Mis (and Myth) Adventures of a Former Park Ranger: Longing

I miss wearing the old Green and Grey, although burn out had become a problem over the last few years. Well, and frustration had marked much of that decade as well. It remains a consuming desire, a craving, particularly my time at Mammoth Cave National Park. That was my first park and I was hired in by the Chief of Program Services, Joy, rest her soul. She was passionate about the history of the cave and the area, but her specialty was the history of African-American guides from slavery through emancipation. It is a fascinating study of incredible men and women, many of whom have become legendary for their stories. When it became a national park, though, there was no place for them any longer. That’s a story for another time, though.

That cave will always be a craving in my heart and mind. I worked with so many incredible people, a few others I don’t miss, and met people from all over the globe. My time there opened my eyes to so much more than I had learned from books or college lessons. I am not a masterpiece in terms of looks, perhaps a watercolour, but I did get hit on a few times, almost all of them from India or the Middle-East. Anyway, back to where I took that side track. I am a strange mix of claustrophobic and agoraphobic, so the cave was rather comfortable to me. My confidence grew while in those dark passages. I felt a rush when I entered, but more from being in the environment than working with visitors. Being an introvert with mental health issues, people exhaust me quickly and my mood can be drastically altered by the vibes others give off. But the thrill of walking those passages! Sometimes I was giddy just walking the same routes I probably traversed hundreds of times.

The history and the evidence left behind was a large part of my excitement, yes, but I simply loved to be in there, often blocking out the thought that there were people with me. I always wanted to just walk through those tour routes alone with either a headlamp or a lantern. I didn’t necessarily want to go off the tour routes, but to follow those well-worn paths and feel the solitude, the caves presence. The echoes of those who had been there before, trying to see the cave as they did, a place of wonder, an astonishingly alien world. So much of this is so difficult to articulate. It’s bound up in scents, dim shades of light, patterns of shadows. A sense of serenity and peace I rarely get elsewhere. A comfort I can no longer have.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I hope you enjoyed it and come back sometime. When you go, though, remember that kindness is free and should be shared, but also save some for yourself. Take care, darlings.

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