The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Silent Night, Eerie Night

          Halloween now looms ahead like the big orange harvest moon creeping over the horizon. It's the first day of October and the festive event is now thirty days away. It also means Christmas is coming!  But we'll focus on Halloween before we get the yuletide holiday. I don't like to refer to Halloween as a holiday, but rather an event or an occasion or  a festivity. There is no longer much of a Holy Day significance to the day other than its past relationship to All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  Most churches in this age do not particularly like to hype the day of Halloween.  Many churches indeed plan carnivals or celebrations related to the secular nature of the day, but instead giving their events names like "Harvest Festivals".  Many churches try to avoid the associations the day has with evil, occultish realms, and darkness.  However, darkness is not always bad or evil.  Sometimes darkness can be quite beautiful.
         In the case of caverns and underground spaces within our amazing Earth, darkness is a natural occurance.  Sure we often think about the fearsome side of these dark places. There are bats and other frightening creatures of the dark.  There are the very real fears of becoming lost or trapped in these nether chambers that have been so wonderously formed by God and the forces of nature.  The fear makes us more cautious about being there.  But to visit a cavern that has been developed for the purpose of public visitation, such as Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Caves is safe and well worth anyone's time.  There are many caverns open for public viewing  that are either run by  government agencies or by private owners.  The facilities have many safety features in place that minimize any danger, but at the same time give one the sense of being in a very dangerous place. Yet more people are injured or even killed at an amusement park like Disneyland or any other park in a year's time than in the entire public life of a cavern. The wonders of God and His creations are unparalleled by any manmade schmaltz.  If you have never been in a cavern, and are not ridiculously afraid of natural things or walking, make an effort to visit one of these natural wonders next chance you get. There are 100's of caves to visit in the United States and throughout the world.  If you want more information here is a great website:

         One of my oddest experiences with the darkness of nature came in a visit to southern Idaho's Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Craters is a vast lava field which is something like 750,000 acres of black basalt flow.  The terrain looks like a moonscape thus the park's name.  It is an incredible place to visit.  Craters is not crowded like many parks elsewhere-- probably less than 200,000 people visit during a years time-- so it is a nice place to experience solitude.  I believe I was there in July sometime in the mid 1980's.  My wife and I spent the afternoon driving throughout the park scenic drives. Then we pitched our small tent in the campground.  It is not a particularly large campground and it was by no means full. During the evening it was much like other campgrounds with people walking, talking, and having their dinners.  Then a very strange thing happened-- it got dark.  Keep in mind the ground in the campground and for miles around is all black.  So when it got dark, I mean it got dark like in no other place I had ever been.  And with the darkness came silence -- totally no sound whatsoever silence. It was as though not just the lights had been turned off, but the entire world had been shut down.  There were no campfires like one normally sees in a campground. Fires weren't allowed and there was nothing there to burn anyway.  There were no happy campers sitting about in lantern light. There was a sudden darkness and silence as though the world had been abandoned. 
         I tried not to move for fear of making a noise that might shatter the silence.  My wife and I communicated in the softest of whispers at first, and then eventually did not say anything more for fear of being heard.  There was no moon in the sky.  We were on the moon-- on the dark side. The enormous sky was silently still and perfectly clear to display the millions of pinpoints of star light. The stars did not shimmer.  They were just there and quiet.  I pondered the scene above and around me for a while and then, as quietly as I possibly could, went in the tent to sleep.
          The woods and mountains can be very dark places at night, but there are always sounds.  The breezes through the trees, unseen creatures, the spashing streams, and a myriad of sounds joining together in a nocturnal chorus.  The darkness at Craters of the Moon combined with the stark silence was totally alien to me. Although somewhat discomforting, it was beautiful, awsome, amazing. I have never since returned there, but hope to someday.  I doubt whether I will ever camp there again since I don't really camp anymore, but who knows.  I am glad I did camp there that  one time.  Indeed, darkness and silence can be so beautiful.

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