A Diamond in the Rough
With each step my confidence faded, a blithe belief held for more than a decade slowly evaporating. The ancient volcano, reclaimed on all sides by lush vegetation and towering forests, mocked me. I hadn’t even stepped foot on the plowed diamond field, yet I knew no shimmering gem awaited my hand.
Crater of the Diamonds was introduced to me back when I began my college education at Ouachita Baptist University (in Arkadelphia, AR). Most often the tales were discouraging, hours walking a field with nothing but sandstone and volcanic rock (hardened lava – which is cool all on its own!) to show for it. Every so often a romantic would wax poetic - desiring to find their engagement ring there, “ring by spring” being an unofficial school motto, but I never discovered a couple that had actually unearthed their own rock. Undaunted, I was certain my first trip to the Crater would prove successful.
Foolish though it sounds, and sounded, I believed it. Nature has always been to me a conduit for glory, God’s glory ultimately, but also containing an intrinsic awe. An awe that seemed at times to single me out and draw me in. Silly, slightly (quite) animistic, but to me, real. This feeling created in me a certainty that when I did finally visit the Crater of Diamonds a real, honest-to-goodness beauty from the earth would (figuratively) rise to meet me.
A few days ago my parents and I, with my four children, rose early and started a caravan from the swampy pine forests of SE Texas into the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. Our destination: Crater of the Diamonds. Only when we entered the park amid joyous proclamations (voiced by the kiddos, obviously) of being the “FIRST to find a diamond” and the one who would “find the MOST diamonds” did I understand there would be no diamond for me. The certainty of years past crumbled softly and slowly, but surely.
A sign along the route noted that over 600 diamonds are found on site yearly. Even those odds failed to rekindle a flicker of hope. A chalkboard near the identification desk boasted a diamond find for each day in June, excepting today, the glittering spoil yet to be discovered. Still, I looked at the eager faces of my dirt excavating progeny and knew it was not to be.
The first half hour for me was busy with everything but digging. I walked back and forth getting tools, handing off the baby to my mom, refilling water bottles, and taking pictures. Upon making it to the crater, literally a somewhat bowl-shaped dirt field surrounded by beautiful Ozark Mountain forests, unease set in. Although I had finally faced reality - finding a diamond would be highly unlikely, I still wanted to find something of worth. Maybe an amethyst or a leopard-print jasper—both gems native to the crater. The kids were happily chunking volcanic ash into their complimentary paper bags claiming to have diamonds galore. My dad was contentedly pacing up and down the rows, unsurprisingly coming closest to finding a diamond with his two agate stones – he does have an undergraduate degree in geology. I found myself slightly distraught. Unable to sift through the dirt in one position for very long, unhappy strolling along hoping to glimpse a gem amidst the run-off.
The blue sky deepened around fluffy cumulus clouds. A constant breeze made pleasant the mid-afternoon heat. Perhaps a couple hundred people drifted in and around the field, bursts of laughter and murmurs of conversation contended with the natural stillness. Comprehension dawned, my diamond found. This adventure, walking high among the mountains over metamorphic ground whose battle with heat and pressure had created precious stones of great value, was treasurable in its own right.
Slowly, the joy of the moment seeped into my consciousness—this day, with these people, in a quite remarkable setting. Each scene a gleaming facet of beauty, and I was mesmerized by the dazzling brilliance. The time remaining still works blessing in me when I think back upon it. All the bustle of life slowed, children needing merely the wonder of God’s earth to occupy them. I walked along, gathering fascinating rocks and moved closer to the small stream created after the previous night’s rainstorm—feeling the dusty earth give way to muddy chalk. In places the ground glittered from the abundance of mica (a thin, sparkly rock also known as “fool’s gold”), showing beauty in the ordinary.
With each step my confidence grew, a surety of the reenergizing power within God’s creation working its wonder. I had hoped to find a diamond and discovered instead a diamond mine.