Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Readers

During these isolating times, I’ve been writing stories and sending them to Brent Eades, the editor of  The Millstone. I’ve never met Brent, yet he has found almost all of the photos and illustrations that accompany the stories. Occasionally spelling mistakes are corrected and paragraphs are split to make them more readable. I guess this is why they call him the editor.

Thanks for your years of service to the Almonte community, and for allowing me to write Reflections from the Swamp. I’ve learned that Brent has a vast collection of nature photography, especially birds. Brent, I hope we can share a visit on the deck overlooking the swamp soon. At this point in my writing, I have no idea what the loon’s accompanying picture will look like. I trust that Brent will find the perfect loon for the poem.

Editor’s Note: Millstone contributor Cheryl Baxter has better loon photos than any of mine. Here’s one.

I believe that all life is connected, often in ways, we can hardly imagine. Reincarnation is also known as rebirth or transmigration. This is both a philosophical and a religious belief that the non-physical essence of a living being begins a new life in a different physical form or body after death.

Although the scientist in me doesn’t really believe in reincarnation as a fact, I do sometimes feel that creativity and imagination can give substance to allowing our souls to inhabit other forms of life, even as we continue to occupy our own bodies. The intergenerational connections we feel are, in some ways, related to reincarnation. We have relations all around us. All of our relations can be found in the rocks, trees, and life around us.

Several times, at family gatherings or while joining the sages at Timmy’s, we’ve speculated as to what animal or creature we would like to embody when we are reincarnated in an afterlife. While others have settled on wolves, unicorns, eagles, yellow labs and kittens, I have always been drawn by the haunting cries of the loon. When I hear them calling after dark on some northern lake, I know they call me to a vocation much like a clergyman hears a calling to the priesthood from the Creator. We are called to live in harmony with Nature.

This “reincarnation” as a loon is not just some whimsical fantasy. It is connected to all of life around me through the metaphor of being incarnated as a loon.

Recently I’ve had a second knee replacement which has, at best, left me hobbling around and awkward in my movement across the land. I’m much better in water where I feel like a ballerina and can even stand on one finger in the deep end! Loons have evolved to have their legs located way back on their bodies but seldom have knee operations. Although this leg location makes it difficult for loons to walk, it allows them to “fly” underwater like a penguin in the pursuit of fish. Their laughter and melancholy howls on Algonquin lakes are intoxicating. Their physiology is exquisitely adapted to be fishers on our northern lakes. While I cast my rod from the canoe into the deep unknown, the loons chase fish while “flying” through the waters below.

This is a reincarnation poem about becoming a loon in a future life, or even while still living in this one.

For the Loons

In the next life
I would be a Loon.
Not a soaring eagle
Nor a tiny hummingbird
I will be a Loon
On a northern Canadian lake
Though we are slow on land
We swim underwater
Like nimble penguins
Chasing fish
Through deep, pure waters
After running on water
We are transformed
We ascend into the heavens
With our gift of flight
We see Paradise above and below
Earth, wind and water
Our domain
Fire lives in our hearts
And moves us
To live fully in the moment
We sing, mournfully sometimes
When the pines
Reach out to the stars
Joyfully other times
While the cliffs echo our song
We are Spirits alive!
Wearing our bright necklaces
To the celebration of life