I love creation stories, those tales people told/tell to explain how it all began. When I worked in a local museum I developed programs that told lots of different creation stories: how the town began, why the city became known as a Queen Slipper City, the childhood of it’s famous residents – all the stories that helped explain creation of this or that. But my favorite story was the one I told about the creation of the world itself.
All cultures have ancient creation stories designed to tell how their people came to be on that land, designed to remind us that the earth is a gift and that we were not always on it and so, it seems implied to me, we might not always be. An important story for many in the Northeast is The World on Turtle’s Back, the story of how Sky Woman fell and was rescued by the animals in the ocean who created a place for her to live on the great sea turtle’s back. The animals and the woman worked together. The world grew and still floats on that great turtle through the universe.
That’s a powerful story that was somehow more meaningful than the one from my tradition about a lone creator populating a garden with disobedient children.
I loved that story. Something about it spoke to me. I told it during my History for Half Pints programs to pre-school and kindergarten children. I helped students plant seeds on a soil mixture attached to a paper turtle shell so they could recreate the story. I asked older kids to imagine being there at the start of things and to draw and write about what it might look like. I was given a stone turtle necklace and have little turtle statues scattered around the house and garden. I regularly included that story in the bedtime ritual with my own little girls.
I haven’t worked for that museum in almost a decade and my own little girls are in high school now. I think of the story every time I put on that necklace, but haven’t told it in a while.
Last week we were in the Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine wandering around a section we hadn’t visited on our last trip and stumbled upon this.
The guide we ran into later says she calls this rock formation the whale and when I heard that I worried that I would stop seeing the turtle there – the power of suggestion is so strong. But I still see Turtle, and my girls see Turtle, and my husband sees Turtle. Our long connection to the creation myth overpowered her image of the barnacle-clad giant.
Here is a reminder of our earth’s and our people’s origins; here is a reminder to care for that tenderly built little place on her back that so many worked together to build. What a gift it was for my family to wander by.
NOTE: There are many versions of the story, all with different details but the same core message of creation. You can read one here.
I wanted to make this post a part of the great community of bloggers who join every Tuesday to share a Slice of Life. You can go there to get a glimpse of the lives of other writers/thinkers/teachers/creators. I haven't participated in this community in a while, and it is nice to sneak back in.