Into the Darkness


I don’t remember exactly how old I was–somewhere between the age where I was old enough to remember and understand but not too old to have lost my sense of wonder and amazement–my family went on a vacation to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The day we visited we took the tour which started at the natural entrance to the cave. It was like walking into the maw of giant beast. I remember my mom not being too keen on this, she not being the most adventuresome of spirits, but my dad and I loved it. How could we have resisted the lure of a labyrinth of caverns with names like The Hall of the Giants, The Temple of the Sun, and the Queen’s Chamber. How could we have not be enticed by a malachite-colored pool called the Green Lake and watching sleeping bats hang from the ceiling. (There is even a place in the caverns called The Rookery, which should resonate with my SFC writing buddies.)
When we finally reached the lowest point of the known portion of the caverns (the caverns are still being explored even to this day), the tour guide wanted us to experience first hand the total absence of light. Even though she turned out the lights for probably less than 30 seconds, I became anxious and I grabbed on to my mom’s hand for comfort. To this day, I can still “feel” the blackness. It had form and shape and oozed over me like some creature from the depths. I felt like I was suffocating. Just when I thought I couldn’t stand it another second, the tour guide flipped the lights back on. We finished our tour with a picnic lunch in the caverns and a ride up an elevator to the surface.
What is my point in telling you this story? I haven’t thought about this trip in decades, but just yesterday the memory of it percolated to my consciousness when one of my online writing colleagues offered this prompt about descending into The Tholos, an ancient building in Greece, a place with restorative power. At the time, my descent into the darkness of the Caverns was simply a vacation experience; today I draw upon it for lessons in coping with the dark times that descend from time-to-time.
There is a need to go into the darkness so we can experience the beautiful and awesome things that reside just below the surface. We need to experience the Darkness so we can better appecreciate the Light. When we go through dark times, we can experience the blessing of reaching out and taking another’s hand to guide and comfort us. If you are going through a dark time now, know that always, ALWAYS, the light will come back on.
It is the way of things.

Lori G. (c) 2008

Cavern Lake

The Rookery 

Images by Peter Jones through the courtesy of the US National Park Service. 



10 responses »

  1. Going down into the caverns is quite an experience. I’ve done it rwice, the last time was about seven years ago. I’d go again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.


  2. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it. That particular summer, as I recall, was the Summer of Caves… we went to several other caves in Utah and Arizona.

  3. I’ve been in a few caves myself, and they are truly wondrous places, with incredible rock sculptures in them. Nice post, Lori.

  4. It is so unnerving to be completely without light, isn’t it? I’ve experienced it a couple times – makes you grateful for the sun, the moon, a CFL…

  5. Never been in caves, but I’ve always wished I could go—love pictures of them. Your observations about the dark are true–it strengthens us. The psalm says, “You are the light of my life whom shall I fear?”

  6. I remember waiting to see the light for years, and then eventually learnt to be happy with just the shadows dancing on the walls…after all to see shadows there had to be some light filtering through even if it wasn’t full blown sunlight….

  7. This brought back some memories for me also- i have had this experience of total absence of light a few times and its quite amazing. You capture it very well. I like those pictures of the caves- Passage to India, have you read that has some interesting passed on caves.

  8. I am sitting here captivated and mesmerized Lori. What a glorious piece of gold you have drawn from the subterranean caves here. I, too, would be drawn by such enticing names.

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