The season passes quickly, and the botanicus clan along with their Sus pig companions, prepares to make the day-long trek across to the other side of valley. Despite the death of Karma, the activities of gathering, decorating, and assembling small stones continues, but has taken on new meaning, various configurations now used to convey information. Botanicus intellect is evolving rapidly in the natural environment, and a great deal of it is spent in messaging about relationships; not just the relationships with each other are documented, but also relationships with weather, trees, rocks, creeks, grasses, pigs, ants, worms and virtually any and everything they encounter. Certain arrangements of decorated stones, accompanied by gestures, color changes and vocalizations are reminders of events; botanicus begins to document history, the first stirrings of the continuity of culture. The memory of Karma, for example, is marked by broken stones.
Jens and the other elders of the group, highly dependent upon spoken language, try to keep up with the advancing communication skills of the children, but are increasingly left behind. Although they too can change skin color and its tempo, it is not their first mode of expression. They often find themselves wondering what the youngest are conveying. The group’s activity is increasingly divided between the youngest and the oldest, the youngest gather together, flashing colors, making gestures, and uttering sounds that in combination outwardly appear merely expressive and entertaining, like song and dance, while the oldest engage in long, verbal conversation. At times the young cast glances in the direction of the old, and then break out into laughter.
Saha, turning to Jens, asks, “Do you understand what they are saying?” Jens, staring intently at the children holds his hand up in a gesture indicating he needs to devote his attention if he is to understand. “Ok, I think I get what they are saying. If I had to put it into words, it would be something about ‘pregnant with soft moisture.’ I’m gathering this idea is used not solely for the weather, but also for conveying feelings of tenderness. There’s also information about ‘coming and going,’ which seems to be indicated by the direction of color change waves, from the head down or from the feet up. Past and future are referenced by tempo, but I’m having trouble following that. It’s happening terribly fast, as you can see. I can get the basics, but I’m sure I’m missing something, maybe even something important. As for color changes, they too seem change or refine meaning.”
“I notice that the babies are mirroring,” Saha notes, “I don’t recall our children doing that, do you? And they’re already laughing, as if they understand the moment. Do you think they do?”
“Actually, I do think they understand, at least at a systemic level, in their bodies,” Jens replies. “Do you remember when we were children and would color change in near unison when our feelings were aligned? Or when we chanted together? There’s a way of feeling that’s naturally connected, as automatic as breathing. The youngest are simply diving deeper into that natural ability, refining, and perfecting it. You used the word ‘mirror’ and I think that’s just what this is, but it’s also something more. How they communicate is deeper than words, certainly, and appears more like rippling water, or the waving of grass. At times it’s impossible to sense where they end and the world begins, as if they are children of the wind. Word-based language as you and I have known and used it is disappearing. Does that mean we are getting old?” Jens pulls Saha to his side and puts his arm around her. Their colors shift to soft light green.
One of the children, gazing at Jens and Saha, signals to the group; small waves of color at his chest move towards each other and merge into one new color, the signal for love. Others mirror, and then a variation causes an outbreak of giggles.
Jens signals that he and Saha should return to the group, and together they walk to join the others, who are variously seated in the grass. “It’s time to walk,” Jens says, also indicating the same through gesture to the youngest in the group. The oldest make their way to the youngest and lifting them begin to walk while carrying them in their arms. By this time, the path to the other side of the valley is well worn.
As the day progresses, the clan takes frequent breaks from walking to sit and gaze quietly, either while alone or in small groups. Photosynthetically feeding upon the bright sunlight for hours leaves botanicus flush with energy, both physical and emotional. Familiar places resonate with them, as memories converge with the present. Places have names, as do the natural features of place, the boulders, large trees, fields, and waterways. The refinements of their sense of place results in almost infinite variations in ‘name.’ Clouds, for example, are represented by dozens of designations and signs, each portraying not just a particular type of cloud, but the events that accompanied the appearance of that type of cloud: the air temperature, the humidity, the direction of the wind, the plants in flower and their fragrances, the time of day, the season, and so forth. All this information is embedded within the botanicus’ extraordinary vocal/visual communication lexicon, one that is developing exponentially as the size of the family enlarges.
Vocal language, specifically fixed words that evoke particular images and symbolize states of being and objects, play an increasingly insignificant role in botanicus communication, the nuance and meaning of words too limited to fully convey the richness and complexity of the interconnected world they perceive. The botanicus vocabulary mixes sound, color, tempo, and gesture into rich tapestry of information containing a depth of complex content unavailable to words alone. While Homo Sapiens communicate with gesture and prosody, inflection, and emphasis, the addition of skin color change adds range and vastly increased speed to botanicus communication.
Nightfall brings a period of sleep. Leaves and grasses are collected into a thick pile and the sixteen botanicus gather tightly, keeping them all warm and in close contact with each other. Except for the rustle of grass, the night is silent, unbroken by the earlier epoch’s cries and chirps of other animals and insects. As if in hibernation, the earth itself is quieted, its froth of life having ebbed as climate change brought forth the extinction of millions of plant and animal species. Far away from the wild lands, the built remnants of the metaphysical world of Homo sapiens slowly collapse into decay, rusting and falling back into the soil; evidence of advanced human civilization progressively disappears. Ironically, the stone pyramids of Egypt and South America remain, lone, long-lasting traces of a once highly imaginative species of intelligent beings that once covered the entire planet.