The transition from the cloud-filtered light to the stark l.e.d. glow shed by four headlamps is eased by the bewilderment of entering the cool, captivating climate of the cave. We fade from the entrance, clambering downward via means of walking, crawling, sliding and other shuffles that don’t even have a name. The rocks periodically shift as we step on them; our helmets bump low overhangs; our heads pivot up, down and all-around to shine the headlamps in the direction needed for safe movement and to gaze at this amazing place, below our normal land. We stop to gaze at the orange and black salamanders and cave crickets that look like six-legged spiders with giant antennae; they both move so elegantly in the environment they dwell within. We do not move elegantly in this land that we are foreigners in.

As we reach the first grand room the four of us sit and turn out our headlamps, basking in the quiet, dark, humid, cool chamber. My eyes believe they can see movements and shapes. As I begin to wave my hand in front of my face with closing proximity, this delusion becomes obvious as the heat from my hand is sensed by my nose, with no hint of being able to see it. Without our artificial light, this environment would engulf our bodies. We could move in the direction that we believe is outward and upward, with greater clumsiness than we exhibited with our lights, toward our dreams of the sun. Perhaps we would arrive in the rays of the sun, emanating like rays of heaven toward our fragile bodies. Perhaps instead we would choose to stay still, rationing what supplies we have, hoping that someone would visit this remote cave within several weeks and afford us assistance out; we theoretically could sustain ourselves until then. If one, or both of those options failed, we would already be buried, more than six feet deep, in the belly of our mother.

Instead of those foreboding options, we turn our headlamps back on, stand and descend further into the belly of our mother, wading through the frigid streams and pools. We pass and gaze upon the beauty of stalactites, stalagmites and helictites. We enter corridors that sparkle vibrantly and other rooms filled with gypsum spider webs on the surface of the rock. After traveling several miles, we again sit, dine and bask in the darkness before standing again to exit. The labyrinth of passages is confusing, with each of us uncertain at specific junctions, but together we find our way out fo the darkness. Alone, it is much more difficult to find your way out.

Enjoy those in your life; enjoy the beauty that envelops you and your friends. Explore.

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