She was playing Mary Magdalene, and I was playing Jesus, in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, in Athens, Ohio. One weekday during the show’s rehearsal period, the two of us drove up to Old Man’s Cave, a magnificent half mile-long gorge in Hocking Hills State Park. After exploring a series of trails that crisscross an amazing panoply of sandstone formations, clusters of streams dropping through potholes and waterfalls, all ribboned with ferns, hemlocks, and a mystical, magical feeling, we stopped for a rest on the top of a high cliff within the gorge. We gazed into the misty canyon below, not talking, the serene silence deepened by the fact that we had not seen any other humans since we entered the park. The attached photo of a section of Old Man’s Cave is very similar to the scene we overlooked, if you add wisps of mist.
I noticed a breeze blowing the mist on one of the many sandstone ledges, hundreds of feet away, down below us, on the other side of the ravine. As I continued to watch this moving mist, I got the goose bumps as the fog formed into a human-like figure that seemed to be waving at us. I glanced out of the corner of my eye at Mary, for that was her name in real life, as well. I could tell by her expression that she was watching the same waving mist creature. Our goose bumps doubled and tripled, but we were not afraid. The presence waving at us was clearly friendly, and it felt like he or she was sending us a blessing from the beyond. After what seemed like a millennium, which was probably actually 20-30 seconds, the beautiful being faded back into the mist. We continued to sit in silence on the edge of the cliff, a bit in shock, but mostly, in reverent awe.
In hindsight, I wonder if our gracious visitor was perhaps an Adena or Hopewell spirit. The Adena culture existed in the area from around 1000 to 200 BC. The Hopewell culture also flourished in the region from about 200 BC to 500 AD. Or perhaps it was the “old man” himself, the 19th century hermit who they say is buried under a cave ledge in the area. Whoever this friendly spirit was, Mary and I will forever be grateful for his or her friendly hello. And in a strange way I think it helped us better portray Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the play.