Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lightening striking again...

I have heard of Henry Darger in the past, but somehow his work and his story was placed on some dusty corner of my mind until I ran across this article on -

Clearly, the man was deeply disturbed on many levels, but what an amazing treasure trove of work his mind and talent left behind.

By the way, if you're ever in the mood to kvetch about your childhood or even your present life circumstances, read a bit about Darger's childhood and tormented adulthood and then see if you don't feel like whistling a different tune.

Late yesterday afternoon/early evening, I was working away in the studio for my upcoming solo exhibit at the Philip Morton Gallery in September. The air was still stifling hot when I entered the studio as we were still in the throes of the "tropical" heat wave. It was that kind of heat that makes everyday creature behave oddly - squirrels flatten themselves against the bare earth for coolness and birds sloth about with their beaks ajar as if they were dragging themselves across the desert floor attempting to reach some distant hallucinatory oasis.

Fortunately for me, I keep my studio cool in the summer with a wall unit that we had installed after we renovated the space. If not for that, I too, would have been flattening myself to the bare earth for coolness no doubt. I opened the door, stepped into the refreshing acrylic paint scented air and quickly pulled the heavy door shut behind me locking out the hellishness of the baking sun.

I began working on one of my paintings and was quite oblivious to the world outside of my studio door. The rumbling of the air conditioner mixed with the music that I was playing helped in this obscurement. It was just I alone with my cool air, my art and my iTunes and I felt very content.

About an hour into my painterly nirvana however, all of the lights in my studio blinked. "Power surge", I thought to myself and went about my work. Then it happened again, but this time it was accompanied with a rumbling sensation that, even though I couldn't hear, I could feel through the concrete floor beneath my feet. I quickly muted the music realizing that something wasn't quite right.I opened the door to my studio and was greeted by quite a change in the weather. The stark blue and hazy 101 degree skies that were present when I entered my studio how now been replaced with something much more sinister. The temperature had dropped considerably and the trees were thrashing so severely with whipping winds that I remember wondering for a brief second why they weren't snapping off like weakened twigs. In the not too far distance, blue explosions of lightening were backlighting a massive cluster of churning black clouds. Since there were still hazy patches of blue above my head, I could see that the violent storm, though approaching quickly, was till not overhead. "Time to close shop", I thought matter-of-a-factly, as I stepped inside to power everything down which took less than two minutes. When I opened the door again to make the quick walk from my studio to the back door of the house, large rain drops where intermittently smashing into the ground around me and the storm moved closer. I stepped out of the studio and pulled the heavy door shut behind me and began walking quickly to my back door. That's when it happened.

Everything that happened next happened in a nano-second which is the weirdest sensation because I can recall it as if it took 10 minutes, like a time/space rift. First, I felt the air change around me as if it were being sucked up and away from me, and it felt tingly. Then there was a bright explosion of purple light so intense that I froze in my tracks because I felt temporarily blinded. It surrounded me as if I had walked into the headlight beam of on oncoming semi truck. It instantly befuddled me and I remember feeling as if my legs had suddenly become rubbery but only for a moment because following that was the loudest crack/explosion sound that I may have ever heard. It actually made my ears ring afterwards.

"Oh God, I've been struck by lightening!" I remember thinking to myself. But since I was still standing and seemed to be all right and could move again, I ran into the house thinking that I must have been spared.

Again, all of this happened literally in the blink of an eye. I can't explain why I recall it as if it took much longer. I'm still not sure if somehow I wasn't struck, but surely there would be some sort of mark or burn. When I reached the house my heart was beating so quickly that I felt ill and I couldn't catch my breath. Even as I recall it now my heart is beating faster and I feel a bit dizzy. I picked up the phone and called George who managed to calm me down leaving me to ponder what may have occurred. I can only guess that the strike must have been extremely close over my head, but later I could see no marking of anything that had been struck. I should read up on lightening so as to de-mystify for me.

I do recall several years ago I met a man who told me that he had been struck my lightening on three separate occasions. He was certainly a truthful and well respected man on all other occasions so I had no need to disbelieve him. He did tell me that the first time that it happened to him, he was hurled into the air a good 70 feet or so. He told me that even though it happened instantaneously, he felt the experience as if it were in slow motion. He even recalled seeing a neighborhood woman a few backyards away quickly pulling laundry off the line before the storm hit. This was later confirmed by the woman. He also told me that when he fell back down to the earth, it was as if he lofted down like a feather. He also had no physical injuries from the drop.

Who knows? I guess I was just lucky one way or the other.

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