Today I went to the other side. Literally. Physically. Metaphysically. Let me explain:
A couple months ago while visiting Olomana Gardens in the foothills of Waimanalo, I followed along with an impromptu group hike and found out about a hidden trail that follows the water flumes which wind through the mountains and provide all the irrigation water for the agriculture in the area. We came across a tunnel about 4" high that disappeared into an almost sheer face of mountainside and was told that if we were to go through it, we would come out to the Lost World on the other side...
WAIMANALO WATER FLUMES
Today I went back. Today I went through the black, and came out on the other side.
We peer into the entrance and can only see blackness 30-40 feet in. The cool water rushing around our ankles gurgles impassively, and my stomach twitches as my mind starts to paint macabre pictures of creatures that lurk in deep, dark places, and of pale gaping faces floating in the night.
FELLOW ADVENTURER AND SOUL-SEARCHER:
LUCIE VOELCKER, THE TRAVELING POET OF GERMANY
AT THE TUNNEL ENTRANCE
LUCIE VOELCKER, THE TRAVELING POET OF GERMANY
AT THE TUNNEL ENTRANCE
Adrenaline kicks in and I can feel the glint in my eye brightening. The Traveling Poet's gaze meets mine, and our glinting eyes smile in agreement that we are actually going to go in.
The 9-LED flashlight, a gift I received only the day before, can only light the way 20 feet ahead before being swallowed by the blackness. It is a strange feeling, knowing that there are tons and tons of dirt, rock, trees, and who knows what else pressing in all around you. It is perhaps an even stranger thing to knowingly descend into these dark places of the earth; once the mind starts chewing on the your fears, the chatter is difficult to stop:
- "What if the light goes out?"
- "What lives in here?"
- "Remember that creature in Star Wars that dragged Luke under the muck in the garbage compacter? I wonder if that thing lives here..."
- "Now I know how Gollum must have felt; no wonder he went insane...."
- "Don't drop the flashlight."
- "What lies ahead?"
- "What was that?!?"
- "I don't want to see any faces. Or dead bodies. I don't do dead bodies. Or floating apparitions. No floating apparitions please."
- "What if this doesn't come out on the other side?"
- "What was that that just brushed my ankle?!"
- "Don't drop the flashlight!!"
- "DO NOT. DROP. THE FLASHLIGHT."
On and on we press, losing all sense of time and space, save for what the flashlight can show us for the next twenty feet, the next 30 seconds. The tunnel walls are cold and roughly hewn, and beads of water glisten on the walls like pearls in the gray sky.
The water seems to simply appear out of thin air. The ceiling bears down upon us, seeming to get lower and lower with each step...then it toys with me, opening up every now and then enough to let me stand up straight.
Thankfully, The Traveling Poet starts singing. It is haunting and surreal and macabre and beautiful and strangely comforting all at the same time...
We pause for a moment and turn off the light. The cool water rushes around my ankles, like busy commuters rushing and gurgling to make their trains. The walls press in around me, and my unseeing eyes blink naievely, desperately groping for light.
There is no difference between keeping my eyes open or closed. Panic rises in my stomach, and I smile broadly to laugh silently and keep the fear at bay.
The screen of my mind and the screen of my retina are one and the same, both inky blank canvases awaiting inspiration and direction...
We press on, the rythym of our sloshing footsteps keeping pace with my quickening heartbeat. I force my mind to stay on the light at the end of the tunnel, though it does not come. On and on into the next 20 feet of darkness we slosh, the water no longer gurgling but relentlessly going the other way, passing silent judgment on the decision to walk against the flow.
My life has become a cliche, and I am loving every minute of it: fear mixed with wonder mixed with anticipation shaken in mountain spring water and pressed by a hundred million tons of sheer-faced mountain...
It is no longer my imagination, the ceiling is getting gradually lower and lower now. Up ahead at the edge of the flashlight, I can make out a different shape, and I cringe....it looks like the roof has caved in, and I don't want to think about the implications of that.
As we get closer, the tunnel turns almost 90 degrees to the left, and what I thought was a cave-in is actually an older tunnel that has since been sealed. The water seems to have quickened its pace and is much louder here, and the cave ceiling keep getting lower.
Now, we are duck-walking, arse-deep in the water, and I am wondering if we will keep going like this until we shrink down and down and down into the size of m&m candies, like Alice in Wonderland, on our way to smoke hookahs with giant existentially philosophic caterpillars...
Up ahead in the distance, I see a simmering light...
It's not the Hotel California, it's the Exit to the Tunnel...and I can breathe deeply again. My thighs are aching from duck-walking the last 100 feet, but it doesn't matter now, I can see the end.
The Travel Poet emerges first, fourty feet ahead of me, and when I finally emerge blinking in the sunlight, a whole new world ... the Lost World ... comes into focus...
We are Sam Neil and Laura Dern, we are the only two humans left on the planet, we are the first two human beings on the planet...we are Adam & Eve. The other side is lush, vibrant green, a living, breathing soundscape of nature...
THE SOUNDS OF NATURE
With newly refreshed eyes and ears, each sight, sound, smell, touch is heightened, and we explore this wilderness we have discovered with childlike wonder, taking our shoes off and squishing through the mud, running up the valley walls and whooping with joy.
As the nature-induced ecstasy fades, we bask in the afterglow and settle back down next to the Exit, out portal back into the world we just escaped. Not ready to return yet, we hunker into our packs and much on organic energy bars and vegan apple cakes given to us that morning by our genius rockclimbing/smoothie-making friend [Badass Harvard Laureate]...and the Traveling Poet strums Martin [her guitar], and bursts into song again...
She is taken by the moment, channeling words and chords and melodies that speak to the moment we are sharing... I sit at her feet and am 6 years old again, close my eyes and am lifted with her voice, swirling with the notes up through the trees... she tells me later that when this happens, it is as if her soul is speaking to her through her own music. I am witnessing a faerie singing her heartsong in the wilderness with my own eyes...
# # #
...Today, I sat under a mountain, and in the complete absence of light, became a thought.
A bodiless, floating thought. As if the tunnel had collapsed, and my consciousness was ascending through the layers of rock and dirt through the mountain to gain a better view...and in that moment, I experienced peace.
Peace, knowing that if I had indeed died, that I had died while adventuring, doing exactly what I want to be doing - something I love... and absolutely living in the moment.
Peace, knowing that few humans had ever trod into the heart of this mountain...and fewer still had taken the time to stop, turn off their flashlights, and savor the experience.
Peace, melting into the walls of the tunnel, becoming one with the 'aina.
Peace, knowing that the world is what you think it is.
Peace, in communion with nature.
Peace, reconnecting with the source.
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