• BCA Council Elections

    Voting is now open for positions on BCA Council. Emails have been sent out but may have gone to spam – if you haven’t received yours, please check your spam folder.

    Click here for more

Remembrance 3


New member
I have a database of caves in the state of Tennessee. From a great distance, the dots of them, in their thousands, run together into a meaningless blob.

Zoom. The mass parts into masses.

Zoom. The masses loosen into great expanses of thick rash.

Zoom. The rash begins to define the elevations of Tennessee karst; sprinkles in the Pennington formation, bands in the Bangor and the Monteagle, a thin line along the Hartselle. But still there are too many to mean anything, too many to know in a lifetime.

Zoom. Here is the county of my earliest memories, of sunshine, and a green snake on a tree trunk, of winding roads and of eating sour grass, of a big blue-grey building, of my brother, hiding behind a chair because he?d shat himself, of my grandfather, up ahead in the steep leafy woods, strewn with boulders, and of a terrifying deep hole in the floor of a cave whose identity is lost to me. I can look around the map of this county and make sense of it, know it faintly, though I have not lived there for twenty-seven years. But my knowledge of most of it comes from maps and roadside views, and has no context or meaning still.

Zoom. The west side of a single valley, steep, wooded, eight miles long and eight-hundred feet in elevation from crest to creek. This one slope, in all of Tennessee, has been partner in a multi-generational fidelity. Forsaking all others, my grandfather, father and mother, and now myself, my wife, and my brothers and sister, have walked it. We have climbed up and down its height, traced out its contours, and realized its depths. We have slept on it, eaten and drank from it, bathed in its shadow. We have had fear and weariness and hope and exhilaration there, and sadness and confusion. As in any marriage.

Just home from there, I break for a while from plotting the past week?s survey, and look again at the map. I am pleased to see parts of the hill with greater understanding and conviction than was possible two weeks ago. Traveling in my mind along its ravines and benches, I can recall the locations of particular trees and rocks, the width of the stream at this place, and this. I can point with certainty to the place where we saw an owl, sitting oddly, quietly, in the bright of the day. And I can discern the scree where I sat and waited for my brother to catch up, in the middle of Wednesday night past, where it was warm in the dark, even in January, and where the clouds opened up to consecrate the hill and we with it in the gleam and hum of undiluted starlight.

Looking too I see that there are mysteries surrounding what I know. That everywhere there are questions that decades have not yet answered. These are the secrets, the puzzles of every marriage, and in them, I am happy.