Meredith Knowles’ excellent photograph of a painted turtle, ‘Casin Lake Turtle’, appears in Lines Underwater, an anthology of artwork and writing re-envisioning mermaids in the twenty first century. We liked this picture because it highlighted ideas of evolution and adaptation in the water, and also because the turtle had a very expressive face. Get yourself a copy to see it! Two pictures of Casin Lake, taken by Meredith, can be seen above. Below, she describes how she took the picture and tells how painted turtles got their names – which is a pretty cool story.
Casin Lake Turtle and the story of the painted turtle
“I found this wonderful little turtle in a shallow, weedy, West Michigan lake. My husband and I had earlier seen some turtles swimming in the lake as we rowed across it, and I decided to try and catch one in a small net. After a long hunt, I caught this turtle and took some photos before returning him to the lake. He was very grumpy with us for disturbing his evening swim.
“As I was completely ignorant about this kind of turtle – and any kind of turtle, for that matter – I decided to do some brief internet research. My turtle appears to be a Midland Painted Turtle, if the images on Wikipedia are to be trusted. The most amusing, if not germane, tidbit I learned about this species is that the males possess such long claws so that they may tickle their mates during courtship. Who knows what else these turtles are into.
“During my turtle research I also stumbled across this Native American story about Painted Turtles, which was recorded in 1916 by Truman Michelson for the Illinois Centennial Commission.”
The Painted Turtle
There was a chief, and he had a fine-looking girl. There was a painted turtle, and he fell in love with the chief’s daughter. But he could not come to see her or get to speak to her, because neither the girl nor her parents paid any attention to him. He kept thinking, “How can I win that girl?” And day after day he came, but still they did not notice him. Finally he thought, “If I would paint up, they would notice it and ask me why I painted.” He painted up and went to the chief’s lodge and the girl fell in love with him as soon as she saw him. So he told her to follow him and started off and went to a big river. When she first saw the turtle, she thought it was a human being, but when they got to the water and she saw that it was a turtle instead of a man, she said, “I cannot go any farther with you.” He said, “Come and follow me. You will turn into a turtle the same as I am.” When she went in, she turned into a turtle, but a different kind, a soft shell. Sometimes they name women after this turtle.
“I found this here: http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/nat_amer/post/htmls/popups/be_turtle.html
“I like to imagine that all painted turtles are as cunning as the turtle in this curious story, but my experience suggests otherwise.”
Meredith Knowles was born in England but moved to the US two years ago. She now lives in Chicago, IL and takes photographs in her spare time.