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Great Lakes Article:

At Lake Erie blessing ceremony, group honors its spirit and energy
By Molly Kavanaugh
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published August 29, 2005

Mentor- Over the roar of the breaking waves, Jane Copper told the men and women holding hands in a circle on the beach about her childhood attraction to the Great Lakes.

The 5-year-old girl was running away from home, to Lake Michigan a block away. She left wearing an inner tube around her waist. "I'm going to the lake to float the rest of my life," the child announced.

The 59-year-old Copper now teaches others how to float and access the healing powers of water through her job as an aquatic director in Bainbridge.

"It's my mission," she said.

Copper's story was just one of many shared Sunday morning at Headlands Beach State Park, the second Lake Erie blessing ceremony to be held this summer at the Mentor park. About 35 people attended the informal event, most of them devotees of Reiki, a Japanese spiritual healing technique, or another form of alternative medicine.

Some arrived in bathing suits for an aquatic stretch, splash and swim. Carol Spears sat on a blanket with a crystal bowl and tapped the sides with a leather wand. A chiming sound flowed over the sand.

Bobi Surmick serenaded the group with an American Indian hymn.

"Church has its place, but God is everywhere," Surmick said afterward.

Medical intuitive counselor Sarah Weiss of Newbury is the force behind this gathering. Five years ago, Weiss traveled to Peru and was inspired by a ceremony honoring the energy of the Pacific Ocean.

Weiss returned to Northeast Ohio and started bringing small groups to the lakefront. This summer she decided to put the word out via the Internet to see if others would be interested in celebrating the spirit of the lake and water in general.

More than 80 people showed up in July. Some arrived by kayak.

Sunday's gathering was smaller because other sites have since been added.

People also met yesterday at the Lorain lakefront, and two other water spots: Brandywine Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Mill Creek in Mahoning County.

"I've always loved the water," said Mary Ann Chambers, her clothes wet after dipping a Madonna-shaped carafe into the lake and filling it with water. The 63-year-old woman from Russell Township said the ceremony is a reminder to interact with the outdoors.

"We've forgotten that nature is always there," she said.

Scott Plate said a running injury forced him to turn to swimming for exercise. He first attacked the water with force and fury, then learned to relax his strokes and let the water carry him.

"I love it. I can't now not swim," the 43-year-old Cleveland actor said.

Given the response, Weiss plans to make the gathering a monthly event. "My hope is everyone around the Great Lakes does this," she said.

The ripple effect will soon begin. Surmick, who sang the Indian hymn, heads to Chicago this week, the first stop on a 10-month journey in a camper. She plans to hold a ceremony at a Lake Michigan beach when she arrives.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 800-767-2821


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