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On Saturday we went to Carlsbad Caverns. Years I’ve lived in New Mexico, and I’ve never gone, but my brother suggested we go this summer so we went. And it was just as awe-inspiring and beautiful and elemental as you hear.

We went in what’s called the natural entrance and walked down into the caves, taking about an hour and twenty minutes. The trail was quite steep and there were lots of times when I was holding onto a rail, thanking the national park workers who built the trail so I could go down into the caves without doing serious damage to myself. I was thinking about so many things: the light and the dark; the ancient human fear of being in a cold, dark hole under ground and how I was conquering it with a little help from a trail and some lights and the fact that my big brother was with me (some parts of childhood remain); the slow, strong power of water droplets and hydrogen sulfide working on an ancient reef; the feeling of permanence and what a lie it is; how lucky I am to live in the slice of time when these beautiful things are here. My brother said he was having a religious experience. I don’t think I was having quite that transcendent an experience, but I was amazed. I kept thinking of the concept of the sublime in Romanticism.

When we got to the big room at the bottom where the bathroom and snack bar are, we took a rest, and I was more than ready to sit down. My legs had started shaking on the way down. We took another hour or so to go on a ranger-led tour by a woman who was the perfect national park ranger and there was more going up and down. The ranger turned off the lights in one cave and we got to sit in the cave darkness, which lasted only a few short minutes but was already beginning to take me out of time. My eyes were trying to compensate for the lack of light. The ranger told us about the  sightless crickets who lived down in the caves. As much as I enjoyed the experience, I was glad to emerge back into the light.

And later that night my knees were killing me. I soaked in warm water and used my muscle balm and naproxen sodium. And on Sunday morning I woke up with so much pain in my legs that I wanted to cry. More of the same treatment. Today my knees and the bottom halves of my legs are still hurting. Like, I can’t walk up or down stairs today. I hope this is just residual soreness and nothing more and it’s just taking me a few days longer to get over it than it would someone else because of my fibro. Because I surely don’t need another expensive medical bill.

But despite the pain and the need for days of recovery, I’m glad I went on the trip and walked down into those caves.  For most things that will potentially hurt me I can say, well, I’ll put if off or modify it or just do something else, but this was one of those experiences where I’ll put up with the pain, even if I feel like crying. Some things are just worth it.

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