Monday, March 05, 2007

Luray Caverns

In 1976, my parents took me to Luray Caverns on the way to Williamsburg. Last week, we visited again. I'm pleased to report that all the stalactites were still in place.

Could it possibly be 30 years since I was four years old, tip-toeing down those stairs into the drippy darkness, clutching my mother's hand, peering at the rock formations? It was strange walking through those caves, where nothing has changed in 30 years, seeing the same things I'd seen when I was younger than Benny is now. I doubt that the tour guide prattle has even changed. No new buildings or roads, or signs, or technology, just the same brick pathway between this and that, and the same metal railing. Interesting.

I can't say I remember the giant pillars or the huge caverns. All I remembered was the "fried eggs" -- little bumps left when stalacmites are broken off. Maybe they were small and immediate enough for my pint-sized brain to comprehend. Benny's favorite was the "Great Stalactite Organ" which is a musical instrument that is played with hammers striking the stalactites, microphones picking up the sounds. Here's a video of it playing -- if you turn up the volume you can hear "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Benny and Dan were hoping to hear "Toccata and Fugue" -- at least we got a tune by the same composer. If you look closely you can see Sadie trying to get under the railing to "get a rock" (and she succeeded in picking up some cave gravel, unbeknownst to us) and then Benny dancing.

Benny instantly joined forces with another kid, Hannah, who was *almost* as chatty as he is, and they made the tour guide's experiencing more rich and fulfilling by asking a LOT of questions.

They made their parents' experiences rich and fulfilling by dangling over precipices, leaping forward ahead of the guide into dark areas, and in general getting a lot of enjoyment out of the tour. I liked the cave more than I thought I might. I get a little skreetchy in tunnels and closed spaces, but I kept a lid on my heebie jeebies enough to enjoy the founding fathers' favorite subterranean hangout. It is creepy to imagine all those thousands of years of darkness with just a drip, drip, dripping down there, growing those formations with no human to observe. It is pretty cool, however, to look at those dripping rocks and realize you're looking at the same thing Thomas Jefferson was looking at, maybe one inch bigger now than it was then. And in thirty years, Benny can go back and remember that he walked on those same bricks, looked at those same fried eggs, when he was just a little squirrel.

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