Spelunking

For the next fifteen minutes I shall let the muse fly, swooping low and skimming the grass like the swarm of little brown birds on the front lawn.  Nameless, faceless, un-extraordinary, those birds.  Gathering in close communion, they scavenge to find that elusive thing which will nourish, on a constant hunt for the gems of beetle and grub.  I too hunt among the ordinary to find the elusive thought, the idea which will spark a flow, releasing a torrent from an underground river of truth and creativity.

The command:  write.  My question: Who will want to read it if I do?  Perhaps that is not the right question.  Does Father want me to stumble upon a side stream from that underground river which will lead to yet undiscovered streams and pools?  What kinds of things could lurk in those pools, I wonder.  The water is deep and very still, having lain unseen and undisturbed for unmeasured time.

The exploration begins.  Lamp on forehead, pack on back, excitement within, I stoop to enter the cave mouth, stirring a flutter of bats from their rest.  It is rocky underfoot, unsteadying for my feet which are accustomed by preference to the smoothness of soft carpet.  At first the air has a peculiar, damp smell of staleness, bat droppings, water filtered through layers of rock and moss.  The gates of my eyes gradually adjust to the dimness within, the blackness before me reflected in dark pupils opened wide.

I hear a sound just a little way ahead.  Water dripping?  No, it is more than that.  There is a splash where flow meets rock and tumbles away below.  Dipping my hand into that stirring stream, I feel the shiver of cool, the silkiness of wet.   Looking closely at my hand-cup I can see that it is clear and clean.  Rock layers have purified and now hold back those contaminants the world has carelessly strewn about aboveground.

But this is a known stream.  Known water.  Substance of daily life, it is recognizable and surely life sustaining.  It is wonderful stuff, a part of our being—such that we find it   impossible to conceive of life without it. Without this well known substance we would disappear into dust like a Martian landscape.  From eyeball to cell nucleus we are awash.

It is known.

But there is something else down in the cave that calls me to explore further.  Elixir of life beyond the known?  Where is it?  What is it?  Pushing on deeper into the darkness, with only dim light of head lamp I ponder the pull.  From earliest man to 21st century the drive has been there to go beyond the next hill, climb that high mountain, push the frail craft through storm and gale over the edge of the horizon.  What is the pull?  What are we seeking?  Whom are we seeking?  In our depth of being is there not a knowing that we have lost something?  We have lost someone?

Perhaps it is ourselves we are seeking.  If there is that some One out there maybe I will find out who I am, and where I am to go.  Perhaps he has that elixir that draws us onward.  Plunging headlong down a slippery rock face, deeper into the blackness, is less frightening than living with the sense of separation from our Rock of Being.

I pick myself up at the bottom of the slide, dusting myself off as loose stones rattle down to my feet.  By now there is no outside light to orient my direction.  There is blackness, a deep darkness, which is chilling.   One comfort is the water.  I can hear dripping splashing on rock, and in other places, into the stream, which is here moving imperceptibly.

My lamp searches beyond my feet.  Over on the other side of the quiet stream I can just pick out a ledge that seems dry, and about two feet broad, enough space for my continuing exploration.  With some effort I jump across the water and pull myself up onto the ledge, resting a bit to determine my next move.   About 10 feet ahead I can barely see a place that does not reflect any light from my lamp; it appears to be an opening in the rock face to my right.  Inching forward, I put my hand in the place.

Yes! An opening, and a fairly large one at that.  At least it is large enough for me to squeeze through, I think.   I put the lamp in first to determine if there is anything beyond the opening.  A slight sparkle reflects back at me…it appears to be from a pool ringed with odd shaped stones and statue-like formations.

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I have to go in to explore this place.  It is a room, hidden away from the world above.  Has anyone else ever ventured here? I wonder.  Or am I the first to push through the inky rock space to learn of something unseen?  I am being drawn by something beyond me.

Squeezing, pushing with feet and hand, I find the entrance to be smaller than I had thought.  Now I have to let out my breath and give it one more try before being released from rock grip into the freedom of the inner chamber.

I can stand!  There is room.  Yet the sense of awe I feel keeps me on my knees.  What is in this holy place?  Is it really holy, or am I being deceived?  Perhaps I am merely disoriented by the dark, the water, the rock.  My lamp reaches out and thousands of crystalline points of light greet my eyes.  Each formation is covered by brilliance, revealing a palette of colors, treasures waiting to be released by the touch of light’s beam.

For a long while my gaze is transfixed by the beauty of the many colors which shift hues as I turn my lamp from side to side.

My attention turns to the pool.  Reaching fingers forward to touch it, I discover this is not the familiar water I had left behind.  A surge of life flows through me.  Energy of a different sort touches my being with electricity and vibrancy.  Falling prostrate I lie with one hand trailing in the pool while surges of power wave through every part of my being.  Overcome, I call out with trembling, “this is too much more than I can handle” and yet the thought of removing my hand from the pool is too dreadful to contemplate.  For the first time in my existence I feel truly alive, truly real.  There is something here that speaks more of reality than all of the known world I left behind just hours ago.

I can’t stay here forever…or can I?  Leave this incredible feeling of life?  Impossible!  Move away from meaning to the meaningless ness in the outer world?    By now I feel welded to the rock on which I lie.  One with the rock, fully alive, I sense a joy beginning to permeate my every cell.

Almost lost in the ecstasy and wonder of it all, I begin to run my thumb over my fingertips, exploring the unknown material in the pool.  It is water.  No, it is not.  It is heavier and thicker than that.  There is real substance to it. Every movement of my hand brings forth another wave of life coursing through me.  What is this?  Who is this?  Questions flood to the surface, and at the same time whatever fears I had when this journey started have now vanished in the presence of this incredible place, the power in the pool.

Could it be…blood?  I realize suddenly that I am receiving a life-giving transfusion by merely touching this mysterious substance.   Time stands still here.  I’m breathing, I think, but it doesn’t matter to me, nor do I try to figure it out.  Simply being, simply receiving, I lose touch with all the cares I had “out there.”  The joy continues to increase.  How can I contain it?  Should I even try?

I now feel filled to the brim with life and am aware that I am being released from the pull of the pool.  Without a word being spoken I know that it is right for me to go now, to retrace my journey to the outside.  The deep peace that has overwhelmed me will remain.  The way back is etched in my heart and I will always be welcomed.  Slowly, oh so slowly, I withdraw my hand, wiping it across my forehead.  A burning sensation occurs where hand touches brow.  Again I ponder, how can something so cool feel so hot?  Within me, I know I am branded for life.

There is no problem finding my way back the way I came.  There seems to be a glow around me which helps to light the way, and extra strength to negotiate the climb comes naturally.  Back in outside world once again, I see it through new eyes, new understanding.  How can one explain the unexplainable? To say “I was in this place, and now I will never be the same….” sounds divisive and separatist to the person who has not been there and is reluctant to take the journey’s risk.

Wandering away from cave mouth I encounter some people on my way who seem to have something different about them.  It is then I see the brand on their foreheads.  “They’ve been to the pool” I think. They understand. They know. We were destined, and drawn, to find it.  Smiling at each other, knowingly, we move on. Although strangers to each other, we have a shared secret, the secret of the hidden pool.

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