Monday, September 26, 2005

Jon took me to Waterfall Cave while showing me around the area where he worked as a Life Adventure Camp counselor, down by the Red River Gorge area. It was quite neat, and rather scary. Being underground is not a natural human inclination, even though I was quite curious about what I would see.

The opening to the cave was vast; a house could fit comfortably there. We strapped our tiny headlights on and set off into the cool darkness. The walls rapidly narrowed in on us the further we went, until we were squeezing between curvy rock formations and clambering over and under sharp outcrops of stone.

We saw living rock, in the process of formation as minerals in the water dripping from above solidified into bulbous shapes. The whole thing looked like gleaming clay, as though someone had been at work on it and left just before we arrived. Perhaps this was the way Manwe formed his dwarves in the Silmarillion?

There was a pool of clear water at the end, as far as we could go, unless we wanted to start climbing up into the darkness that pooled above. That way would take us to the sinkhole high above, where we could have climbed up into dirt and grass and the sunlight. But we remained in that little room, our whispered voices echoing as we spied a blind crawfish in the pool.

Let me tell you how I felt in that underground place. I felt as though I was intruding, daring to enter some holy one's place. Perhaps my feelings are colored by "The Tombs of Atuan", by Ursula LeGuin. In that book, there is a labyrinth of caves that the protagonist navigates in her work as the priestess of the Old Ones. I could imagine more clearly the presence of the Old Ones, the Powers of the Earth as they were known in that book. I understood at last that feeling of weight about one's shoulders, one's being to be more precise. It was as though some other consciousness was bearing down upon us, or was it only the fear of loneliness--complete and binding in a hard, dark place?

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