had made our way down about half the stand without any incident to speak of when one of the taller bamboo swayed the wrong way and had to bend around another leaning bamboo and of course sent the branches of the tree I was holding on an arc towards the wires above.

The buzzing wires above.

Something was going terribly wrong. Hard to say exactly how this relative instant unfolded but it definitely expanded into a broad stretch of “this might be how it all ends”... A lot was going on and even my comprehension of the event seemed to ramp up with a furious, if reckless, brand of energy. Something had exploded. Maybe my elbows had exploded? I was certain there was an event and I needed very badly to recoil from whatever was happening to me. I needed to cover up somehow. But I was fixed in place and I was vibrating or shaking furiously. Quaking might describe it. The rhythm of my rapid reverberation was a clue of some sort but I couldn’t quite figure anything out. Thinking was difficult. Maybe Luke was sawing into my legs with the chainsaw? But my legs didn’t really hurt it seemed. So what was happening then? It seemed that everything was coursing through my arms and chest and head. My body was stressed unbelievably, flexing, surging… All I managed to get out by way of “help” or “don’t touch me” was a sort of muted growl.

In fact, I am not sure if I managed to release the bamboo or if it shifted in my grip… but I did break free somehow. And I was standing there still. Looking at my son, and at Luke, wondering what had just taken place. It took a moment for me to collect my thoughts, check out my various systems. I felt pretty good. I was a little shaken but I felt pretty good really. And I stomped around a bit. My arms still had a thrum to them and my head was a little bleary but I have certainly felt worse before.

Luke said he had been getting ready to kick me free as he realized what was happening. He is such a solid guy, I have to say. And has more sense than me. But he really hadn’t had the time to react and I am glad he didn’t put himself into the mix. The whole episode took probably a single second. And I am not quite sure how I managed to bail on my incipient electrocution because after this eternal instant, the bamboo remained quietly, threateningly, still in place, barely reaching but solidly attached to the overhead wires. Some 30,000 volts of light your home. 30,000 volts of fuck you up. 30,000 quarts of electric jungle juice.

Could it be this stand of bamboo was not terribly happy about our mission to take it out? We had challenged the wrong stand of trees it seemed. People are always talking about how hard it is to get rid of bamboo. But no one tells you what a wicked thicket it really is.

I had been wearing rubber soled boots, so I suspect that when I tried to guide the bamboo with both hands as it fell, I must have completed a circuit of some kind. Being thoroughly sweaty from a few hours of working probably didn’t help matters much either. No matter how it actually transpired, or how poor my judgment had been, I am counting myself fortunate to have walked away from this particular episode. I am blessed even. And I am happy to write about it. I would be happy for such a tale to serve as a warning to others. But I also have to ask how it is that I am the only poor sap that I know of personally who has nearly frittered himself on those lines hanging a mere 20 some feet above pretty much every backyard in urban anywhere? Twenty feet is not so out of reach for a lot of innocent activities. That is probably the length, give or take, of many, many extension ladders, or telescoping pool cleaning poles and is certainly not much higher than most tree houses or rooftops… I guess it happens that people die regularly because the utilities are so quick to warn us before digging and to be careful around downed wires, etc… but damn, I had never given those innocuous exposed wires much thought.

I think about them now.

Later that night, over a beer at dinner, with Carrie and the boys, I thought about all the close calls in my life. In anyone’s life. The near misses, the nerve warping dodge around a deer, the swerving drivers in other cars, that precarious misstep while climbing or hiking, or when hearing the next day about the senseless violence that happened just down the block… Things are happening all the time. Tears are shed. Promises shattered. But near misses happen too thankfully. And then sets in the unsettling relief and all the grateful promises when you realize that you have just dodged a bullet. Actually, I guess that one grazed me a little. And I am happy to say that I think that may have been the closest call I have had in my forty –five years. Something will get me at some point. And so be it. But for now… woo hoo!

I am not completely certain but I may now have slightly enhanced paranormal abilities. But then I also put my underwear on backwards the day after so it all sort of evens out you could say.

Life goes on. And I do intend to make the best of it. Much love to all. And it would probably be better not to tell my mom about this.