Grasshopper Soup: The cave that really isn’t there
Lake Tahoe’s many scenic wonders, like Emerald Bay, Cave Rock, Crystal Bay, Mount Tallac, the Kokanee salmon run at Taylor Creek and the colorful, mosaic waters of the lake itself, stretching from horizon to horizon will, hopefully, last many more generations.
But one of Lake Tahoe’s best kept secrets is gone forever. A very useful place, which was perhaps 2 million years old, was removed to make way for the new scenic route for pedestrians and bicycles along the shoreline just east of Commons Beach in Tahoe City.
It was a big cave. If you look closely at the cliff face, from the shoreline path, you can see where it was chipped away, like the remains of a huge, upside down broken bowl.
It was known as Swallow’s Bank. I call it The Cave That Isn’t There.
Not too many people think of Swallow’s Bank when they think of Lake Tahoe or Emerald Bay. Now everybody can. It is wheelchair accessible from Commons Beach.
Ahh! Doesn’t the mere mention of those names send goose bumps up and down your spine? What dreams they inspire, overflowing with memories, simple names like Commons Beach and Tahoe City. But, “The Cave That Isn’t There” remains a beautiful, festive, primal, rejuvenating and, yes, dark, memory for only a very few of the millions and millions of people who have lived and visited Lake Tahoe over the centuries.
All that time it was one of Tahoe’s best kept secrets. Now, the beautiful scenic trail beneath the cliff where Tahoe City’s new Heritage Plaza drops off into the lake, makes The Cave That Isn’t There accessible to everyone. Go check it out, and when you hear everyone talk about Emerald Bay and Tahoe’s great skiing, you can say, “Yes, Tahoe truly is a wonderful, magical place. On my last trip I saw something that wasn’t really even there.”
Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher and teacher, wrote about the cave that isn’t there. Inside the cave all the people thought that their shadows, created by light from the fire, were the only reality because the light of reason did not shine inside the cave.
We haven’t come very far since then. Oh, some of us have. But most people have their eyes closed and their ears covered. They fear things they see and hear, and most of it isn’t even there. So many of us live inside a cave that really isn’t even there.
What are we so afraid of? The fact that we can break and bleed? Russian and Venezuelan war games? The Tennessee Titans? Sarah Palin? Drought? Our skis? Not being able to buy the latest video game so we stampede and kill a Wall-Mart employee?
Half of American culture is afraid of the other half. Who would stand up and fight to preserve all the other cultures on earth, while demanding half of their own culture just drop dead? Why are we doing this to each other? Because we are afraid. We live alone inside a cave that isn’t there.
An atheist can be just as religious as a Southern Baptist, or a Pentecostal who believes in speaking in tongues, or a snake handler who bases his ritual on excerpts from the Bible. Regardless of our beliefs, they are our own little personal church. It may be little, but it is just as potentially dangerous as the extreme elements of an organized religion.
We decide upon our own version of Life, reality and the universe and then we tell the other half of the country that the version they live by is a myth. I’ve still yet to meet anyone who has died and come back with solid, empirical truth one way or the other as to what really happens after you die. What purpose is served in telling people their beliefs are a myth? Only an idiot living in a cave that isn’t there would be so stupid. They are in the dark.
We need help. Come visit Swallow’s Bank. Go with someone you disagree with. Do it on a sunny day. There is nothing to be afraid of. The cave really isn’t even there.