So Spake Mo…
Alright, go ahead, get it out. Breathe… Worst playground joke ever. Yes, this is probably the reason we never learned about the place in school. How exactly would the teacher introduce it? No one knows the origin of the name either, so translating it to English as “Rock Puma” (the lake being in the shape of a puma chasing a rabbit) or “Crag of Lead” is not academically sound.
But that’s a shame, because this lake so high up in the Andes along the Peru/Bolivia border has a fascinating heritage. It is essentially the birthplace of
According to Incan tradition, the creator god Viracocha rose up from this very lake after a great flood. It is here that the sun, the moon, and the stars obeyed his command to rise. And here, the Adam and Eve of this story, Mallku Kapac and Mama Ocllo, either came to life from Viracocha’s stone sculptures or were birthed by the Sun god—as his huge footprints on his Isla del Sol commemorate.
This lake, this source of creation, is also the bed to which retired Incan souls return when their journey is done.
photo credit: wallygrom
This lake is the home of ancient peoples with ancient memories. The Uros people came long before the Incas wrote their story. They saw the rise and fall of powerful civilizations, including the Tiwanaku from whom they are likely descended. When the great fortified city descended into awe-inspiring ruins, the Uros found their safety on the lake. They survived. They were clever. They crafted mobile islands made of totora reeds, escaping with their entire village at the first signs of danger.
They still live on them today.
photo credit: abmiller99
So Spake Me…
Some names simply do not translate well. I should know. I grew up with the surname “Buttcane.” Hysterical, I know. No child should know that many “inappropriate” jokes by age 8—to use my daughter’s favorite word. To all those people out there who deliberately name their kid Bambi, Starlight, Tequila, or Legend, you do not amuse me.
Imagine living in a small rural town and you come up in the lunch line:
“No, Butt-cane, like your bottom and a walking stick.”
photo credit: Make Way For Cupcakes
And then the substitute lunch lady turns beet red. Or, on the subject of substitutes, let’s say your teacher has the audacity to take time off. The substitute is calling roll. You are staring at your desk with a firm grip on your chair.
And the whole class shouts, “BUTTCANE!”
photo credit: tim ellis
Bet you just can’t wait to try a stroll in those shoes, can you? Needless to say the day I got married wasn’t just the happiest day of my life, it was also the day a huge tension fell away from my shoulders. I would no longer have to identify myself using that slur, no longer have to suffer through the awkward silences or the grown men and women who thought they were world-class comedians and so very creative tossing out lewd jokes I’d heard ten times by third grade.
My brother and sister still carry the name. They claim it is a nearly faultless character gauge. I can’t argue with that. The worst of the comedians tend to show up right away as people to watch out for. A newly hired pharmacists who launches right into an elementary school knee-slapper? Didn’t last more than a couple months before she was caught dipping into the controlled substances cabinet for a little extra take-home pay.
It is effective.
photo credit: Jonathan Bruck
In more ways than one. The names we carry, the words with which we are labeled, they shape us. Thrown in our faces over and over and over, the jokes, the tension, the stress for a child of having to call yourself a “bad word” every time you introduced yourself. Polite people cutting you off before you have to state your whole name to spare both of you the discomfort, it molds your perception of yourself, your relationship with the world around you.
Anger, resentment, self-loathing, a vicious need to establish respect. The three of us Buttcane children were gifted academically, but speaking for myself alone, that is where I found my power. The snickers stopped abruptly when you were the only person capable of helping them pass the next Trigonometry test. And I didn’t help anyone who snickered, believe me. When you are that angry, that desperate for peace from all the teasing, compassion isn’t high on your list.
photo credit: www.primeeducation.com.au
That took decades to fade. It will never fade completely. As my neighbor once said, it’s like we keep all of our old selves inside of us. Sometimes our inner teenager, our inner sixth grader, our inner toddler takes over. It passes and those that truly love us, forgive us.
Sometimes we even manage to forgive ourselves and those young children who found their own power through words. Not really realizing what they were doing with that power. Not sophisticated enough to understand the enormity of what they wielded.
That’s fair. Most adults aren’t either.
photo credit: jk5854
We don’t often dive beneath the surface of the lake, don’t plunge past the sound of the verbal spells we so casually cast. But in our heart of hearts where our secrets lie, we understand the meaning behind that surge of adrenaline:
There is power behind words, hidden temples and cities beneath the surface of that collection of letters. From these the word, the universe is created.
Watch which ones you create with yours.
photo credit: Rich Childs
Sacred Destinations: Lake Titicaca
Ancient Temple Found Under Lake Titicaca
Sacred Sites: Lake Titicaca
Tough Life of Titicaca Islanders
The Myths and Marvels of Lake Titicaca
Wikipedia: Lake Titicaca
Wikipedia: Uru People
Uncovering the 2000 Year Old Underwater Ruins of Lake Titicaca
The Story of Place