Hidden Wonders of the Rivershed

(Yep, it’s a repeat.  I have “In Search of the Indo-Europeans” on interlibrary loan right now, and that has to take precedence in claiming my ready/writey time tonight.  I was thinking of posting a blog entry with some amazing new insights about the Three Functions in modern life, then I decided it would be easier to write that entry after I wrote my IE Studies I coursework.  This is reprinted from the Fall Equinox 2001 issue of Shining Lakes News, and if folks would like me to organize another trip to the headwaters and/or the Mannanan Shrine, let me know!)

It’s raining outside as I type this, and I see some of that water running down to the creek a few hundred feet from here, and I see some of the water going into the ground, to flow out into the stream later on. Even as our human lives seem to be in chaos, the water cycle continues to keep us all alive, plants and animals alike.

This time around, I thought I’d write about some of the local places that maybe most of our current Grove members haven’t had a chance to visit before, places that are within the Huron rivershed and are important to our group practices.

The first one is the obvious one: Big Lake, the source of the Huron River. From this lake in western Washtenaw County, the Huron begins its journey to Lake Erie, starting out at only about five feet in width. This is the place where we first contacted Ana, and where we still do our annual dawn rite on Beltaine. The lake has many houses built around it now (as do most of the lakes in that part of the state) but on Beltaine morning, the windows of the houses are still dark, the mist still rolls up from the lake, and you can still see herons and swans and ducks and geese flying overhead. It’s a beautiful place.

A little closer to Ann Arbor (but not much) is our Mannanan Shrine. During the Spring Hunt in 1998, our intrepid hunters found a place on the shore of Island Lake, with a semicircular peninsula jutting out into the water, and a ring of trees forming a circle around the peninsula and part of the land. Since Mannanan is associated with liminal (boundary) spaces, this seemed the perfect place to honor him. At an An Bruane session we went out and asked the local land spirits for permission to use the site, and we got it, provided that we offered food for them every time we came out. We hung an SLG necklace from one of the trees, and found a flat rock that makes a good altar space. It’s a good place to visit, especially at dusk, when you can hear the cries of the herons who live there.

The last place I want to mention may seem odd. Many of you have probably driven by it hundreds of times and barely noticed it. A few of you may remember it as that big nondescript building that was right by the Fireside Cooperative, back when they were still open. The building at 416 West Huron in Ann Arbor is actually very important to the story of our relationship with the Huron, though. Why? Because in the early 20th century, before there were refrigerators in every home, that building was the warehouse for the Ann Arbor Ice Company. Every winter, they would go out to the Huron, remove huge blocks of ice from the frozen surface of the river, and bring them back to fill up the warehouse. When winter ended, the people of Ann Arbor would use that ice in their iceboxes to keep their food cold for the rest of the year. Of course, the need for ice disappeared, and the warehouse has been converted into an office building of sorts. (Grex, the public access computer system I used to volunteer for, has its hardware located there, which is how I found out about the building’s history.) The next time you’re driving down Huron, you might pull into the parking lot and have a look at it.

For those of you who would like to have a look at the other two places, I’ll be leading an expedition to both sites on the afternoon of October 6th. We’ll meet at Botsford Recreational Preserve (3015 Miller, Ann Arbor) at 1 pm and depart from there.

One thing that religion can do is help us connect with the past, our own and that of our Ancestors. I know that a lot more folks have been attending church services of late, though I wish it didn’t take a disaster to cause that! I think that visiting the sacred sites our Grove has found during the years will help us stay in touch with the past practices of our Grove and those who have been a part of it through these eight years, and through that, to stay in touch with the ancient (and not-so-ancient) ones who tried to make this world a better place for our sakes.

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

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