Thursday, December 14, 2017

Down Into the Dark

Once long ago as a child I can remember removing the cover from an old well.  I was alone at the time and I can still anticipate, with a slight crawling of my scalp, the sight I inadvertently saw as I peered over the brink and followed a shaft of sunlight many feet down into the darkness.  It touched, just touched in passing, a rusty pipe which projected across the well space some twenty feet above the water.  And there, secretive as that very underground whose mystery had lured me into this adventure, I saw, passing surely and unhurriedly into the darkness, a spidery thing of hair and many legs.  I set the rotting cover of boards back into place with a shiver, but that unidentifiable creature of the well has stayed with me to this day.
For the first time I must have realized, I think, the frightening diversity of the living; something that did not love the sun was down there, something that could walk through total darkness upon slender footholds, over evil waters, something that had come down there by preference from above.  It was in this way that the oceanic abyss was entered: by preference from above.  Life did not arise on the bottom; the muds of the deep waters did not compound it.  Instead, with its own pale lanterns or with the delicate strawlike feelers of blindness, it has groped its way down into the dark.
 - Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey (1957)

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