Today, my wife and I we took full advantage of our childless weekend to do a little local tourism. One of the “must see” attractions of Cantabria, the northern region of Spain where we live, is the Cueva El Soplao, an ancient cave discovered by miners in the late nineteenth century and only opened to the public in 2005, containing some of the finest known specimens of stalactites and stalagmites in the world.
The stalactites form at a rate of about one centimeter every 150 years. Some of them are two or three meters long. That’s 45,000 years old. It’s rather mind boggling to look at a stalagmite standing as tall as I am and think that, in the time that it takes to have all the happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, and joy of one entire human life, this structure gains a couple millimeters. And then, once you’ve contemplated the single tree, you take a step back and see the whole forest of thousands upon thousands of stalactites and stalagmites… You can’t help but have a transcendent moment and appreciate the transience of your own existence. (more…)