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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Old Camp Dock

The warped planks of the old dock
smile like the corners of
a Kansas farmer’s mouth,
happy to feel the weight of feet again
treading down the center beam.
Nearly as many planks there are as years
since the dam was dozed
that made the pond
that brought the dock
that bid the campers welcome each June.

I was one who fled the heat
by plunging through the warm surface,
down and further down,
to the cool water
near the soft mud bottom ten feet below,
but that was long ago.

Today I stood at the dock’s end
staring down to fathom time
and was saddened to see
that the water had changed
as much as the reflection
looking back at me.
The north side of the swimming hole
is now an ominous sky
of thick green clouds
that welcomes only frogs and dragon flies.

No one quite remembers the last time
buddied campers leapt from every side
to laugh and splash and bottoms-up,
feet flailing in the air,
and climb the ladders there
to bake face down
against a sun-soaked towel
then leap into the pond again.
No one quite remembers when.

The make-shift frame of the diving board
(a bridge plank raised by three coil springs)
is so rusted away that the thin pipes
seem bound in place by spider webs
that span each welded corner,
unbroken works of art,
billowing faintly in the breeze,
their makers nowhere to be seen
on the old camp dock undone
where once our fresh-wet footprints
overlapped and faded in the sun.
© Copyright July 1, 2010, TK, Patterns of Ink  
Double-click on photos to enlarge.
This past week we were at a camp my wife's child-hood church has owned for over forty years. It's just past the back pasture of their house (beyond that row of trees in the background). As is often the case when we're visiting Kansas, I walk the old haunts thinking back over the years.I did not do this when I was 25 or 30 or 40, but something happens around 50 that helps you see more clearly treasured things. 

Sometimes things that fall into disrepair, like old unpainted barns, become beautiful in their own way. Today the dock struck me as something that has moved into those ranks, and I scribbled down these lines, then went back an hour later to take the pictures.

The three-spring diving board reflects the Kansas ingenuity of Julie's Dad and Bob Mock and Kirk Schultze who seemed to know how to cobble anything out of anything back in the days when the camp was built in the late 60’s. Parts of the old campground have not changed since I was a young man visiting in 1978. Back then a bunch of us swam off the dock. In the summer of 1980, thirty years ago this week, Julie and I got married and our wedding reception was just a stone's throw from where I took this last picture. I worked in a rock quarry that summer, and after a long, dusty, hot day on a Bobcat front-loader, I'd hurry home and jump in the pond to rinse off.

A couple summers in the early 80's, Julie and I came back to help run the camps. For many years, our friends Stephen and Rick (both of whom grew up going to this small country camp) have returned home to do the same. But in the decades that have lapsed since I last took a dip in the swimming hole, it has become overgrown with thick seaweed and who knows what else. Much of the water source is run-off from acres and acres of fertilized farm land so it's hard to say what happened.

Camps still happen each June but the main water attraction is now a long water slide back in the woods that lands the kids in Rock Creek. The campers enjoy it every day. I asked my seventeen-year-old nephew if he remembers campers swimming off the dock. "Not in my lifetime," he laughed. "Now we only jump in the pond on a dare. I did it last week—and it was gross!" 

The water may no longer be fit for swimming, but the dock is trying hard to hold the charm of its better days.

Chapter 4 of  "Stll Waters" coming Sunday afternoon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for helping us remember the good times splashing in the lake!

1/7/10 6:58 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

That camp has been a remarkable ministry through they years. I'm glad to have had a small part of it.

5/7/10 12:23 PM  

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