Solistice at Turtle Rock (A Story from Mr. Mouse)

When I returned from a brief trip recently, I was delighted to hear that Mr. Mouse had found time this year to drive up to Turtle Rock for the Solstice.

Here's the story he told me.

"I already went up to Turtle Rock several years ago, and did a guest post about that story here.
That time, the weather did not cooporate. Why did I want to go? Here's the information that got me interested: 

At the highest point on Long Ridge are 2 rocks. One is vertical and has a notch at the top; the other is low and rounded with a deep crack. According to legend passed down by Ohlone (Indian) descendants and others, this was a gathering place for shamans from the bay side of the Santa Cruz Mountains to conduct sacred rituals on the winter solstice.

These rocks represent elements of an ancient creation story that tells of how the souls of all beings were brought from the ocean by Turtle. At sunset on the winter solstice, the sun descended into the notch of the vertical rock and projected light onto the rounded rock behind it that represents Turtle’s shell. At that instant Turtle’s shell cracked open and the souls of the people and other animals were set free. 

The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book Tenth Edition, pg. 108, 2006

When I arrived, the parking area was already fairly full, but I found a spot and started heading toward Turtle Rock.

A small group of maybe 15 people were standing in a circle on the southeast side of the site. In the fading light, one man recited the legend of Turtle Rock.  Small children and an 84 year old woman were also there to celebrate this special time. 

I monitored the time, but as we got closer, I thought that the rocks really were not in alignment - and that there was no way the sun could illuminate the crack.  

At 4:54 PM, officially the exact time of the solstice sunset. I moved over to the side of the notched pillar rock. The sun continued drifting lower in the sky, and I could see some highlights on the sides of the notch. Suddenly it did seem as if the sun’s rays were streaming through the notch. I snapped a picture on my cell phone.

Then I turned to the turtle shell rock. The rock was illuminated by the reddish light of the sun, but the sun streaming through the notch in the pillar rock was by no means falling on the turtle shell rock. In fact, I could see the shadow of the notched pillar rock, and it was clear that the notch was out of alignment with the crack in the turtle shell.

I'll never know whether the rocks were repositioned by an earthquake, or whether we are just too literal in our interpretation of what's mysterious and unknowable. What I do know is that I left refreshed, glad to have shared this special event with others I'd never met before.

"Thank you Mr. Mouse," I said. What a special time - and now I'm glad to be back home and enjoy the days getting longer and the world waking up again.


Country Mouse said…
Wonderful story, Mr Mouse. I recently visited the Living History Museum in San Jose's Kelly Park - the exhibit "Shaped by Water: Past, Present & Future" opens with some recorded myths of the Ohlone, wonderful to hear.

It does seem likely that earthquakes could have changed the alignment of the rocks. Sounds like a wonderful way to connect with the deep history of our area.
ryan said…
I hadn't heard that about the solstice at Turtle Rock. Cool to know, even if it didn't match up perfectly. I climb there sometimes, I'll have to check out the notched rock.