After walking down a set of icy stone stairs, the trail welcomed me with a gorgeous view of the mountains with a runway of grass in between, lined with manicured trees. I am sure in fall this view is even more breathtaking than the dead grass and bare trees offered, but fall could not offer the lake of ice that was recently melted into water, reflecting the sky, trees and plains all around. Realizing I would get wet and too excited for adventure to be put off so early, I rationalized, "my shoes are waterproof and that doesn't look deep. It's cold anyway - 0 deg C and 35 deg F, and it would be a shame to turn around at the first trial, so let's go!"
The crystal clear ice water was colder and deeper than I expected as my shoes filled up with water and I skated on the ice at the bottom while wading through the water (with a giant grin on my face). By the time I even considered turning around I was already half way, so preceded on with two blocks of ice for feet (the grin now more like a grimace).
Though not yet in view, what was visible was magnificent. The path was about 2-3 feet wide, pure ice, with a natural wall of snow covered rocks and sharp hills on the left, and a small cliff into a more forceful brook on the right, with the water rushing around rocks big and small. The sound of the brook was louder, with the waterfall close by. With very little to grab onto, I sauntered ahead, shuffling one foot at a time, grabbing a branch when available, and leaning left so as not to fall into the river.
It was such fun! Trying to go up what I couldn't even see was a hill, failing, trying a different way. Marveling at the melting ice and frozen waterfalls along the way, somehow poised next to the rushing water. As some point I realized other people would probably find this dangerous and wouldn't have come this far, especially wearing only a hoodie and yoga pants, with a thin rain jacket in case it rained. Definitely under-dressed for the cold temperature, I reflected how unprepared I was for this journey, similar to how unprepared I have felt for the journey I've been on the last 6 months at the novitiate, yet that has been bumpy and I have survived, so I could certainly handle this short trail of a journey.
Some of the branches I grabbed were covered in thorns or not attached to anything, and I jerked back before remembering the rapid water rushing behind me and twisted back again towards the hill. Many years of ballet, yoga, and general clumsiness trained me to catch myself over and over. I mused how these deceptive branches looked like help but weren't what I was looking for, like the many people who we reach out to in times of need that whether they want to or not, cannot help us. That strength and guidance needs to come from within, emanating from a source of truth, experience, and training for this moment.
Closer to the cave, I had to stretch between rocks submerged in the water to enter the cave, tried a few different footings, and with the grace of a T-Rex playing hopscotch, eventually made it inside the cave to a rock a few inches higher than the surrounding water. I perched on the rock to begin to absorb a scene so mysterious, it must have been contrived by C S Lewis and Salvador Dali. I was consumed by the mist rising from the water, the powerful waterfall at the back juxtaposed with the frozen waterfall right next to it, a crack of blue sky in the ceiling, and the deafening noise as the water crashed by, escaping from the cave and headed down the valley. I was in another world - Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock creatures were sure to spring out of a hole in the side.
Oh, and I must thank Rainer Maria Rilke, who was kind enough to write a poem about my experience in his Book of Hours back in 1905. He really captured the awe and hope I felt in the cave, and the journey along the way.
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Book of Hours