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Cavern

10/16/04 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(Host) Recently commentator Alan Boye took a walk that touched on the twin themes of death and rebirth.

(Boye) All around me the gray, overcast sky hangs low on the hills. I'm standing in the clearing of an old log landing. The leaves have all vanished from the hardwoods and they stand like skeletons on the rocky slope. I have come here in search of a mysterious place, and so I don't mind the somber quiet of these October woods.

An old timer told me that there was a cave up here somewhere. Although he had never seen the cave himself, he allowed as how during Prohibition some local boys used the cave to hide a supply of bootleg liquor.

I thought I understood the old timer to say it was up here somewhere. I head toward a rocky ledge. Just at the base of the ledge, a dark entrance disappears into oblivion among the stones. "I found it!" I call to my friends.

As soon as they arrive, I grab the flashlight and then lower myself into the mouth of the cave. I stand a moment on a jumble of stones, turn on my light and then lower myself into a still deeper and jagged tunnel. I crab-walk carefully for a few dark feet and then shine my flashlight into blackness.

The smaller of two rooms is to my right. I inch to my left, and soon I'm standing upright in a large cavern. I look back the way I came. Far above me the faint, damp light of day barely penetrates the blackness.

I can no longer hear the voices of my friends. In the flashlight's meager blaze, I see another dark tunnel disappearing deeper into the blackness. I don't even consider going any deeper into the underground. The smell here is distinct, and not displeasing - the woody odor of damp earth, the cool smell of rocks that have never seen the sun.

One by one my friends inch their way into the cave. They do not linger, but soon turn and climb back out.

I step deeper into the cavern. I turn off the flashlight. The massive darkness stuns me. Not even the cold distant light of stars ever reaches this black place. From dust, we came, and to this dark and silent dust one day I shall return. I linger a only a moment longer, then click on my light and begin my climb back up into the world.

I squeeze myself through the tight tunnel. I move carefully, trying to avoid cracking my knee against a rock. I reach the jumble of stones and stand just below the surface of the ground. I hoist myself up. Like the mystery of birth itself, I tumble out onto the grass at the feet of my friends. I join them and for a moment we stand in utter silence, then turn without speaking and head home.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke to us from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.
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