Spring Equinox Cave

c a n t o

When I first ‘officially’ transitioned to this community in late April of 2020, some good friends from the old’n’days hosted me in their RV until I was able to shift / shape and tap root elsewhere in town. I enjoyed that RV spot for its private studio-ness and that it was parked beside the creek who rambles through the neighborhood. My dreams were rich and vivid in that spot, with the calming sound of tumbling water unwinding in my ear canals every night. This babbling sliver is a capillary from the Popo Agie, whom shaped / shapes this valley, the roiling echo of the Wind River Pleistocene glaciation cycles, and once was harnessed for hydro power in the Sinks Canyon in 1920. The extreme fluctuations of this current could not sustain energy in the winter months, resulting in the pursuits of alternative power structures. The plant shut down in 1955.

Popo Agie’ is the French written-adaptation of an Absaalooke word, Poppotchaashe. I’ve heard various versions of its translations and all from white residents / colonized texts. Gurgling River is the most common interpretation of this word that, to the ears, catches on the rivers roaring whisper.

Hear/d it. Flows.

{Aside; so-called Lander, additionally, has endured a shift stream of settler names: Pushroot, Old Camp Brown and Fort Auger.  From what I have gathered, there are many transients who drift through here. Some stay, if they can. This feels like a continuous cycling of the land’s own ancestral story of passerbys and migratory bands who follow/ed the animals and the berry blooms / the pursuit of vibrant, ever-changing abundance in its various forms. The name Push Root fits too ~ in soils such as this, you have to push those roots in. And that includes the despairing conditions of bloated real estate prices / the gentrification through delegation of land ‘ownership’.}

Meanwhile, this wandering world of words flows and babbles ~

The Sinks & The Rise are significant polarity points where this river Poppotchaashe plunges out-of-sight into a series of fractures and subterranean channels before re-appearing in/as a pool full of fat trout a quarter mile from where they descend. Poppotchaashe sinks, swirls, rises. With the spring run-off, the limestone caverns swell with this river Poppotchaashe, and water scallops and gouges various tunnels that thread and carve through the grounds beneath.

Boulder Choke Cave is one such passage that is accessible and is the shining subject of this entire wandering wonder of an entry. It was happened upon by a park superintendent in 1990 but whose to clarify those who may have made time and ceremony in this cave before then. The memory traces of it get cleansed with every springs’ gushing thaw.  So far this cavern passage is all we know / have ‘easy’ access to of these network(s) that comprise the directions of Poppotchaashe’s underground voyage. I’m completely content with that. What a gift Boulder Choke Cave is ~ as it is ~ and what a beautiful harmony of not having our human hands on every thing.

This cave was first revealed to me in 2014 by the aforementioned friends who hosted me in their RV when I abruptly came back to Wyoming at the pop-off of the pandemic punch in 2020. In this memory, we were trekking  through the snow and suddenly my friend dipped down between some boulders and disappeared. Our dogs stayed above and we slipped below and squatted in the cramped cavernous opening. Beneath our feet was / is the locked gate that dropped / drops into unknown / now known / icy depths of the larger cavern passage: the Boulder Choke Cave. I hadn’t even considered wanting to explore it back in those days, although my friends knew someone who had a key to this gate. I fondly recall a bursting giddyness over a bat in the state of torpor hanging in the reception chamber where we were quietly lingering, sharing the marijuana plant, humming, while I was daydreaming on what the locked cave under us was like. 

And returning to the present tense / presence now and serendipitous again, another friend, who became a neighbor of mine when I found rooting & footing later & now in Lander (are you keeping up? The clear message in all this swiftly moving wordy muck is that I roam a round a lot); who is the immediate ranger of this park; a wonderful human being: a talented and confident and enthusiastic guide: is the one who, on spring equinox of this year, took myself and a small group of friends into this cave and guided us through this phenomenal earthen chamber.

Full spiraling circle.

We suited up in blue overalls and hard hats and had our safety chat and supported each other through tricky slippery tactics for descent and so  down we went.

….

I cannot fully transcribe the experience of being in this cave into words:
(reverent prayer prose is the only way I can share it)
other than attempting to weave poetic nuance for the liberation on gracious-given sensitivity and the immensely fragile ecosystem that slowly but deliberately thrive down there.
And although I have no current personal story to compare this particular style of spelunking to ~ and the gaping gorges in Kentucky whom I have visited are vastly different, but perhaps connected somewhere/how deeper ~ our trajectory was only challenging at brief times and otherwise very manageable.

Our guide gently introduced us
~to a resident bat, a small western-footed myotis who returns every winter to hibernate at a particular spot (but not the same bat I had witnessed back in 2014);
~to the process of gargantuan compression cycle earthen artwork that appears in the form of chert spilling out of the walls and roof;
(and this same chert is churned out above ground amongst the limestone of the canyon and was / is harvested for ancestral projectiles / tools. These chippings are peppered all across the landscape);
~to the threadbare and wispy, delicate tendrils of fungal hyphae reaching;
~to the translucent fish who have made (re)volution in that thin and isolated atmosphere ~ transformed / transforming ~ surviving in what might be considered stagnancy but is a rather slow, fragile, fruition.

I loved it. All of it.

At one interval our group turned off our lights and sat in the silence with the roaring force of the river Poppotchaashe all around and above us. The sensory shift was tangible. Indescribable: Sensational. The barely there air drift of where we came in from was subtle but when that’s all you have to feel, the sensitivity of it is glaring and becomes rather soothing to the nervous system. You can follow it by honing in. The way out is through.

My dreams were bright and clear that night.

I thought often of my favorite science fiction book Etidorhpa. Particularly the chapter(s) on underground water.
I thought about the studies / stories of our earliest ancestors being fish and the fungal architects that orchestrated earthen elements together to curate and collaborate on life and habitat on this plane/t. None of it feels strange to me because when I experience Indigenous stories and the relative-ity in having relationship to place, to land (and not just in these states, but world-wide), the signs of direct kinship are right t/here, and it’s wonder-full and be-wilder-ing to consider / to observe.
I also enjoy finding the common grounds in creation stories and scientific studies / these emerging interpretations. There is always a truth thread, and it contains multitudes of fibers that bind it altogether. Fun to follow!
(And to be aware not to exploit every piece that speaks from tapestries there. Some things are as they are and as they should be: and if you know, you know.)
I thought about all of this, and more, and I thought about nothing at all. It was a dimensional adjustment. I don’t presently live in a cave. But I recognize the appeal. The emphasis of it is real.

It is no casual coincidence that caves host a remarkable place for awe and wonder beyond our material analysis. Such narrative posed for (re)birth: the mystery of being entombed wombed in the comforts of darkness, where growth is slight and so subtle, where those illusionary lines ‘between’ birth & death are blurred because they cannot be seen ~
just sensed. Inherently known beneath / beyond separatist language.
A cave is as close as we can nature-ally get to that macro / micro
landscape ~
embodyment.

It’s spiritual, and nothing less.

and when we crawled out of the tunnel from below into the brilliant glare of light: where certain life springs and expands with atmosphere and temperature milling and mulling with our marbling meaning ~

breathing

The day was is New.
Life was is more sensational.

o c e a n i a