August 4, 2013
I am lucky. I live in the heart of the Finger Lakes in New York state. An area rich in Native American history and spirituality.
The lakes were formed more than 550 million year ago during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Glaciers crept through the area from north to south, and carved deep sliced into the land. The ice pushed the land and rocks south. Gradually the ice melted and the glaciers receded, leaving shale valleys of water, which are now the Finger Lakes.
When you are on Cayuga Lake, you feel smaller. It is hard to feel important, Although the lake is not large, it is deep and the color somehow reflects that.
The Iroquois Indians call this part of New York home. The Cayuga and Onondaga tribes specifically called Cayuga Lake home.
When I am aware of my surroundings, especially when I travel, I find myself wondering about the people who lived in the area before it was easy to live there…before grocery stores, or Home Depot. Before snow plows or electricity. I wonder about the first people to live in the area, about the first “settlers” who came over a hill and saw something so beautiful that they decided to stop and make a home. I wonder about the discord that happened between people that caused fighting or forced people to move.
And, I often think about how people, before science opened up our understanding of “things”, made sense of what they saw, heard, felt.
The Finger Lakes are called the Finger Lakes because of a Iroquois legend that says the lakes were formed when the great Spirit laid his hands on the land to bless it. His fingers left imprints that filled with water, hence the name “Finger Lakes.”
“It is said that the Finger Lakes were made by the impression of the hand of the Great Spirit on central New York State. However there are six major Finger Lakes. West to east they are; Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles. As told in Iroquois legend, the Great God Manitou wanted to reward the Iroquois Confederacy for their courage in battle and their devotion to the Great Spirit. He decided to bring part of their happy hunting ground down from the heavens.
According to the legend, there are six Finger Lakes because the hand of Manitou slipped when he was pushing the portion of Indian Paradise down from the heavens, causing six indentations that later became the lakes.” Excerpt from Legends and Stories of the Finger Lakes Region by Emerson Klees
Could there be anything more profound than to believe your “world” was created for you by God? If you knew nothing of glaciers and geology how else could these lakes be explained? And again, the lakes reminded people, you are not as big and important as you think…..there is something bigger than you: the lakes. And if you believe in God, God.
I love living in this area. I love sailing. It is something that melds the body with nature and heals the heart and soul. It makes you stop and feel your body in relation to the wind and water. It makes you find physical balance as the water moves you in ways you can not control as the boat rocks and heels. It makes you understand the power of wind—as you feel it on your face, as you feel it move the boat. It is rhythmic and quiet. It is like a dance. As your body is rocked in the boat and cradled in the water something inside is awakened and nurtured. As a small “speck” on the water you understand you are not so important and it is a good feeling. It releases you from something. And in the wind and waves, on a small boat, in the sun surrounded by not very much, there is inner calm that reminds you to allow yourself to simply “be” without worry or hurry. Life is not about jobs and responsibilities, errands or appointments. It is not about cleaning or folding laundry. Or driving a nice car or being isolated in a large house. It is not about the internet or reality TV shows. It is about shedding all of that and knowing, when all that is stripped away, who you are.