This I Believe

harl - Sierra Vista, Arizona
Entered on February 15, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
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In 1974 two students from the University of Arizona discovered a cavern less than half a mile from a well traveled highway. They were the very first human beings ever to have entered what has turned out to be one of the top ten mineral caves in the world.


They, along with the people who owned the property, kept their discovery a secret for fourteen years. Finally the state of Arizona purchased the land from the James Kartchner family and developed what is now called Kartchner Caverns into a state park.

We live in a time when it is popular to rail against the greed of individuals and the ineptness of government.

Wow again that altruism guided all the negotiations that led to making this jewel of a cave public property and state leaders did everything right so that Kartchner Cavern has ended up being a well preserved and well cared for cavern.

When I retired last year I started volunteering at Kartchner Cavern and as I go through its rooms again and again I hear WOW regularly from the visitors.

I used to do an exercise with students in which we tried to imagine a language which only had twenty words. When we reached twenty, the only way we could add another was to remove one. More than once WOW was one of those indispensible words that we just had to keep.

I remember vividly as a small child “discovering” that clouds moved. Wow.

But how easy it is to lose WOW as one of the words in our vocabulary. When that happens curiosity gets lost next and the days get awfully bland.

I have always believed that the capacity to be amazed and awe struck is essential to a life well lived.

Entering this rather small, but extremely colorful, cavern on a regular basis has taught me again to say WOW and feel WOW. That has led me into the study of hydrology and geology and ecology. Each new fact that I have learned is a personal discovery. I find myself telling my friends, “Did you know….?”

Sometimes they share my amazement.