Adios, California — Day 5

Albuquerque, Carlsbad Caverns, Odessa

(July 17, 2015)

By: Tim Monreal

Humans are small.

We are specks. We are a grain of sand to the beach of earth’s history. I have felt this many times over the course of the trip east. The feeling continues to grow stronger.

First, it was the endless landscape of the Western Desert. Then, it was the largess, both in scale and geological time, of the Grand Canyon. Next, came the history of ancient Native American settlements. Today, our humble existence weighs heavily on me.

Starring into the whimsical panorama before me, I see the stunning results of earth’s methodical march forward. The hard work of five million years innocently buried deep beneath the world’s surface. Waiting to be enjoyed, longing to be ignored. The Carlsbad Caverns are like nothing I’ve seen before. The beauty of the caves rests with their attempt to hide below the darkest pits of our exploration.

At every turn, there is something new to see, a formation that curiously boggles the mind. Sharp stalactites hang from the ceiling, thin soda straws cling to walls, and bubbling stalagmites rise from the floor. Everything tied together in a irregular, yet matching cacophony of stagnant parts. A symphony without a conductor. A winter wonderland without snowfall. A natural fan without outside air.

There is no getting around it. Humans are small. We are drops in the massive oceans.We are the blink of an eye in our planet’s tiny thrusts forward.

Yet humans are not insignificant. We discovered the caverns. We built the elevator to showcase it beauty. We invented the car to take me to this faraway land. In minutes, we have the power to destroy all of the caves’ natural majesty. We also posses the insight to preserve the caves’ magnificence for years to come. To be small does not mean we are powerless.

We drive along the back roads of western Texas. Again, it is easy to feel tiny. This time because we are the only car among a sea of trucks. We blaze an unconventional path of dirt roads and unmarked highways to the town of Odessa, TX. A wave of unfortunate events brought a dear friend of ours to Odessa. This small place on the map happens to be close enough to make a stop. Remarkable. Of all places, the three of us (my wife, our friend, and I) share a meal at a Tex-Mex joint in Odessa, TX.

A tour of her new house, a few our hours of conversation, a simple dinner. Nothing out of the ordinary except we are a thousand miles from home. It is a small moment within the context of our lives, but it feels much more significant. Sometimes being small doesn’t mean that much I guess.

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