Sinkholes suck…literally. When I was a kid, I saw footage on TV of a sinkhole that opened up under a highway and swallowed a row of cars, no doubt killing all the occupants. I seriously thought that a sinkhole was a gateway to Hades.. a fast-pass to the fiery furnace for people who were really, really bad. I had heard of a stairway to heaven, so quite logically a sinkhole was the Highway to Hell. I believed that the devil occupied some hot, little cave right in the center of the earth, and if you were unfortunate enough to be standing, sleeping or driving in the wrong place at the wrong time (and you were a rotten human being) he would send a ripple through the earth, puncture the crust underneath your feet, and just like that, your rear-end would be tumbling down into the darkness never to be seen again.
It’s a wonder I was able to sleep at night.
A few years ago, a sinkhole opened up under a Vacation Resort in Orlando. The visual on TV was almost impossible to square with reality. Here was this big, beautiful, new building cracking into chunks and sliding into a hole like a handful of grapefruit peels going down a garbage grinder. The vacationing occupants all made it out in the nick of time, leaving their bathing suits, i-pads and Mickey Mouse ears to roll down Satan’s sliding board.
I hate to admit it, but I am less traumatized by sinkholes that open up in faraway places like Guatemala or Siberia. A Sinkhole popping open outside gate “A” of the Magic Kingdom makes me feel extraordinarily vulnerable to random disaster. But the reality is that life is pocked with all kinds of unexpected sinkholes. We carefully build our careers, our families and our fortunes but sometimes, without warning, the bottom drops out and we are left clinging to the edge of our cratered dreams. Illness, job loss, divorce you name it…one minute we are mowing our green, green grass, the next minute it’s all gone in a landslide. Hurricane Andrew provided that experience for me. I was sewing the finishing touches on my daughter’s dress for the first day of school, 24 hours later there was no school, no house, no grocery store, no neighborhood, no nuthin’. I won’t lie, it took a long time for life to get back into balance. If you’ll notice, I didn’t say back to normal, because most earth shattering events leave the shape of your life permanently altered. But the sun does come up, a new normal dawns and you find your rhythm once again.
Sinkholes happen and they suck, but they aren’t the devil’s drains. It may take a while to get our bearings and determine which way is up should the ground give way, but the light does peek through once the dust settles and we eventually find our way out of the hole.