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Reflections from the SwampCalling on a Higher Power

Calling on a Higher Power

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

Many of us were affected by the recent storm and power outage. We lost power for four days. I was in Almonte just prior to the derecho winds when I got the warning call on my phone. My son and two grandchildren had biked to Almonte earlier and were planning to bike back home. I insisted on picking them and their bikes up and driving them home. Grandparents can be that way sometimes when unnecessary risks present themselves.

My six-year-old grandson insisted that he wanted to bike home. He had been promised a slushie if he completed the journey by bike, the longest in his short biking career. Even when it started raining, the powerful lure of a slushie trumped the risks of exposure to the elements. All other reasoning and rational thought were washed out by the image of an iconic pink slushie which arose in his consciousness like the holy grail and occupied all of his brain cells. I drove over to the Highway 29 gas station, where my grandson and his father raced into the store through the pounding rain. A great wind rocked my Van and sent branches crashing down around me. After they returned to the Van, we had to try several routes to their home with the slushie because fallen trees blocked roads. The slushie made it home, as did its bearer.

Many years ago, I had a close friend, John, who was an alcoholic. We went to AA meetings together in Carp. He benefitted, at times, from the twelve-step program. He believed that a higher power, which he preferred to leave undefined, could help with addictions. He said that words always fail to capture the whole meaning when defining higher powers.

Once during a power outage, we were sitting on John’s porch when he said he had finally figured out who or what the “higher power” was. He pointed at the hydro wires attached to the poles on the street. The higher power is not what we see in the wires and cables but the electricity that flows through them. Electricity powers our homes and wells, and without it, we are incapable of doing so many things. We can’t see electricity, but it’s the higher power that connects us all. I asked him if he really believed that electricity was the higher power. After a pause, he smiled and said, not really. Electricity can be addictive, and the higher power would never allow itself to be addictive. The higher power supports our search for the courage we need to face our fears and challenges.

As you know, we live next to a swamp. When we have a power outage, we lose power to our well water. Almost all of the power outages we’ve experienced have been in the winter. We heat the house with a cookstove, so I go out, get a bucket of snow and melt it on the stove for drinking or dishwater.

During this power outage, I  brought swamp water in pails into the house. I boiled some swamp water for that essential cup of morning coffee on our camp stove before being intercepted by my bride. I may have boiled up a few mosquito larvae and some leaches; I’m not sure; the water was a pale pea-soup yellow. She doesn’t feel that swamp water meets the standard of snowmelt water. I argued that the frogs and beavers find that swamp water meets their criteria and that I considered myself an integral part of the swamp community. We all have to pick our battles, and since swamp water didn’t make the cut in my bride’s world, I drove into Almonte and asked a friend for some tap water to keep the peace.

A power outage frees up time to think and act differently. I agree with my friend John about higher powers. Higher powers are hard to define. Maybe higher powers are lower than we think. Perhaps the higher power has been within us all the while. There are higher powers, even higher than the power of electricity. Having a power outage gave me the quiet time to seek a bond with that force, energy, or spirit that connects us all.


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Auld Lang Syne



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