A few years ago I found out about an abandoned train tunnel in Clinton, Massachusetts. I read it’s filled with graffiti, and reputably haunted. Obviously, I wanted to go. I forgot and remembered it at least three times, but today I made the road trip out there.
My wife came with me. It was an hour drive out listening to Sarah Jarosz and Chris Thile. When she got out of the car and hiked to the tunnel entrance balked.
I walked in the first twenty or thirty feet. It was a bit like entering a damp, dark cathedral. The temperature dropped 15 degrees as I walked out of the reach of the sun. I called out to her. My voice rippled and buzzed strangely along the walls. I walked back out. “You go can, I’m going to wait in the car;” she told me.
I was on my own. Just me, and gaping abyss of about 1000 feet. I could see the light on the other side.
My footsteps crunched. Water dripped. My body was not happy. The tunnel wasn’t that long. There wasn’t anyone else there I could see. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and walk. I constantly wanted to turn to see what had crept up behind me in the dark.
Obviously, I started to relate my uncertainty walking through the cave to the uncertainty of the creative process, if only to give myself something familiar to focus on.
At the far end of the tunnel I met two frogs and the long since grown over hollow that had once been blasted out to make was for a trains also long since passed. It was beautiful. I snapped a picture with my phone.
As I made my way back I found myself thinking of Orpheus’s return to the surface from Hades. How would anyone not look back to see what was following them, or to see if their lover was still behind them in darkness like that? Looking behind me was the only thing my body wanted to do.
Yet it had always seemed like a reasonable challenge to set man to before I walked through that darkness.
My wife was sitting in the car when we got back. “How was it;” she asked. “Really cool!” Late over a coffee stout, I showed her the picture I took from the other side. The sun was starting to set on behind us. It was the first meal we hadn’t eaten in our kitchen since March. A different darkness and a different uncertain tunnel that we’d made it through together.