I have not been back here this century. It’s not on any map. Overgrown and abandoned, you can pass within a few feet of it and never even see it. A quarter mile into the woods suddenly you’re on the brink of a precipice—unexpected, immense, baffling. Out of nowhere, sheer drops reveal a vast limestone pit more than ten stories deep and just as wide, surrounded by dense ferns and undergrowth.
It is here, forty years ago today, Dona and I first exchanged our wedding vows. In the decades since, the sinkhole has been forgotten, even by the locals. Something in me is glad for this, as if I could live long enough to be the only person to remember this place at all. Today I can’t find a way down to the cathedral bottom where we once stood together, hopeful, unsure of what the future would bring. The way I used to know is obscured with tangles and uncertainties, and no one would find me if I slipped.
Standing on the edge of a beautiful secret, I open my notebook and trace the outline of a heart. I place the word always into its center, and fold the page into a paper airplane. I set fire to the paper and launch it into the abyss, imagining an unwavering flaming trajectory to the very center of the sinkhole, and a feathery float of ashes to the bottom. Instead, my plane dives almost immediately and disappears from sight beneath the first ledge. I wait a moment for a wisp of smoke and take a good look around, not knowing if this will be the last time. All we can do is try.
The years have brought so much good to us, the hurts and hard times seem more and more faded. I feel blessed and thankful. I could not have wished for a better partner in life and mother for our kids. They have grown up with lives of their own to make us feel proud and loved. Our marriage, fraught with its own tangles and uncertainties, has not come through completely intact. But our love for each other endures, the source of it remains, not always spoken or visited every day, in a place deeper than any disturbance. A sacred place no one else knows. Today I found out I can still get here.