Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Never Let it Rest

"Good, better, best. 
Never let it rest, 
until your good is better 
and your better, best."

I had to write that over and over in fifth grade. It was part penmanship, part memorization. Obviously, the exercise worked for me; the verse stuck.

Yesterday, I wrote about doing better. We keep trying the same programs and we keep getting the same results. It's so weird how that happens.

I was reminded that I can do better, too. Never let it rest.

At what point did you attend an interpretive program and it moved you? I don't mean when did you attend an interpretive program "and it was pretty good." I mean it knocked your socks off. It rattled your brain. It sparked a connection and you thought "aha!" It gave you goosebumps. It made you chew on a new idea for days. You can train people to project their voices, to look at the audience, even to deliver a program without reading notes. That's pretty good. But how can you develop a program that goes beyond that?

Look! A cave cricket!  
I once attended a wild cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park. I'm not going to lie: I was absolutely terrified about the idea. Six hours "exploring" parts of the cave not open entirely to the public. But it was for a friend's birthday and I had already committed. We crawled. We crouched. We reached. We scooched. We stretched. After the six hours, I was absolutely enthralled. I made it! And the experience was amazing! While the whole trip was fun, there was one moment that was particularly memorable.

The interpreter was there to guide us (safely) through the caverns. He showed us pieces of the cave that demonstrated the ecology of the cave. He even relayed ideas of why caves are important to humans. The neatest moment, however, happened when we sat. We had been crawling for hours. The previously nervous souls [aaa-me-choo] were feeling pretty confident at that point. Yeah, buddy. Caves aren't so scary after all. Just watch out for those cave crickets.

This is my "I conquered a scary cave tour" face.
Earlier we had passed traces of people passing through from over one-hundred and fifty years prior. We got to a more vertical space with a rock landing and the guide had us sit down. Just sit, let's take a moment. At that point, he proceeded to turn out all the lights.

He had us sit in the dark for a while. In silence. We were deep in the belly of the earth. The individuals of the group could make their own connections to the space. The time it took to slowly etch this twisted, gnarly hole in the ground was practically inconceivable. The silent, pitch-black minutes seemed to stretch into the eternity that created the cave when a voice began singing:

"Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.
For purple mountains majesty, above the fruited grain.
America, America, God shed His grace on Thee.
And crown thy good, with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

The guide began the song. By the end, the group had joined in the verse. We sat again in silence a few more moments before he lit his lantern and we ventured forth to end the tour.

We shared a moment with eternity in that space.

I have visited Mammoth Cave several times; I love it. That particular trip was a blast, too, as I went camping with my best friend and made memories. But the event that still has me contemplating is that dark, unexpected moment. The guide made unconventional decisions to instill wonder, awe, and pride. I now consider Mammoth Cave my Mammoth Cave and encourage people to visit regularly. That guide's interpretative methods filled my heart and connected me to that place, that space, and the stories held within.

I always want to do better. What methods can I utilize to encourage a better connection to a place for visitors? What methods can you use?

Never let it rest.

*As always, written on my own time. Views are my own and do not reflect any of my employers (past or present).

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