The Road to Isengard
“I have never heard you speak like this before,” says Legolas to Gimli. The hard and dense outer crust of the dwarf’s persona has been revealed to have a sentimental, almost poetic, core. Beauty brings about this transformation, a foretaste of which was drawn out by the Lady Galadriel and the gift of three golden hairs. Yet here it is not Elven beauty, nor the grace of a being herself, that moves the khazad soul; instead, it is the natural beauty of the caves of Helm’s Deep, a location fit for a mountain-dwelling dwarf.
A mine, for us much as for an Elf, seems like an affair of industry and transformation: marring the mountain in order to extract all its riches, regardless of the destruction left behind. It is much easier to envision cultivating a grove of trees than a cavern of stalagmites. However, this is not the opinion of the dwarves, who see see minerals and marbles much as the Elves see flora and forests. “We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them,” posits Gimli. Like a gardener of bonsais, make slight cuts and small modifications over patient time to allow the plant to grow naturally into its stark beauty, so too the dwarven philosophy: open up hidden treasures at which to marvel, craft illustrious lamps to shine through the primordial darkness, cautiously enhance the wonder already present by the hands of the Valar. Such is the secret softness of the hardy dwarves.
The Glittering Caves of Aglarond offer pause for reflection. One hopes that there remain those who, like Gimli and his people, marvel in awe at the profound beauty of the earth, whether they be miners without minds of metal and wheels, geologist without singular focus on industry, or spelunkers not solely focuses on the thrill of the depths. In an era of strip mines and fracking, civilization and efficiency, wealth and consumption, such a view resonates not in the cultural overview. Splendor dwells below ground as much as above: for every majestic waterfall lies hidden an underground river; for every field of flowers that blossom in the sunlight exists a cave of mirrored floors and ore veins that await a light to allow them to glisten. Some wonders remain hidden from the knowledge of man.
Further, these glittering caves bring out a certain understanding of our dwarven brethren. There are those who can appear as crusty and stubborn, who appreciate not the marvels of cities, technology, and the fruits of modern life. One can dismiss such a people as old-fashioned or parochial; yet a deeper understanding reveals their hearts’ desires. Friendship diminishes biases; the common good reduces preconception. Every man and woman possesses that vision which moves their soul, that makes them “weep to leave them.” Sometimes the caves are beyond the confines of words; sometimes the caverns have been forgotten by toil and sorrow. Then comes a moment of discovery, of rediscovery, of stumbling upon that which is impossible to “be unmoved by such loveliness.” Such is the weakness of humans.
Departing then the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, let them the journey not be in vain. Swear oaths of return to the caverns which stir up the heart; join hands in camaraderie to visit those beautiful places together. For in the return to beauty lies the opportunity to reconciliation, understanding, and mutual joy, which are fitting reactions to the high craft of God.
2015’s Reflection: “On a Few Well-earned Comforts”