The words “we need rain” were used more times, not so long ago, than you could shake a stick at. And if it hadn’t started coming down over the past few days, we all might have been out there “shakin’” sticks... that is, ones of the crotched willow variety.
Dowsing’s what I’m talking about. The other day, my brother and I popped maple kettle corn at Vermont Drinking Water Week’s annual fair at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee. They hire us every year to parcel out kettle corn to students who come for the day to learn about water. It’s a great event for kids and, I might add, vastly under attended; every kid ought to be there because if anything’s more important that the “three Rs,” it’s knowing the value of good clean drinking water.
This year the dowsing station was close to our kettle corn stand. I’ve always been drawn to dowsing even though it has never worked for me. My father was a water-witch supreme and when I was a small boy, most of my buddies had success with the “forked stick” but as much as I tried...nada...my efforts were dryer’n the Gobi Desert.
That day down at the water fair I watched as group after group of fourth-graders met with a young man named Chris to learn all about this ancient art. Chris had an array of implements from brass L-shaped divining rods to variations of the forked willow stick but made out of plastic, one for every kid. He started them out with an orientation. From my “fly on the wall” perspective, I could see he held their attention in great shape. After the orientation, he issued each kid, including their teachers and chaperones, a dowsing rod, showed them how to grasp it, and had them slowly walk a distance where he knew there was an underground water line. I was impressed with the level of success but my list of questions grew with every “water find.” How many were faking it? Do kids “get it” more than adults? Can it be “learned?”
Toward the end of the fair, I approached Chris, introducing myself as a “believer.” He offered me a rod of my own but I refused... “wouldn’t work for me...never did,” I said. Then I asked him my questions. “Sure,” he said. “Some are faking it, but I can tell the ‘legit’ ones by the looks on their faces when they find water.” And for my question about kids versus adults, he said kids “get it” much more often and quicker than adults... “they’re still into magic, haven’t had that bitter taste of life yet that brings the negative.” My final question, “Can it be learned”, got answered back home a few days later with an experiment of my own.
Chris’s point about how attitude and outlook connect to dowsing followed me all the way home. I knew that I had to involve my wife Betsy, who is blessed with not only a positive outlook on life but the ability to “zero in” on things. I, on the other hand, wear “negative” like a badge and live in a “fog.” (I can watch a half hour news program without retaining any of it, which infuriates Betsy!) When I asked her if she had ever tried dowsing and she said no, I knew I had my real live “Guinea pig.” The nature of my experiment, of course, would be to prove that Betsy’s personality type promotes dowsing abilities where mine does not. She was excited when I asked her if she would participate. Then I fashioned two divining rods from coat hangers.
We went out into the yard where I knew there was an underground water line. I showed her how to hold the rods, told her to “zero in” on running water, and started slowly walking, assuring her that it would not work for me. Then it happened...for the first time in my life the rods crept inward from their straight ahead position and criss-crossed directly over the water line...Alakazam...it worked for me! It took me several minutes to settle down before I handed the rods off to my wife, knowing she would have total success. She slowly started off and, sure enough, the rods reacted when she reached the water line but instead of criss-crossing, they moved away from each other to parallel the water line! “Bravo” I said, patting her on the back, feeling smug.
Experts had previously told me that either position divining rods take, criss-crossed or away from each other, means the same thing — water. I found it curious though, that they would have worked so differently for the two of us...or did I? We have been married for 36 years in spite of — or is it because of? — our opposite personalities. As in life, there are more questions than you could possibly shake a stick at.
Interestingly, here at the end of this writing, Central Vermont is “afloat” with water. In two weeks time, we have gone from dry to soggy’ but we best not put our divining rods away just yet. Conditions change and we may soon be dry again. When that time comes, we know there’s water down there somewhere and I know folks who can find it.
Heck, I can find it...I’m a dowser now!
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