When I was a child in Latin America, I watched the Southern Cross through my bedroom window. My Quechua nurse, Mariluz, called the constellation Star Woman.

southern-cross

For many evenings Star Woman watches a lonely man lying in a meadow watching her.

At last, she slides from the sky to lie beside him and on the fifth night, she agrees to leave the sky and marry him.

“For my wedding gift,” she says, “you must make me a garden.”

The man is befuddled. The people hunt and gather, eat wild animals and wild fruits. To show him what she wants, Star Woman floats to the sky and returns with potatoes.

The man will not eat them. He will not touch the strange starchy things with his tongue. Star Woman grips his hair, and pushes a piece of potato into his mouth.

The man chews, swallows, and smiles. He digs the garden plot as Star Woman directs.

Star Woman rises back into the sky and returns with corn, rice, yams, beans, and peanuts. All these good foods they grow in their garden. They live well and one by one their neighbors dig garden plots, too.

The man, who had been ugly and lonely before he married Star Woman, has become bold and beautiful by the love and well-being she brings. He falls in love with another, human woman, and leaves Star Woman.

Star Woman weeps. She cries and cries and when she runs out of tears, she climbs back into the sky.

“If that man had been true to her,” Mariluz said, “she might have brought more gifts. Because of him, we do not have all the things that Heaven can offer.”

Peruvian-ceremony-for-potatoes-being-sent-to-Svalbard

The act of gardening makes the world whole and is therefore an act of higher purpose. Our faithlessness to Nature deprives us of everything the cosmos might provide. How strange that humans are so eager to shortchange ourselves.

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