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Skinny Alice

Recently, Josh took us to Skaneateles Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in central New York. Pronounced "Skinny Alice", it is an Iroquoian name that means long lake. The Finger Lakes consists of 11 lakes to the west of Syracuse. Even before our visit, I was intrigued by the names of the lakes: Onondaga, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Oneida. This area was home to the Iroquois and the lakes are named after the different Iroquois tribes.

Geologically, the lakes formed when the Laurentide Ice Sheet - one of the continental glaciers - moved southward. The resulting glaciation filled in, deepened, and widened existing river valleys. When the waters receded, the lakes remained in the shape of slender fingers, hence the name. That was a mere two million years ago.

A picturesque drive from Syracuse took us to the village of Skaneateles on the eponymous lake. This lake is 16 miles long and less than a mile wide. The town is tiny, about two square miles with a few thousand people. On a balmy Saturday, we sat by the lake and let the stillness calm our harried brains.

The history of the Iroquois people is fascinating. Their political ingenuity and warfare skills are legendary. By the 1590s, they had a bi-cameral legislature with oral traditions for legislative rules and veto processes, long before the Europeans had envisioned these concepts. They stalled European colonization by nearly two centuries by playing the British against the French. By the 18th century, internal differences started to take a toll on their cohesion, making it difficult for them to remain united against the Europeans' westward move. During the Revolutionary War, the Iroquois nation was split in their support for the Americans and the British. At the end of the war, the Americans broke up the Iroquoian strongholds, moved them to reservations, and made the Finger Lakes region open for purchase.

In the 19th century, the Americans rapidly recast the Finger Lakes area into European traditions. The classic colonial and Greek revival style homes in this village made us want to move here until we remembered that we are in Syracuse, home to the infamous lake-effect phenomenon that dumps ten feet of snow each season.

We spent a lovely fall afternoon walking in "Skinny Alice" village, admiring the sights and signs. Tarun drew our attention to this sign and we wondered if he was asking to be checked in after dozing off by the lake?!

And this sign reminded us of Hershey. Dogs of every size were pulling on their leashes and taking their owners for a walk along the busy main street of the village. Armed with cool drinks, we parked ourselves on the sidewalk to watch life go by.

Along the pier, contemporary speedboats and pontoons bobbed on the right side while antique boats hung in the boathouse on the left. From the end of the pier, the view of homes reminded me of Europe: Venice with wider canals and vegetation or Positano without the cliffs, perhaps?

We visited quaint shops with eclectic collections of knick-knacks. The one below is situated in an old bank with a vault door like in old Hollywood movies. I stood by that door for quite some time admiring the hardware and imagining a heist in black and white.

As we bid junior goodbye, we made plans to visit another Finger Lake soon. Until then, we tip our hat to the Iroquois tribes whose hallowed land he now calls home.

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