Cascade Lakes Highway
We present you volcanoes, caves, lava and Twin lakes without the lakes (they have mostly dried up). Also, darkness. Darkness outside the cave first, and darkness inside the cave and me afterwards.
This volcanic area is special not only for its beauty, rich Native American history, but also it served as a lunar landing training area for "Apollo 11".
I was coincidentally reading "Sapiens" at the time and a story about this* place. The story was about an old Native American, who met Apollo astronauts and asked them what they were doing. When one of the astronauts kindly answered that he is training here for an exploratory mission to the moon, the Native American thought for a minute and asked the astronaut for a favor.
He explained that the people of his tribe believe that some spirits live on the moon. So it would be great if he could deliver an important message to them from his tribe. The astronaut agreed, and the old man said something in his native language and made astronaut memorize it. When the astronauts tried to find out what the phrase meant, the man told that it is a secret allowed to be known only between his tribe and the moon spirits.
When the astronauts came home after the training, they started looking for someone who would know local Native American language and could translate the message for them. When they found a translator and told him the phrase, he started laughing. The words meant: "Do not believe any words of these men, they came to steal your land."
Let's come back to the darkness in the cave. It was our first time facing complete darkness where bats live and bears come in and out to relax from time to time.
We went for a hike into a couple mile long cave made by lava flowing underground thousands of years ago. Before entering the cave, we treated this experience just like any other treasure of nature: with excitement, but a sense of comfort and familiarity.
As we continued deeper into the caves, all the other tourists were staying mostly behind us. Lukas stopped next to a wall of the cave, turned off the light and asked me to look and listen.
And here I will switch from WE to I.
I was so scared first, that my first impulse was to turn on the lantern back ASAP. After the second attempt I switched off the light again. And... It was scary. Very scary darkness. So deep and thick. Along with ringing silence. I stood next to a shoulder of a cold and moist cave and waited till the fear passes.
I asked myself what am I afraid of? And the answer was as simple as this: myself. I looked at myself for the first time in my life without a body or any other shields. Maybe it would be correct to call it soul?
After this endless darkness and silence I had a lot to digest about how I looked at myself and what I would like to see next time I get to meet myself again so closely.
Long story short, experiencing complete silence and darkness was deeply transforming.
If you are not some kind of meditation or spiritual guru, my advice to you - go to a cave. Maybe you will get one step closer to yourself as I did. Unexpected and unforgettable!
* Marija thinks it was in Oregon, but most of internet agrees it was in Arizona. Lukas thinks this is most likely just a legend.