Researching my second novel I decided I needed to experience spelunking, and specifically, being in a squeeze. Vancouver Island has the largest concentration of caves in North America. I found a woman in Campbell River willing to take me spelunking in a spectacular limestone and marble cave system near Gold River. When I pulled up in the parking lot near the trail, she limped over, her knee in a thick plastic brace, and told me her 12-year-old son would have to take me through. Gulp. A couple of hours into the cave system he slipped into a narrow passage and I followed, arms stretched in front of me pushing my pack as he’d instructed, head turned sideways as it would not fit through vertically, pushing forward slowly with my toes. I began to think about the tons of rock above me, the likelihood of an earthquake, and the narrowness of my young guide’s hips relative to my own.
For a moment I was paralyzed, jagged rock digging into my hips on all sides, the young lad long gone, panic lurking just below the surface ready to take me over, no rescue possible. Writing often feels like this. Alone in a deep, dark place of your own choosing, unsure if you have the agility of those who went before you, stuck, your head twisted at unnatural and uncomfortable angles. You can’t get out without managing your panic, which is a kind of courage I suppose.
Claudia Casper is appearing at the 2017 Whistler Writers Festival at the Saturday night gala event When Reality Looks Like Fiction, How do You Write Your Way to the Truth? Sat. Oct. 14, 8pm at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
Casper has spent a lot of time researching every book she’s written, and besides reading, she has travelled to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington for The Reconstruction, and flew out to Ottawa to meet Romeo Dallaire for The Mercy Journals.