I have travelled the stretch of I-90 that leads east from Seattle over Snoqualmie Pass so many times that I can close my eyes and see each twist and turn of that heavenly climb into the Cascade Mountains.
I’ve also hiked trails around Snoqualmie Falls; an impressive 276 foot waterfall that is a sacred site for the Snoqualmie Tribe. Their name translates as ‘people of the moon’ and they regard the waterfall as their birthplace. I relish the name Snoqualmie; it sounds like snow, which is entirely appropriate for the pass where Seattleites take to the slopes in winter armed with skis and snowboards and inner tubes. So when I was walking through Lower Queen Anne recently and spotted a piece of public art bearing the title “Snoqual/The Moon Transformer” I had to stop and find out more.
Artist Roger Fernandes carved and painted cedar panels that depict events in the story of Snoqual, a legend shared by many Salish tribes in the Puget Sound area. The panels are joined by an overhead cedar panel creating an archway you can walk under, suggesting the structure of cedar longhouses; the traditional dwellings of local tribes.
Snoqual was a mythical being said to have been born of a mother from the Earth and a father from the Sky. He was stolen as a baby and raised by the Dog Salmon peoples, but a blue jay found him when he was a grown man and told him who he was. As punishment for his kidnapping, Snoqual turned the Dog Salmon people into the fish that swim in our streams today – and he gave them the difficult task of swimming upstream as well as downstream. Then he followed the blue jay back home, changing the world as he went, preparing it for the people to come. He had a brother, Sun, and they agreed to travel separately so they wouldn’t overpower and scorch the earth with their light. Snoqual, who had now become Moon the Transformer, cast a blue hue over his aura so he could light the earth but leave the heat to his brother. When Moon reached the waters of Puget Sound, he stopped, saying “My work is done. This is the most beautiful place in the entire world. I need travel no further.”
If you have a chance, take a walk under Snoqual’s arch at the cross streets of Thomas and 3rd Avenue West in Lower Queen Anne, just by the entrance to the Thomas Street footbridge. And if you happen to catch a glimpse of Puget Sound while you’re here, you’ll understand why Moon decided to stay. It really is beautiful.