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Walking into the Crater


Looking back, I realize I prepared myself, consciously and unconsciously, for everything

that was about to happen. What launched it all was an impulse to act, as if someone or

something was pushing me, waking me, urging me to hurry.


But whatever pushed me soon stalled. I wasn't ready and the effort became an obstacle.

This setback allowed me to build the strength and resources I needed to eventually

succeed. There is an alpine lily that gathers energy for nineteen summers and on the

twentieth summer blooms and dies. Just so I gathered whatever strength I could and

entered the forest, not in ignorance but in confidence.


Success is beginner's luck-random events accomplished with the assistance of unseen

powers and guides. I owe my lucky escapes to those who made them possible, to those

who lifted me out of my own way and dragged me against my will whenever I decided to

abandon the adventure.


Once inside the forest I met a woman who led me into the lower world, where I lost

everything. I lost my loved ones, I lost my money, I lost my health, I lost my grasp of

the adventure. Still, I maintained faith in the future even though everything was going

wrong. I waited for the storm to pass because I knew that was what I had to do. By doing

nothing, by not struggling against what was happening even when it was undeserved and

unfair, I learned to listen better and to wait for what was about to happen.


And then I was betrayed. Good luck turned away. The magic that had brought me this far

was broken or lost. Nothing was as it seemed to be when I first started out. In an effort to

save myself I betrayed another version of my self, my next self. I broke promises, I

abandoned my principles. I got my hands dirty, I behaved shamefully. I believed I was in

danger but it was like something that was happening to me. I realized I was being hunted

and had only one desire-to escape.


Then darkness set in. In darkness I found what it was I was looking for. I found my

ideals, my goals, my life's purpose. But, immersed in darkness, someone had to pull the

curtains open to fill my eyes with light. After that, I moved forward under my own



On the journey back, I was guided by what I remembered of what the elders had told me

back when I had no way of understanding what they were talking about. I understood

what had come before and what was about to happen.


I returned to ordinary life, but with a piece of magic in my pocket. Every moment is

different from all the others because in every moment of brilliance a darkness has been



Now I know what to do. I travel through my days and hand a little piece of magic to

those who are unknowing, to those who will need it later on.



[Originally published in NHS 2008, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs08/Randy_Roark.htm.]