July 16, 2014

Mt. Tamalpais -- legends, old and new

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

At 2574 feet above sea level, Mount Tamalpais isn't all that tall but it has a commanding beauty--especially when the elements take charge.

Our beloved mountain in Marin--we usually just call her Mt. Tam--was a spiritual place to the Native Americans who lived in the area. Out of fear of being sacrilegious, they normally avoided hiking all the way to the top.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

[photo above not new -- taken in November 2011]

Since most of the Indian legends have been lost, we apparently thought we had to invent one of our own.

The modern legend started in 1913 in an open-air theater on Mt Tam with "Tamalpa", imagined to be a beautiful young Miwok maiden who fell in love with an Indian prince. True to life perhaps--when the prince abandoned her she walked to the top of the mountain and died of heartbreak. As she was dying she sobbed--the mountain heard her intense sorrow and took pity. This is kind of a stretch, but the mountain apparently was so moved by her distress that the mountain rearranged its form, taking on the supine shape of her body--and that, folks, is where the legend of the "Sleeping Lady" or "Tamalpa" originated. At certain angles and if we use considerable imagination, we can trace the outline of her sleeping form.

Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 2       
Donald Kinney Quarterly - volume 2014 issue 1       

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