Friday, January 25, 2008

Waldo, Floyd and me in Mammoth Cave

The mysteries and scenery of the cave had the same dignity that belongs to all natural objects, and which shames the fine things to which we foppishly compare them....
This is how Emerson described the visit he made to Mammoth Cave. About 2 hours southwest of me here in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is probably the largest cave in the world. 350 miles have been mapped, and those are believed to be a fraction of what's there. Indeed, most of Kentucky sits atop caves. These caves are often multi-level, vast, and elaborate, containing everything from football field-size rooms to delicate formations. They are always there, even though we tromp about overhead blissfully ignoring them.
I went yesterday with Bela, my Transylvanian partner church minister, and my son, Casey. It was a bitterly cold day (up above) so there were only 2 other people on the tour with us. The caves felt warm, but they actually remain a constant 53 degrees year round.
Caves make me think of all that lies beneath our own surfaces. If only we could allow ourselves to penetrate the vast interior spaces we posses, we'd understand that each of us is far more creative, inspired, and connected than we can possibly imagine. Sometimes we get a glimpse, and maybe that's enough.
There was this caver named Floyd Collins who got stuck near Mammoth Cave in 1925. He was trying to find a cave he could make money from by luring folks who were headed for Mammoth Cave. After two weeks of futile rescue attempts, he died stuck in the cave. I always visit Floyd's final resting place near the old Mammoth Cave Baptist Church when I go there. Usually someone has left a candle on his tombstone, some pennies, and other little trinkets like cans of beans. I left him a chap stick yesterday. To me, Floyd represents the human dilemma. Trying too hard, and stuck part-way. We have so much within us: dreams, imagination, stories, ideas, wonder. We don't have to struggle. Each of us is work of art.
Oh, and by the way, soon Floyd's entourage will grow. I heard that Billy Bob Thornton is making a movie about him. Finally, he'll achieve that success he was looking for.