Today’s boot camp prompt is:
You’re at your favorite department store buying a birthday present for a friend. As the cashier gives you change, you notice a message with specific instructions scribbled on one of the bills. What do the instructions say? Do you carry them out and, if so, how?
I stood outside the door reading the instructions carefully one more time. They were obviously from someone in this area, but why put these instructions on a dollar bill? I had just finished shopping and was getting ready to head home, but when the cashier handed me my change, this caught my eye and I was now rethinking my afternoon. The instructions were written in tiny scroll and covered almost the entire bill, front and back.
- Drive to the Gibson River Park.
- Find the “Leaves of Gibson” parking lot.
- Get out of your car and start down the path opposite the parking lot entrance.
- Walk approximately 300 yards and you will see a large boulder on the left.
- Turn right and begin walking off-path.
- At the bottom of the hill turn left.
- Walk for another 300 yards.
- Enter the cave opening on your left.
- There will be two paths, choose the right one.
- Follow the path until you reach another fork.
- Choose the right one again and again. Always choose the right one.
- Enter the large cavern.
- Enjoy the view.
- Speak of this to no one.
- Put this bill back into local circulation.
I walked to my car and put my items in the back. I sat in the driver’s seat and stared at the bill. I could go and see what this view was about. Or I could go and get myself murdered. I felt my bodyguard .380 pressing against my side and decided to take a chance. I didn’t have anything better to do anyway.
I parked where I was supposed to park. The lot was empty besides my car. This was not in a well known area of the park. I felt a tingle of doubt creep down my spine. I suspected it received few visitors. Every other parking lot I had passed was full. It was 75° and sunny out on a Saturday, for this area it was heaven. This particular lot was about a mile from the main part of the park and even the driveway getting to the lot was longer than the others.
I flipped the safety off on my conceal carry weapon and started down the path. It was almost exactly 300 yards to the boulder. I carefully made my way down the hill, slipping a few times, but ultimately making it safely down. There was no path at bottom. It was level ground, but not an actual path. I could hear that the river was close, maybe only 100 feet through the trees in front of me.
I started walking in the direction the bill advised. I could hear so many beautiful sounds. There were bird calls I had never heard. Even the sounds the bugs made seemed to add a little sweetness to the chorus. There was a mild breeze that rustled the leaves as fallen branches cracked under my feet. I could see the cave coming up through the mist of water. The rock above jutted out and a stream poured over the edges. I stood in front of the mist for a moment deciding if I should walk through. I had come this far, why not?
I jumped through quickly, managing to stay mostly dry. Now came the really hard decision; walk into what was surely a trap to rape and kill me or turn back and save myself. Step #14 kept coming to the front of my mind. Enjoy the view. I was in a park, maybe these caves led to a look out point. I took the cave on the right. I continued through the tunnel of rock and earth. Sometimes it felt like I was walking down, other times up, I wasn’t really sure where I stood in terms of “feet above sea level”.
After about 10 minutes of walking, the path began to tighten. My claustrophobia began to kick in as the walls narrowed and I had to turn to walk sideways. Thankfully that only lasted a few minutes before I came out on the other side and into the cavern. I stumbled out of the opening and took a deep breath. When I looked up that breath caught in my throat.
On the far side of the cavern was a trickling waterfall that flowed into a pool on the cavern floor. The water was clear and blue. The size of the cavern and the pretty water were not the things that took my breath away. What took my breath away were the intricate paintings that covered the cavern walls in their entirety. It appeared that not an inch of rock had been left unpainted. The scenes depicted, while varied, were each detailed and precise. It could be seen that whoever created them had taken care with each brush stroke.
I put the bill back into circulation that day. I wanted so badly to tell my friends, to take them there. I also wanted to respect the artist’s simple wishes though. They wanted people to search for the unknown and find something beautiful and wondrous. I’ve been going there at least once a month. I pack a bag of food and sit in the cavern and think or read or write or brainstorm for work. It’s a haven in a crazy world. In the 5 years that I’ve been going, I’ve only ran into two people, neither of which claimed to be the artist.
I wish we would have more of that beauty in the world. More beauty and less crazy.