Crater of Diamonds PanoramaI looked out over the vast expanse of dirt that makes up the diamond mine at Crater of Diamonds State Park yesterday and thought, “Yeah, no, this is not for me.” I might have mentioned (once, twice, a thousand times?) that I do not like dirt. The thought of going out into a field of the stuff — some of it muddy, some of it dry and dusty — and doing anything other than leaving quickly just seemed… not me.

But I was there, so I did it anyway. And it was surprisingly fun, like some combination of meditation and playing the lottery. I didn’t find any diamonds — or even any shiny, sparkly stones, no amethyst or quartz — but I found lots of pretty orange jasper and I listened in on loads of fun conversations. My favorites were the two boys planning how to divide their spoils, but the kids digging the biggest hole ever were pretty darn cute, too.

In fact, I liked it so much that I went back and did it again this morning. I think my chances of finding a diamond would probably have been better if I’d rented the strainers and buckets and tools but I really enjoyed just messing around, breaking apart big pieces of dirt and finding pretty stones inside. One of the conversations I eavesdropped on this morning was a guy talking about how the sapphire mine in Montana is more fun because most people actually find sapphires and I am so going to do that when I get to Montana. Despite the dirt. Or maybe because of it.

I liked the campground even more than the diamond fields. (Thanks for the recommendation, Carol!) It was a really nice layout, lots of distance between sites, and a real sense of privacy. From the sliding door of the van, I could see nothing but forest. This morning I ate breakfast (yogurt, granola, and delicious blueberries — perfectly ripe, so that they popped in my mouth instead of deflating, the way that mediocre blueberries do) sitting outside and watched a deer bounding away through the trees. It really was bounding, too. Or maybe bouncing? Three big leaps and then it disappeared. And there was a great walking trail, the Little Missouri River Trail, which was half dirt path through the woods, and half paved walkway along the river. Peaceful and pretty and scenic.

I’d only been able to get a reservation for one night at the campground, though, so after breakfast and digging in the dirt and a nice lunch (grilled cheese and tuna on gluten-free bread and an apple of a type I’d never had before, Lady Alice, that tasted almost flowery sweet), we headed out.

I know exactly how what happened next happened. It was me not being careful about double-checking what the GPS in the van was telling me to do. I really should know better by now. But the GPS wanted to take me down a road that was closed, so I asked it for a detour. It gave me a detour. A big detour. Instead of being in Mississippi, I’m now in Memphis, Tennessee. By the time I figured out what had happened, we were so far along the northern route home that I just sort of shrugged and took it.

Between kayaking, digging for diamonds, and driving many hours, I haven’t gotten much writing done in the past few days. But I think maybe that was my subconscious at work, too. I gave my current version of Grace to a writing friend last week. She’s not the kind of friend who would ever say “Give up ” but if it bored her, she wouldn’t finish it. And if she had issues with it, I’m pretty sure she’d tell me about them. Even if she didn’t, silence would be as meaningful to me as any criticism. Obviously, it shouldn’t be—letting a single person’s opinion discourage one is a terrible attitude for a writer—but… Well, anyway, she got back to me today and told me that I have to finish the book because I can’t leave her hanging. And that she was humming “Kiss the Girl” all day yesterday, which makes me smile. So tomorrow is going to be a writing day and I think my plan will be to have two big driving days over the next week — one to get me deep into Alabama and then the next to bring me back to Florida — rather than lots of short hops. That way I just might get some good writing in on the days when I’m not driving. One can hope, anyway!