Published on January 13, 2013 by Casey
Abenaki-Penobscot legends. Retold in the book Weather Legends – Native American Lore and the Science of Weather by Carole Garbuny
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Long ago when spirits still spoke to human beings, there lived an old man named Zimo He resided in a Penobscot village in what is now Maine. Like his neighbors, Zimo planted a vegetable crop each summer so he would have food for the winter. But one year Zimo fell ill at the start of planting season. He was too weak to tend his garden. Each day the old man thought his strength would come back, but the entire summer passed before he was strong enough to leave his sick bed. By now it was fall. The air had turned crisp and cold, and low gray clouds filled the sky The other people in Zimo’s village had already harvested and dried their vegetables for the long months ahead. They had pro-visions for winter, but Zimo had none.
Zimo knew that without food he could not survive the harsh winter. So he went to the Creator for help.
“I was ill throughout the summer,” he said. “I could not plant my vegetables and now I have no provisions for winter. What can I do?” “Go and plant your seeds now,” replied the Creator. “Your crop will grow immediately.”
Zimo returned home and set to work in his garden. First he prepared the soil. Then he planted corn, squash, beans, and pumpkins, and fertilized them with fish heads. And as the Creator promised, the seeds sprouted immediatelyThe weather turned warm and the skies cleared. It felt more like summer than late fall. But the leaves on the trees had already turned beautiful shades of red, yellow, and orange, a sign that winter was not far off.
Zimo watered the tiny plants and weeded the garden. By the end of the second day the plants had blossomed, and tiny vegetables began to form. Each day after that the vegetables grew larger and larger. Within seven days the corn, beans, squash, and even the pumpkins were ready for picking. Just as the Creator had promised, Zimo now had a bountiful harvest. He would have ample food to see him through the winter.
As quickly as the warm weather arrived, it departed. The days became chilly and the nights even colder. Every morning a thin layer of frost glazed the countryside. Winter closed in. The Penobscots called that sudden warm spell in autumn “person’s summer.” They remembered its brief, renewing properties. Nowadays, when summer’s warmth returns in fall, we call it “Indian Summer.”