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Burnsville Cove: A Thin Place

BCCS 50/40 CELEBRATION May 24, 2008

Fifty years ago Ike Nicholson stuck his head under that ledge up there and look where we are today! What has brought so many of us back here again and again for all these years? Is it the lure of the unknown, the challenge of exploration, scientific studies, conservation, good friends? – all these, and you could name many others…

But I want to suggest something more:
I believe another reason we have been coming back here for so many years is that this is a Thin Place. The ancient Celtic people of the rugged north coasts of Scotland and Ireland used that term which I think applies to this special cove.

They spoke of “Thin Places” as locations where the membrane between the physical and the ethereal was porous and sometimes something beyond the ordinary broke through. The Celts sensed such transition zones most often where the landscape was wild, untamed, mysterious and where the imagination ran free.

I believe that we stand here at a Thin Place. Not only is this an intersection between the surface and the depths,
between light and darkness,
between the known and the yet-to-be found,
but here there seems to be a mysterious inter-relatedness of the seen and the unseen.

Sometimes, down in the darkness and the silence, there seems to be a sense of something more than just rock and water and mud. And when that has happened, to me, and to others, there is evidence of a Presence in this place.

Not all are aware of that sense of mysterious Presence,
and those who are might call it by different names:

THE VOICE OF THE MOUNTAINS
THE SPIRIT THAT INHABITS THIS PLACE
THE ENERGY OF THE CAVES
THE FIRE AT THE HEART OF THE COSMOS
THE WHISPER OF THE CREATOR

Maybe it’s analogous to the dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of the universe – not seen, not understood, but which changes everything.

Considering the hundreds of cavers, pushing the limits for 50 years,
the incredible ongoing discoveries here in the Burnsville Cove, the gift of the magnificent labyrinth beneath our feet, and the fact that there have been no serious accidents through all this history, it seems that somehow we have been mighty lucky, or incredibly careful, or maybe its more than that…

And so, as we pause this weekend to look back – and to look forward –
it seems appropriate that we share a time of silence, acknowledging that sense of presence:

In gratitude for what has been given here,
what light has shined in the darkness,
what journeys have begun and continue beneath our feet,

and in thanksgiving for safety, and friendship, and new passages into the unknown.

Let us listen now………….. in silence,

LISTEN:
to the song of the wind in the trees,
to the whispers of the darkness below,
to the ancient words of limestone,
to the many voices of water,
and to the patient, slow, slipping away of time;

all of which have carved the passageways
and call us to explore.

Rockwell Ward
Butler Homestead, May 24, 2008