Ice Man was sitting in his birch-bark wigwam by the side of a
frozen stream. His fire was almost out. He had grown very old and
melancholy, and his hair was long and white. He was lonely, and
day after day he heard nothing but the howling of winter storms
sweeping snow across the land.
One day as his fire was dying to its last orange ember, Ice Man
saw a young man approaching his wigwam. The boy's cheeks were
red, his eyes shone with pleasure, and he was smiling. He walked
with a light and quick step. Around his forehead was a wreath of
sweet grass, and he carried a bunch of flowers in one hand.
"Come in, come in," Ice Man greeted him. "I am happy to see you.
Tell me why you come here."
"I am a messenger," replied the young man.
"Ah, then I will tell you of my powers," said Ice Man. "Of the
wonders I can perform. Then you shall do the same." From his
medicine-bundle, the old man drew out a wonderfully carved pipe
and filled it with aromatic leaves. He lighted it with one of the
last coals from his dying fire, blew smoke to the four
directions, and then handed the pipe to the young stranger.
After the pipe ceremony was concluded, Ice Man said: "When I blow
my breath, the streams stand still and the water becomes hard and
clear as crystal."
"When I breathe," replied the young man, "flowers spring up all
over the land."
"When I shake my long white hair," Ice Man declared, "snow covers
the earth. At my command, leaves turn brown and fall from the
trees, and my breath blows them away. The water birds rise from
the lakes and fly to distant lands. The animals hide themselves
from my breath, and the very ground turns as hard as flint."
The young man smiled. "When I shake my hair," he said, "warm
showers of soft rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift
themselves with delight. My breath unlocks the frozen streams.
With my voice I call back the birds, and wherever I walk in the
forests their music fills the air." As he spoke, the sun rose
higher in the sky and a gentle warmth came over the place. Ice
Man sat silent, listening to a robin and a bluebird singing on
top of his wigwam. Outside, the streams began to trickle, and the
fragrance of flowers drifted on the soft spring breeze.
The young man looked at Ice Man and saw tears flooding from his
eyes. As the sun warmed the wigwam, the old man became smaller
and smaller, and gradually melted completely away. Nothing
remained of his fire. In its place was a small white flower with
a pink border, the wild portulaca. People would call it Spring
Beauty because it is among the first plants to signal the end of
winter and the beginning of springtime.
Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker
Copyright @ 1993-2016
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