We stood in line for the ferry, clutching slick green and white tickets.
As the boat cut through the frothy waves, the captain named the peaks and ridges that ringed the lake. Above our heads, TV screens charted our course. Eventually, we pulled up beside a dock holding the previous set of visitors. As we disembarked past them, I examined their faces. There was something quiet and far away about their expressions.
We were ushered into a log cabin, made cozy by a wood stove. Outside, the wind howled, pushing the heavy mists this way and that. The steady patter of rain on the roof served as a soundtrack to our guide’s scientific explanation of the creatures we were about to see.
Like a horror movie, the crowd slowly thinned, as small groups disappeared into the cave. When it was our turn, we walked through dripping trees and ferns, as the roar of a waterfall grew louder. Stooping, we climbed down between rocks. A narrow path stretched before us, winding above and along a subterranean stream. The lights grew dimmer and less frequent. We paused to admire mighty stalactites and to feel the steady drip of water from above, said to restore youth. We stood a long time at the base of thundering falls, carved centimeter by centimeter over centuries into the stone. Gradually, the walls began to glow, in tiny, dangling spots.
And then we rounded the corner into a vacuum of black.
A resonant silence, the pinpricks of light scattered into constellations above us, the contours of the cave walls completely melted into a deep blackness. So silent you imagined the other twenty people had drifted off into space, disappeared, leaving only you, floating. If you pulled yourself back to Earth, you could feel the guide pulling your boat along by an overhead rope, could hear the gentle lapping of tiny black waves and the occasional soft thump of wood hitting stone. But better to lose yourself in the wonder, in the incomprehensible beauty, in the understanding that even though you knew these to be worms dangling mere inches above your head, you also knew this to be the universe stretching out in front of you.