Devils Den

Fear of Bats?

Image by IceNineJon via Flickr

Devils Den is actually known for its bats. I didn’t know that even though I did consider it very probable that we would come across bats in the cave we planned to explore while we were there. I decided however not to tell Rob that I am afraid of bats ahead of time. I didn’t want him to think I was going to be a “girl” about similar adventures in the future, and I just thought I could conqueror my fear by not looking up. You don’t look up. You don’t see bats. You are not afraid.

The cave itself has history for Rob. He has been to the park in the past, most recently on his memorial trip for his late wife, Shelley, last November. It was during this trip that he broke his flashlight while back in the cave and, because there is no light source anyway but at the mouth of the cave, he had to feel his way out. It was a profound experience for him.

He “borrowed” the white disposable coveralls we wore from a work site so that we could attempt to go back further in the cave than most of the general population of campers at the park go. To do this you have to climb and crawl and it is damp and muddy. The coveralls were to protect our clothing. Rob may be all guy but he is a Virgo and they just can’t get past their “be overly prepared” natures. Case in point, we did not carry flashlights. He had dropped and broken his in November because it is difficult to carry a light and manage other tasks. So, he found small lamps that we could strap to our heads. They proved to be quite efficient light sources, and Rob loved his so much that by the time we had hiked back down to the road after our caving adventure, he had a small list of activities for which this wonderful new gadget might prove useful.

The cave was somewhat narrow, and it wasn’t long before the coveralls had earned more than their share of “useful” points. When we reached the spot where most people turn back, Rob asked me if I wanted to try and go in further. Surprising even myself, I was game. I didn’t have to be. He would have been fine had I chickened out but I wanted to go on. For him a little, but mostly for myself. I am not claustrophobic at all and since I hadn’t looked up even once, the whole fear of bats had not been an issue, but I am afraid of the dark. I always have been and since by husband’s death last year, it has been worse than it was even when I was a small child. Rob had asked me if I would be okay if we turned out our lamps at some point and I had said yes, but the truth was that I would have been only if he was standing right next to me with both arms wrapped tightly around me. The only time my house is completely dark at night is when there is company staying over after all.

So, up we went. Crawling and contorting and twisting and climbing up and down until we reached a very tight space with very little head room. So little that keeping my eyes off the ceiling was becoming a difficult thing to do as it was practically in my face. That is when I heard Rob tell me to stop. Why? I wondered. Well, I was about to scrap a few bats right off the ceiling with my cap.

I decided I wanted to turn around. I am sure the tone of my voice said everything that I hadn’t earlier. It took a few minutes of carefully directing me to get us turned around and on our way out. It was now that Rob felt the sudden urge to look up himself, and he was amazed enough at the number of bats he saw to comment on them near constantly until we emerged from the cave’s entrance.

I don’t think that he was disappointed in me. He teased me quite a bit, but that is par for the course when he catches me out about something. Anyway, it is not the kind of teasing that I remember from my childhood. It is playful and I can tell he is quite amused by what he refers to as my being “cute”.

I don’t think caving is going to be high on our list of things to do in the wild.

Outhouse cm01

Image via Wikipedia

My first lengthy sojourn into the mountains of Arkansas was a memorable experience for several reasons. To begin with, it was the first time I have really hiked as opposed to just taken a walk in the woods. I am not a girly-girl, or at least I have never been accused to my face of being one, but I did not grow up in a rural setting, Despite what people may think of Iowa, and its small cities and towns, the majority of us are urbanites of the lite variety. The only real camping I have done could hardly be called that as it took place in campgrounds that are the great outdoors equivalent of suburbs. Second, it was the kind of less than idyllic situation where if things were going to go wrong they certainly would, but despite the lack of scenic  diversity and the winding trail that teased us by seeming to never take us too near where we wanted to be mile after mile, it was a really wonderful day. Finally though, and most importantly, I learned to pee in the woods.


When American poet, lecturer and essayist,  Ralph Waldo Emerson ( 1803-1882) said, “A man is related to all nature.” He was probably not referring to his ability to pee all over it. But, that is what my future husband, and indeed all men everywhere, are perfectly capable and content to do.  

I was quite prepared for the necessity of making like a guy and pulling up a tree or shrub except for one tiny thing……I had never pee’d in the woods before. Ever. Not once. Whereas all little boys, it seems, become acquainted with urinating just about anywhere no one will see them (and a lot of places that are pretty much in the wide open – as an example, the boys on my five year old nephews tee ball team simply run out to the farthest side of the right field, turn away from the stands and water the weeds that line the field. Well, everyone except my nephew who, not having mastered the “discreet” part, would drop his pants and moon everyone as he contributed to the weed watering.) Little girls though, unless they are Canadians apparently, are not encouraged to believe that the world is their toilet.


And so, I needed instruction and the only teacher at hand was……well….a man. A man who had not given much thought to impromptu female urination in the wild lessons. But after a few perplexed moments, my dearest husband to be managed to convey enough information to make me believe anyway that the whole peeing outdoors thing was not such a feat after all. 


“Just find a tree to hold onto for balance,” he told me, “pull you pants all the way down to your ankles, hang onto the tree, and stick your bum as far away as you can. Oh, and try to pee downhill.”


Nothing difficult about that. Is there?


Well, first of all, I didn’t want to be seen peeing even if the only one who could possibly see me had seen me naked from angles a whole lot less flattering. Then there was the issue of not getting the jeans and panties wet. Very important since there were a lot of hiking hours left and no change of clothing. I wasn’t smelling all that great anyway. No need to compound matters. Finally there was the balancing issue which of course would greatly influence the keeping dry issue, A woman would not want to be caught  mid-pee by anything or one is my impression because at that point there really isn’t anything she could do but finish up.


Afterwards I did not feel the liberation I supposedly should. Instead while listening to Rob’s discourse on the options for number 2, I decided that peeing in the woods was just going to be one of those things you become proficient at rather than something you take pride in accomplishing. It was just peeing after all.

The CCC overlook

The CCC overlook/Image via Wikipedia

There is so much to say and yet the hour is late for telling it all right now. I will tell it all, as much as I remember. I didn’t write it down as it occurred though I probably should have. I find that the most important moments of my life are often recounted retrospectively and are thus suspect for total accuracy.

I believe now however that I can safely add Arkansas to my list of the most romantic places on earth, and I don’t even think my now fiance would argue the point. Well, not much.

I can’t remember a better week. As my co-worker T. Pilcher would say, “Everyday is a festival!” Everyday in that cabin in Devils Den State park was that and more. The simplest things, like breakfast for instance, was something to be savored, prolonged, because it was just too wonderful to rush through.

Sometimes you forget just how perfect life really is amidst the surviving and the details. It takes those simple moments together with someone you care about to bring the reality of what a joy life is home again.

That was what this last week was like for me. It was being home again.