One minute I was standing on a hilltop in the Ohio countryside, scanning miles of farmland in every direction.
The next, I was 103 feet below the surface on a guided tour of one of my home state’s best-kept secrets: the Ohio Caverns, where my young son and I explored a couple miles of underground magic. Back when glaciers were forming my part of the world, the melting ice would unleash huge amounts of water that eventually formed a bunch of lakes and rivers. But some of that water would work its way through cracks in the surface and carve out underground aquifer tunnels we now refer to as caves and caverns.
The surface was basking in 80-degree sunlight.
The caverns, a steady 54 degrees. (They are always 54 degrees, whether it’s summer or winter.)
The surface showcased everything one would expect to see in rural Ohio. Farms and fields. Country roads. Birds. Dogs. Cars. Tractors. People.
The caverns featured the kind of things most of us only see on episodes of Planet Earth.
My almost-7-year-old was in awe. I was, too.
The cavern ceiling and walls were limestone canvases, painted with gorgeous blacks, browns, greens, whites and oranges from the various mineral compounds leaking through the surface. Crystal formations, big and small, were growing from both the floor and ceiling from calcium carbonate buildups over thousands of years.
I am humbled by the awesome might of the oceans.
I am humbled by the majesty of the night sky.
And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I am equally humbled by seeing underground crystal formations, some of which took more than 200,000 years to form.
That’s one of those numbers that makes your brain hurt when you try to comprehend what you’re seeing. I take a lot of joy from moments like that.
Because I spent a lot of time driving over the past few days, I had plenty of time to consider the implications of the caverns’ discovery.
Two things stood out.
The Things Beneath the Surface
The most obvious takeaway from the experience was the realization that caverns just like these (gorgeous, priceless places) must be much more common than most of us think. Presumably, anywhere with glacial activity consistent with the Great Lakes region in North American and semi-similar ground composition.
I’ve spent most of my life standing on ground in Ohio. And sure it’s very pretty in spots, but frankly, all pretty typical. Particularly away from the cities.
And all this time, I might have been standing above undiscovered treasure. Above some of the most uniquely beautiful things I have ever seen, masked by all the things I’m programmed to expect.
It makes me think about people. About what we see and think about them versus what’s actually there underneath all that apparent normalcy.
How you could never know who a person is just by what you see and hear.
But it also makes me think about one of life’s most exciting truths: There are still many secrets waiting to be discovered.
If You Believe There Are
I think some people believe everything has already been thought of. That there are no new discoveries to be made.
But I don’t believe that. Scientists discover new biological species all the time. We see constant advances in medicine. In material science. In computer processing. In digital technology.
A person who believes everything has already been done, or thought of, or discovered might be tempted to stop searching. To stop asking questions. To stop seeking better, smarter ways of doing things.
But a person who believes in secrets will continue to search for answers.
I believe in secrets.
I think about marriage and divorce a lot because divorce was the hardest thing I ever did and it seems like half or more fail, and it all makes me think there must be a better way.
There are secrets. Secrets to unlocking the reasons why husbands and wives continually fail by making the same marital mistakes over and over again.
Somewhere, amid all of the happy older couples celebrating 50 or 60 years together, and all of the broken, sad and angry people running away from a relationship they so desperately wanted just a few years earlier, are answers.
Why do so many husbands do that?
Why do so many wives feel this way?
What are the commonalities between all the couples who make it?
What are the common personality profiles of couples who make it versus couples who don’t?
What if it’s as simple as asking the right people the right questions? What if the key to helping people make it, or helping them figure out how to choose compatible partners in the future, is simply a matter of discovering answers to old questions and looking at the data from a different angle?
We walk around constantly taking our surroundings (and the people in them) for granted. We have an amazing capacity to get used to just about anything. And as our familiarity increases, our curiosity wanes.
But what if we didn’t forget to ask better questions? What if we didn’t forget there are always secrets waiting to be uncovered?
It makes you come alive on the inside.
It makes life adventurous.
It makes the ordinary extraordinary.