Staying Grounded

I’ve had the song “John Henry” floating through my head for a couple of days now. Allow me to explain. On Wednesday, I bought all the supplies necessary to install an electric fence. This initial piece of fencing will provide predator protection for the chickens and a second line of enclosure for everybody else–well, not the grandkids.

Having gathered some modicum of electrical experience–i.e., I’ve changed lightbulbs–I found the entire electric fence idea fascinating. Actually, I’ve had some slight experience with such fences, shocking myself twice at my brother’s house years ago. That said, I decided that I qualified as an expert.

Stringing up an electric fence involves a good bit more than just running some wire between posts and then plugging the thing into the wall. If I were to connect one end of the wire to the positive terminal of the fence charger and the other end to the negative terminal, I’d have an immediate short circuit and a blown breaker in the house. For the fence to work properly, the enclosing (shocking) wire has to run out of one terminal while the other terminal sports a line that is grounded. That is, that line connects to a rod pounded into the earth. When some critter touches the fence, electricity flows from the fence wire, through the body, and then through the ground to the grounding rod and back to the charger, completing the circuit and delivering the shock. Without a good ground, the fence simply won’t work.

I bought an eight-foot pole to knock into the ground as my first grounding rod. Knowing the rockiness of my ridgetop at Shamayim Hill, I thought I might have to try a couple of places to achieve success. What I discovered was a series of spots where the rod would go no further than a foot into the soil before hitting a solid hunk of limestone. Out it would come to be tried in another spot.

Having experienced such obstacles perhaps eight times, I took great glee when another spot allow the rod in a foot and then two. When I reached a depth of four feet, I knew this was a keeper. If I hit rock then, I’d cut the rod off and install the remainder elsewhere. Eventually, that hole ran all the way down. The effectiveness of my grounding remains to be tested after I install the rest of the fence.

As I did my best impression of John Henry–a steel-driving man–on Wednesday, I had plenty of time to think about grounding. Apparently, I can run that fence wire pretty much anywhere I’d like. If the ground is effective, then the fence will still do its job. So it is, I think, with life. Whether I’m writing or teaching or singing or driving or fencing, if I remain grounded, power can still flow through me.

How often do we go through our lives, erecting fences of our own design, stringing up wire here and there, but with no attention to the grounding, the connection to the infinite. When my grounding fails, I fail.