Seeing Through the Mud

I once wiggled and climbed (and even waded) into the dark bowels of a cave in Southern China.

Looking back, I'm not entirely certain our excursion was "OSHA approved." Which is just my attempt at cleverly saying "safe." Dudes. I don't think it was safe.

For starters, we were given random, mismatched, ill-fitting military helmets to wear. (Eh?!) Our guide was like a poster boy of "DID NOTS:" Did not speak English. Did not have a pocket first aid kit. Did not have proper licensing or accreditation from the "Licenses to Go Into Caves" committee. Did not carry a map or a flashlight. And I don't recall him wearing shoes.

Once inside the cave, we crawled through holes that were much too small for adult bodies and traversed crevices much to deep to make anyone's mother feel comfortable about it. (And on 2x4s, no less! At one point--while standing on a 2x4 over a deep, dark pit, with nothing to hold onto but a rope tied from one side of the crevice to the other--I thought, "Boy, this is dumb.")

The grand culmination of the cave excursion came at the very end; after wading through waist-deep water and climbing up slippery rocks, there it was.

A mud pit.

A mud pit, you guys. (At this point you are probably falling into one of two categories: 1. Awesome! or 2. Say what?!?) Surprisingly, the mud pit was fairly sizeable--like a swimming pool of pudding. It was warm and squishy, and the very fine texture of the dirt made the mud soft to the touch.

The whole point of the pit? To. Get. In. It. (Seriously.) To just dive right in and roll around in it. To have mud fights and mud wrestling matches and to see who could get the absolute dirtiest. It wasn't hard, considering the mud's ability to coat bodies and to cling to everything. When the epic mud-pit-party was over, when we had made our way back outside, we had to hose ourselves off using a crude water spigot. Amazingly, the water hardly did a thing to rid us of the mud, and ultimately, the clothing I had worn had to be thrown away.

I guess life is akin to my adventure in a cave. Sometimes we have to climb, reach, stretch, and wade through our personal journeys. Sometimes we have to crawl. We wriggle through the tough spots, we got lost in the darkness, mud sticks to our skin along the way.

I'm learning there will always be mud.

Bills, bullies, anxiety, burned dinners, chronic illnesses, homework, stomach flu, heartbreak, job loss, change, rejection, cancer, death, depression, fear... it's the mud that fills the pit. And it's not going anywhere.

But what happened after my crazy adventure in the cave? A lovely Asian woman invited us to her home and fed us a meal. I saw that her best bowls had been placed at her table. I saw her sweet and eager children run platters of food to us so that we could fill our bellies. I saw hazy, balmy air and lush, jutted peaks and rice fields that seemed to stretch forever, just outside her open doorway. It was extraordinarily beautiful.

And maybe that's exactly the point of my traveler's tale, my friends. That good things can be found in the midst of the muck. That glitter lies alongside the dirt.

There's beauty in the mud.        
You just have to remember to look for it.


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