Looking for the Perfect Hole in the Ground

I’ve spent the last two days looking for the entrance to a mine shaft or a cave, a setting for a new painting I have in mind. Yesterday I hiked back into the valley behind our house to look at the entrance of an old mine — this being Mineral Point, where the earth beneath is honey-combed with tunnels. I hadn’t been there for at least ten years. In the meanwhile, the valley had changed; the ground was cultivated, where before it had been only grazed; there was a house and yard where formerly there had been only an intervening patch of woods.

Now, I haven’t a memory for landmarks or a decent sense of direction at the best of times. I took the most rugged of all paths towards my goal, first slogging across a muddy field past a bull-pen, finding a place to jump the creek, scrambling over mossy and ice-covered boulders, crossing and re-crossing barbed-wire fences, climbing in and out of gullies and past the twisted vertebrae and scattered ribs of a cow or deer (I didn’t linger). By the time I didn’t find what I was looking for, I was exhausted. I’d lost my sweatshirt somewhere among the brambles and scratched my wrists. My boots were caked with about five pounds of mud per foot. On the way back, I hadn’t the energy to find a place to leap across the creek. I just trudged through it. That’s what I bought those hiking boots with a Gortex liner for afterall!

Today, my daughter led me directly to the mine shaft via a much more direct and obstacle-free path, but it had been entirely stopped up with earth. I contemplated bringing a shovel to reopen the hole a bit. Would that work? Even though I’d brought my camera on both forays, I forgot to even take a picture. It deserved at least that to justify all the effort. After we walked back home, Geneia said she knew of a “shaft” that might suit my purpose and we drove straight to it in the lingering daylight. Here it is (above). It is waaaaaay easier to get to. Romantic as the inaccessible is, I think I’ll opt for easy.

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