To introduce the project to the students I read to them my own memoir about a time I was physically stuck in a narrow tunnel inside a cave. This was a great way to ease the students into the project and it also gave us a structured way to introduce students to critique methods by having the students critique my memoir for necessary literary elements.
Sometimes Fear is a Healthy ThingDraft 1
“Wait a minute! Just let me relax and catch my breath,” I said in a near panicked voice after seemingly an age of one friend pushing and two others pulling on me had gone by. The almost panic inducing event of that fateful day actually started a few weeks back sitting in a 19th century art history class.
Travis my classmate would often talk about visiting Cave of the Bells a local cave and exploring in hopes of finding a hidden underground lake. Ever since I was a little kid I enjoyed the outdoors and exploring nature so the prospects of finding a secret underground lake was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.
My first clue that this wasn’t a typical adventure should have been obtaining the key from the U.S. Forest Service to unlock the gate at the entrance of the cave. In order to enter the cave you need to leave detailed information as to how long you will be in the cave and your expected return time. This information is useful for rescuers looking for people who get lost in the cave.
At first the journey was breathtaking figuratively. The cave was full of formations such as stalagmites, stalactites and limestone pillars. Travis even showed me where the name Cave of the Bells came from as we tapped on unique formations that echoed out sounds like church bells.
We were now on our way to the next formation the Green Carpet Room named for the crystals lining the floor of the cave. Travis lead the way, easily managing navigating through a series of two small tunnels leading from one section of the cave to another. I followed, managing to squeeze my much larger frame through the first tunnel.
As I tried to force myself through the second tunnel I realized I was starting to get stuck. “Travis,” I said, “Place my feet somewhere I can push off,” since I couldn’t actually see my feet as I was stuck at the waist. Travis positioned my feet against the wall and after a few minutes I pushed myself free.
I hadn’t panicked at this point knowing that I wasn’t stuck and I made it through the first tunnel so I could easily make it back out. It was tough inching my way back up the tunnel because there wasn’t much room to move. It was like being tightly wrapped in a blanket enough to constrict my breathing.
As I was making my way out of the tunnel I had just gone into I became stuck at my waist, again. The tunnel was so narrow that I couldn’t take deep breaths. Only my head and arms were out of the tunnel. I was using all of the strength in my arms pushing against the cave wall to try and free myself but I didn’t budge. After a few more attempts to free myself I became short of breath. Each time I pushed and failed to free myself I took in less air and came closer to panicking.
My friends quickly tried their best to free me. Travis, who went in the tunnel first placed my feet on his shoulders so I had a place to us my legs to push off. Travis coordinated with with my my other companions by shouting “Pull,” as they each pulled on my arms and Travis tried to push me from inside the tunnel.
Each unsuccessful attempt to free me from the tunnel left me more exhausted, out of breath and closer to being unable to control my emotions. Finally, after a couple of adrenalin fueled attempts to use my arms as levers to free myself I could hear the panic in my voice as I began to exclaim “I can’t get out! I’m trapped! What do I do?”
Finally with my last bit of calm thinking I said “Wait a minute. Just let me relax and catch my breath.” With no natural light or sounds other than your own breathing it’s hard to tell time in a cave. Till this day none of us know how long I sat there catching my breath while stuck. But after what I’m guessing was 10 minutes of catching my breath and calming myself down I turned ever so slightly and popped right out of the tunnel.
We did eventually find the lake that day, and I have since journeyed into many other caves with Travis making him go first as a security blanket. But ever since then I can never go into a tight passageway without starting to hyperventilate and have thoughts of what bad things could happen.
After the mini critique I showed the students a video memoir about my experience being stuck in the cave. This gave the students a better understanding of what they will be working towards.
This also gave us a chance to do another critique. This time students critically discussed if my written memoir was completely conveyed in the video memoir. Sadly the students gave me a D and said I needed to make changes!
Stay tuned for the next post where I share with the next step in the project, using the iPad and Adobe Collage to manipulate images for the memoirs.