The dark always triggers a fear in people. Looking away from the campfire into the darkness of the forest leads the mind to wander, and to wonder what is out there watching you. A dark hallway in a strange building, or even a dark corner of a room in your own dwelling, brings a pause. I have wandered into one of those dark places, as a writer, and I’m just starting to find my way out.

It turns out that effort is only part of the answer. You can try, and try, and try again, and sometimes it just stays hidden. Eventually, with enough desperate pawing around in the dark corners of your creative mind, you touch something. A fingertip, maybe a glancing thumbnail, will nick it.  An idea comes forward into the light.

This is because the darkness is home to your fears, and to your wildest dreams.

That dichotomy is one of life’s great mysteries. It’s also among the best of things.

Every now and then, what feels like an obstacle to your creativity can actually be a light that shines into the darkness. It will let you look around in that dark corner, and see what’s there.

This past weekend, I was invited by a former student of mine to attend the graduation ceremony for the United States Marine Corp at Parris Island, South Carolina. I accepted the invite and went for a number of reasons, none of which were related to writing. I flew out late Thursday and did not arrive till nearly midnight. I had to get up and be at the gate to the Parris Island training facility by 6:45 A.M. The line of cars trying to get in was long, and each vehicle was subjected to a complete cavity search. Once inside the base, parking was far away from the parade ground, and a second search was completed of every person attending prior to entry, creating a long line to wait in. Because it is the Low Country in August, it was in the 90’s by eight a.m. Crowds are not my thing, and sweating in the sun in the parade ground stands, I thought I was going to drift to a dark place.

Then the opposite happened.

The Marine Corp Band marched out and played, followed by the 459 young men and women that are graduating. Now, officially, becoming Marines. The look in the shining faces of these young people was like a light switch that you reach for, and find, in the dark. Getting to talk to a few of them afterward and listen to their stories was even better.  And the best part of the whole day was the look in their eyes when they congratulated each other! They understood what it meant to be standing on that parade ground, on that day. They hugged and shook hands and introduced their comrades to family and friends. They told stories of how they worked together to get through the difficulties presented to them.

They demonstrated the Esprit de Corp that can only be found by completing the struggle together. Pride, fellowship, and a common bond that is stronger than can be expressed by words.

It was, simply put, great to see and hear, and it lifted the spirits of everyone present. Including mine.

Like a thousand watts.