An old man was sitting in his lodge by the side of a frozen stream. His appearance was very worn and frayed, for it was the close of winter and his fire was almost out. His locks were white with age and he trembled in every joint. He sat in solitude as the days passed, the only sound was of newly falling snow outside.
One day, as his fire was dying, a beautiful young woman approached. Her cheeks were red, her eyes sparkled with animation, and a smile played across her lips. Her steps were quick and light, she carried a bouquet of wildflowers in her hand. On her forehead was a wreath of sweet grass.
“Granddaughter,” said the old man, “I am happy to see you. Come in and tell me of your adventures and what strange lands you have been to see. I will tell you of my prowess and exploits, and what I can perform. You can do the same and we can pass the time together.”
He then drew from his sack a carved pipe. Filling it, he handed it to his guest. When the ceremony was concluded, they began to speak.
“I blow my breath,” the old man said, “and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as stone.”
“I breathe,” said the young maiden, “and flowers spring up all over the plains.”
“I shake my braids,” retorted the old man, “and snow blankets the land. The leaves fall at my command and my breath blows them away. The birds fly away from the water to distant lands. The animals hide from my breath and the very ground becomes hard as flint.”
I shake my ringlets,” responded the young woman, “and warm showers of soft rain fall upon the Earth. The plants lift their heads from the ground like the eyes of children glistening with delight. The birds return with my voice and the warmth of my breath unlocks the stream. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and all Nature rejoices.”
As they spoke, the sun began to rise and warmth came over the land. The tongue of the old man became silent as the robin and bluebird began to sing on top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur by the door. The fragrance of blooming herbs and flowers came softly on the vernal breeze.
As day broke, the character of the host was fully revealed to the young maiden. When she looked upon him, he had the icy visage of Pondese. Streams began to flow from his eyes, and as the sun climbed higher into the sky, he shrunk until he eventually melted away. Nothing remained of his lodge but the Trailing Arbuteus, a small white flower with a pink border.
All illustrations provided by Penny Coates.