KOSPI AND THE FIRST FLOWERS
Once upon a time a beautiful girl named Kospi lived with her people, the Chonke, nomads who traveled throughout the southernmost end of America, a land known as Patagonia. The Chonke camped at the same sites as they traveled from place to place, and they called these encampments "aikes."
(flowers from my garden)
The people say that one day long, long ago, Kospi and her people were camped at Uau Yaten, Lonely Rock, a beautiful place on the shores of a glacial lake, Kelta. Snow-capped mountains towered above them, surrounding this remote land where so few people lived. There were no horses at all, and flowers did not yet exist.
It was summer's end, and the colors of the forest were changing. The days were calm, and the sky and mountains were reflected in the mirror-like lake so that as Kospi wandered the shore, she seemed to be in two worlds at once, one above and one below, the reflection. As the sun began to set, the world seemed to be on fire with beauty, and the spirits that inhabited this lonely place quivered with joy.
Like all the women of her tribe, Kospi spent many hours each day working with animal hides, kneading them between her fingers to soften them, then stitching them together and painting them in her family's designs. Kospi worked just as her ancestors had for ages, weaving headbands and blankets and bindings for boots.
But on those days when the lake was as calm as it was in late summer, Kospi would leave her work to go to the water's edge and sit there contemplating the reflection of this radiant world.
The people say it was just such a day when everything changed. Kospi sat at the edge of the lake combing her long dark hair and singing chants, the stories of her people, when suddenly she heard the lord of the mountains, Karut, Thunder, close behind her. She leapt to her feet, startled by the roaring sound, but she was too late to run. Karut grabbed the young girl and carried her into the mountains. There, high in a secret crevasse in a glacier, he hid Kospi.The poor girl was terrified. She cried out with all her strength, shouting to her people to save her, but those mountains are vast, and no matter how loudly she called, no one heard her.
For many months Kospi's people searched for her. They loved her and were heartbroken by her disappearance. All that autumn they called to her, but their shouts were lost among the gigantic trees of the forests of Patagonia that muffled sound.
Huddled in the terrible cold of those mountains, Kospi grew exhausted and finally silent. She fell asleep, and as she slept she became a part of the glacial walls, turning to ice. So she remained, throughout the autumn and all through that long winter.
And then, one day Karut woke the clouds with his thundering roar. The clouds began to pour out abundant rain. Great lagoons formed, and streams overflowed as winter's ice began to melt. It rained so hard, even Kospi thawed, turning into water that trickled down the mountainside into the valley, where the parched earth drank deeply and fed the plants.
The particles of water that composed Kospi seeped into tender stalks that swayed in the new season's wind. Spring was here, and the water that had once been Kospi reached the tips of those stalks.
One morning the strength of springtime's sun woke those tips. Kospi had become a bud, folded inside leaves that opened, and with the sun shining overhead, delicate petals appeared.
This, people say, was the birth of flowers.
And there is more. The people say that Kospi's artistry showed itself by giving color to the many flowers of southern Patagonia -- to orchids and neneo bushes, palomita and lupins, to mutisia and to the yellow flowers of the calafate bush. Those who know the ancient traditions believe that Kospi showed herself in these forms so that she might watch over her people forever, carpeting the countryside with an exquisite perfumed mantle, renewing herself every spring.
When those flowers first bloomed, sparrows and mockingbirds, thrushes and swallows began to sing with joy, communicating the news from aike to aike, and when the Chonke heard this news, they held a celebration to show their happiness. Ever since that day so long ago, the petals of those Patagonian flowers have been known as Kospi.