Exploring the Talus Caves was an experience that inspired a plethora of life and spirituality-related metaphors. This particular cave system near Hope, BC took us into the heart of the boulders that surrounded the base of a mountain and carried us into spaces that put our waterslide-related claustrophobic experiences into perspective. The caves were damp and dark – yet with these seemingly adverse characteristics came a certain mystery and desire to explore the possibility for beauty and meaning. It was an opportune time to think more abstractly about the concepts we have been discussing this semester – particularly those pertaining to community, vulnerability, and trust.
While some were eager to test the limits of the caves— and their bodies— as they wormed their way through spaces far too small to be a logical path, I was far more hesitant, fearful and claustrophobic. For me, caving was less an exploratory exercise than it was a beautiful experience of surrender and trust. To clarify, using the word beautiful to describe this experience does not preclude tears or even imply it was pleasant. This was a raw experience for me— there was no pretending to be above fear or in any way immune to the seemingly ‘all in your head’ experience of claustrophobia. It was a unique experience of letting others hold you in a raw state and simply trust— trust those around you to meet you where you are at, trust that this will not be the moment that age old rock will shift, and trust that sunlight and blue sky will, in fact, still exist when you exit. As some groups explored beauty in darkness through pictographs, I explored the beauty of being pushed to explore fears and areas of darkness within.
With the physical exploration of the caves came a powerful metaphor relating to one’s path in life. As I felt completely unable to decipher all the possible routes, the importance of surrounding yourself with those who will not only walk the straightforward path with you but will also take the detours and the dead ends was reiterated and powerfully shown. Along with this, the beauty of trust within community was exemplified. I saw the immense importance of being able to articulate the things I struggle with and then seek out a guide— someone to take my hand, walk with me and remind me of the importance of taking the next step even when tunnel vision prevents me from seeing the greater picture.
– Abby Willms, Guatemala student, 2017-18