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  • Writer's pictureRoberta Rathert


When I walked to where I am now, I felt the sun’s heat pierce the tree shade along a park road. It was not solid shade but thin and spread out, not reliable, and it was too hot for a fall day. In these same moments a cool wind was whirling through. I felt the heat and cool unmixed as if opening the freezer compartment in a hot kitchen. The obvious cold does not break the heat, a fine line between. This is how things go, no wider than the edge of a hair separating two things while maintaining their difference. It is what happens, warm and cool, light or shade, life to death.

We traveled a far distance one night and the whole family saw it, a set of headlights shifting lanes into ours and coming straight at us with no hesitation. As it rapidly came closer, we all started shrieking. The oncoming car never took its own lane back but kept at us. We were unable to move against the shoulder guard along our edge so we were jammed. The advancing driver was passing someone so all three vehicles were in jeopardy. Suddenly the side guard ended and provided a momentary pull-off. Our Gran knew what she was doing when she hoicked our car into the unexpected opening. It saved everyone. I could hear Gran whisper her prayer of thanks. This an amazing apposition of it-happened but then it-didn’t-happen. The story is not the same the next day when you say that you were almost killed. People will just nod and go on with their own day’s business. Another second, a trace this way, or a fraction further there, the story would be different and everyone would be telling of it all day.

During my trip on the river, I confronted polarities that were challenges but not tragedies, hazardous and not deadly. The stories were alarming though still endurable. Tornadoes tore through but did not lift me or move my things to other places. Flooding was fast and frantic but that very night I slept soundly on high dry ground. After being sucked into deep and thick mud, I washed off and emerged to tell of it. A near-drowning was only almost, and no one cried about it at my funeral.

This trip ended when I came home with mere illness, not death or a courageless spirit. It was a recoverable condition although, with a day more out there, it may not have been that. Humans go all the way, I know I do, with all type of rites and passages or dares to the further-reach, and mostly continue to exist while telling the story of it even if no one listens or it gets boring.

To overcome, that is solid as rock. There is nothing almost about prevailing over fear or trauma, addiction to anything, or a chase through the dark while threatened for life. Stopping another’s dream for you as they attempt the steal or being made to be nothing, your future gone, slaving, tearing apart to separate loved ones, breaking but still not defeating. This is testimony, my testimony, or it could be yours. Almost drowning countless times, almost dying by a nighttime smashup, being tampered with by those who are stronger and have no good in their heart. Never have I seen an actual tornado, but I could have, then I would almost die as it swirled nearer and sooner. I know it was close by. I almost fell from a high mountain ledge in Appalachia but did not. I saw how far down as I leaped across a gap, but I was younger then. I am completely alive, not just almost. My journey is crammed with memory, from life before and now life after the river. I want to tell of it and share of those whose lives crossed mine, both people and the things.

I am here, home and well, making a try to write this book. Not to almost write it or make an almost book, but really do it. To rightly hold and read and have it, and to want it and give it. This is my victory over, pushing further than any previous adventure or dream or thought to do something I ought not or that I have not yet done, or I have gone and done it anyway. Push out the sides, that throb at the hair’s edge, to go farther if only that one unused step. I challenge you as I challenge me. Reach beyond where we cannot see for something that matters, whether for you or someone. The motivation is truth and that hope really does restore.

Fewer posts will be published here at Paddling for Hope because this is me not choosing to write an almost book but to write an actual book, pulling mind and momentum toward it. Please watch for it in Spring 2023 and bear in mind, Paddling for Hope is enduring, still challenging hearts and minds to shift, as I pivot my writing from blog to book.

Be with us, continue to overcome barriers, push equity, inclusion, and community forward.

From maintaining to overcoming. Stand up.

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1 Comment

Ralph Knudson
Ralph Knudson
Nov 27, 2022

What a thoughtful and inquisitive look at the constant stream of different outcomes from chance and choices, which shape our lives and perceptions. Your image of differences existing and swirling alongside each other like streams of warm and cold air was a compelling analogy, which carried through in my mind as I read the rest of your essay. Your river experience was one of multiple experiences of "almost"...a notion that is so often brushed aside as we move on to whatever is next in our daily flow of living. So I loved your willingness and care to stay with it and look at it. Thanks

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