Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mackinac Island and the Great Turtle

The distance from Beaver Island to Mackinac Island is 50 miles. Water pours through the Straits of Mackinac like wine from a bottle.

According to Native American legend, Mackinac Island was formed by a giant turtle. Storytellers long ago said that when the world was very young and all the living creatures were wandering over its surface looking for the best place to live, a large number of turtles came to the marshy southern shore of Lake Erie. Most of the turtles liked the spot so well they settled there. But the leader of the band, a huge turtle, was lured northward from Lake Erie by strange lights he had seen moving across the distant horizon. He could not persuade the other turtles to go with him so he made the journey alone.

When he reached a point of land that partly divided Lake Michigan from Lake Huron, he could go no further because the winds were cold and ice began to form around him. Finally he could go no further and an icy barrier froze him into place, a little black spot on a waste of frozen water. When the spring returned and the ice melted, the shell of the huge turtle remained fastened in place by a tall reed. As the years passed the turtle grew into an island which the Indians named Michilimackinac which means “the great turtle.” The island has always been an important place for Native Americans who told many stories about it.

Today no cars are allowed on the island. There are horse drawn taxis and lots of bicycles. I painted the picture when I was there. It is of me riding a bike and my daughter roller blading.

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