04.10.16: Sky Woman

Sky Woman statue, Inniswood Metro Gardens, Westerville, Ohio.


Technical information

Aug. 19, 2007,
10:40 a.m.

40°6’10” N,
82°54'3" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 20D

Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6


1/20th second


Inniswood Metro Gardens, part of the Franklin County, Ohio, Metro Parks system, is unique among area metro parks. It’s a park that horticulturists and landscaping enthusiasts can love.

The 121-acre park has more than 2,000 species of plants, many included in beautifully landscaped specialty collections and theme gardens that include the rose garden, herb garden and woodland rock garden. There are flowers everywhere during spring and summer, providing splashes of color in all directions.

And hidden away on a tree-lined path known as the story maze is Sky Woman, a statue of an American Indian woman on the back of a turtle. The story of Sky Woman, based on “Earth on a turtle’s back” (the Onondaga Indian legend about creation), is carved into 54 numbered stone tiles along the maze.

Here’s the story as found on the Ogden Nature Center website (but also available in different versions on various websites):

Earth on a turtle’s back

Before this Earth existed, there was only water. It stretched as far as one could see, and in that water there were birds and animals swimming around. Far above, in the clouds, there was a Skyland. In Skyland there was a great and beautiful tree.  It had four white roots which stretched to each of the sacred directions, and from its branches all kinds of fruits and flowers grew. 

There was an ancient chief in the Skyland.  His young wife was expecting a child, and one night she dreamed she saw the Great Tree uprooted.  The next morning she told her husband the story. 

He nodded as she finished telling her dream. “My wife,” he said, "I am sad you had this dream.  It is clearly a dream of great power and, as is our way, when one has such a powerful dream we must do all that we can to make it true.  The Great Tree must be uprooted.” 

Then the Ancient Chief called the young men together and told them they must pull up the tree.  But the roots of the tree were so deep, so strong, they could not budge it.  At last the Ancient Chief himself came to the tree.  He wrapped his arms around it, bent his knees and strained.  At last, with one great effort, he uprooted the tree and placed it on its side.  Where the tree’s roots had gone deep into Skyland there was now a big hole.  The wife of the chief came close and leaned over to look down, grasping the tip of one of the Great Tree’s branches to steady herself.  It seemed as if she saw something down there, far below, glittering like water.  She leaned out further to look and, as she leaned, she lost her balance and fell into the hole.  Her grasp slipped off the tip of the branch, leaving her with only a handful of seeds as she fell, down, down, down, down. 

Far below, in the waters, some of the birds and animals looked up. 

“Someone is falling toward us from the sky,” said one of the birds. 

“We must do something to help her,” said another.  Then two Swans flew up.  They caught the Woman From the Sky between their wide wings.  Slowly, they began to bring her down toward the water, where the birds and animals were watching. 

“She is not like us,” said one of the animals.  “Look, she doesn’t have webbed feet.  I don’t think she can live in the water.” 

“What shall we do, then?” said another of the water animals. 

“I know,” said one of the other birds.  “I have heard there is Earth far below the waters.  If we dive down and bring up Earth, then she will have a place to stand.” 

So the birds and animals decided someone would have to bring up Earth.  One by one they tried. 

The Duck dove down first, some say.  He swam down and down, far beneath the surface, but could not reach the bottom and floated back up.  Then the Beaver tried.  He went even deeper, so deep that it was all dark, but he could not reach the bottom, either.  The loon tried, swimming with his strong wings.  He was gone a long, long time, but he, too, failed to bring up Earth.  Soon it seemed that all had tried and all had failed.  Then a small voice spoke. 

“I will bring up Earth or die trying.” 

They looked to see who it was.  It was the tiny Muskrat.  She dove down and swam and swam.  She was not as strong or as swift as the others, but she was determined.  She went so deep it was all dark, and still she swam deeper.  She went so deep her lungs felt ready to burst, but she swam deeper still.  At last, just as she was becoming unconscious, she reached out one small paw and grasped at the bottom, barely touching it before she floated up, almost dead. 

When the other animals saw her break the surface they thought she had failed.  She couldn’t speak from exhaustion, but then they saw her right paw was held tightly shut. 

“She has the Earth,” they said.  “Now where can we put it?” 

“Place it on my back,” said a deep voice.  It was the Great Turtle, who had come up from the depths. 

They brought the Muskrat over to the Great Turtle and placed her paw against his back.  To this day there are marks at the back of the Turtle’s shell which were made by Muskrat’s paw.  The tiny bit of Earth fell on the back of the Turtle.  Almost immediately, it began to grow larger and larger and larger until it became the whole world. 

Then the two Swans brought the Sky Woman down.  She stepped onto the new Earth and opened her hand, letting the seeds fall onto the bare soil.  From those seeds the trees and the grass sprang up.  Life on Earth had begun.


The Sky Woman statue in Inniswood’s story maze is a replica of the original that was stolen in summer 2006. Someone managed to lift the 200-pound solid wood sculpture from its mooring and take it from the gated, fenced park surrounded by homes without being seen. The original was found weeks later in a garden about 10 miles away and is now on display inside the park’s office.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.