Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Caves and Buffalo – Detail in the Connection

Yesterday was spent touring Wind Cave, the world’s fifth largest explored cave system and home to a very fragile mineral formation called box work.  This particular cave is also home to the creation myth belonging to several Native American tribes.  The cave contains its own ventilation system, and is called Wind Cave appropriately because it is a windy cave.  The first natural entrance that is known to have been used was found because of the windy air moving through and out of the caverns.  Some tribes also believe that this cave was where life came from, both that of buffalo and of people.  The connectedness of the buffalo and the people demonstrates how interdependent the tribe and herd were. 
The ranger tour guide demonstrates the cave at the original entrance.

Boxwork at Wind Cave
Venturing down 300 steps, to wind up 20 stories below the ground in a multi-layered cave formation was a wonderful way to see a different part of the Black Hills.  Formations made by water and limestone have left patterns that reminded me of a coral reef.  Swirls, flakes, lines, fins, and paper thin waffles of mineral deposits are seen at different colors at different levels, they are visible in a carefully constructed lighted path constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Carefully explored, so as not to break or disturb the formations, the Wind Cave system is still being explored, miles and miles of caves to map below the surface of the Black Hills.

Riding an elevator back out of the cave, the doors open back to bright sunshine.  Above the ground, the prairie dogs continue to bark their warnings, the buffalo to wallow in the bright red mud, and the antelope to munch on the new green grass.  The connectedness of the plants, animals, and geology form an intricate succession of events that make the nature here work in its appropriate sequence, creating sustainability. 

The detail and connectedness of this all struck me in the last large room in the cave tour.  Large slabs of rock on the floor looked as if the architecturally chosen materials used in the construction of the Sphinx had been repurposed here.  Then, I started noticing the smaller details of the boxwork and other crystal like formations.  In the darkness of a cave, I thought of the creator of the cave, the prairie above, and everything in between; it was a great reminder of the details created on purpose and with purpose.