The trek across the valley takes the botanicus clan the better part of a day. Unhurried, the group’s pace is comfortable and provides plenty of time for soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the spectacular views. Earth’s temperate zones have moved closer to the poles, making the climate in places like Nova Scotia almost on the edge of sub-tropical for some of the year. With the sun lowering in the sky, moving across the valley provides more hours of daylight. The valley’s foliage runs from thick and jungle-like to open savannas covered in oceans of waving grasses and wild cereal grains. As the group ambles through the fields, each chews a seedy stalk of grass.
Homo botanicus, although capable of feeding themselves sufficiently through photosynthesis, have a complete, functioning digestive system and use their mouths to eat. The motivation for eating, however, is rarely if ever hunger. Rather, eating is an adjunct behavior that comes into play during rituals and when extra energy is needed during vigorous physical activity. Accordingly, the tribe has familiarized itself with what grows around it, what’s healthy or interesting to consume, how and when it should be eaten, and what not to eat at all.
Being green themselves, eating plants triggers vigorous, emotionally empathetic reactions in botanicus; accordingly, a hierarchy of consumption has emerged as a social and cultural artifact, lest eating plants feel overtly cannibalistic. Thus, it is that seeds of perennial wild grasses and cereals, sources of plant protein and carbohydrates, feel appropriate for eating, while the green leaves on most trees and shrubs do not. Additionally, when available, tree nuts and seasonal berries offer sweetness and protein to their diet. An occasional insect, an ant or a young roach or an aphid, might get ingested, but animal protein is never intentionally on the botanicus menu. They also lick and occasionally suck on small rocks and pebbles, obtaining minerals from their surface left by soil, roots, and oxidation. The closest thing to fleshy food that they regularly consume are mushrooms, which depending upon the weather and the season are often plentiful in the fields and forests. In a category all their own, mushrooms and fungi have no chlorophyll, are not green, and don’t trigger an aversion. Some of them, however, are strongly psychotropic; these are periodically consumed as part of seasonal rituals.
As Pierre has engineered them, Homo botanicus are genetically predisposed to experience the world in an all-at-once, holistic way, producing a decidedly more unfiltered and uncensored reality than present day Homo sapiens experience. For botanicus, each moment has immediate presence, an energetic vitality expressed by the infinite continuity of being as it unfolds timelessly. Pierre’s father Leonard, a practicing Buddhist, called it “nowness” and stressed that thoughts of the past or future were just that, thoughts, and should not be granted more authority than the little they often deserve; he so instructed his son while “transmitting Dharma,” as Leonard called it. So it is that in his work, Pierre’s rebalanced essential brain neurotransmitter brain molecules and adjusted the hemispheric lateralization of botanicus to help accomplish the fulfillment of this teaching. In botanicus, the brain’s unifying right hemisphere is superior to the categorizing left. He didn’t know precisely what long term social or cultural effects would emerge from his tinkering, but he hoped the self-feeding capabilities of botanicus combined with an enhanced sense of “nowness” and interdependence would prove more sane for them and the planet than not.
The group settles on a grassy knoll, sitting in a circle facing outwards with about ten feet of space between each of them. Jens stands in the middle of the circle. As the oldest member of the clan, Jens is a respected elder; he shares this role with Saha. She is the second oldest, twin sister of Kaya, and with Jens, a parent of two of the group’s children, Laughing Creek and Pink Dawn. Jens and Saha take turns leading rituals, something that takes place nearly every day. Today is the ritual of place, a ceremony of connection with the land they will inhabit for this season.
Jens makes his way around the circle, gently placing his hand on each head for a moment as he proceeds. As he does so, each member of the group flashes ochre, a sign of excitement and anticipation. He finishes his rounds, returns to his place at the center, and begins to vocalize a soft, resonant cooing sound. “AaaaaOoooooB.” His musical tone is joined by that of others, and in time all the botanicus are vocalizing together. There is no melody, as such; rather, the combined sound simply moves in a spontaneous way, building and falling and building again. After a few minutes, they fall silent, and Jens speaks.
“We honor this place, this land where we will stay for the season. We watch over it like it is a child, although we are its children. Sitting here, we offer our gratitude, and from that our generosity. For we are one body.” “We are one body,” the group repeats.
“Please visualize your offering,” Jen suggests. “As you do so, prepare to join and be joined.”
They rise and begin to walk slowly clockwise, circumnavigating the hillock, progressively providing each of them with a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape. This activity continues for an hour or more, at which point they separate and walk individually downhill, away from each other, until at the bottom of the knoll. There each sits for the rest of day, feeding on sunlight, content, and taking in the world as it is.
And the world as it is, feels completely alive; rocks to weeds, trees to clouds, the very ground itself pulsating with energy, an energy that also animates botanicus. All and everything, dead and otherwise, is in flux, becoming, declaring its presence in a unified dance of creation in the moment. Colors change hue, get brighter and softer, blend and disperse. The breeze is a watery current, softly caressing all in its flow, conveying enchanting smells of fragrance and rich decay. Sounds, altogether at once, comfortably soothe them, envelop them, become them. They feel themselves growing and pulsing with the earth’s energy, too, perfectly connected and in sync with each moment, an affirmative emotion of belonging that produces a rhythmic change in skin color. Loving and feeling loved, waves of joy overtake them, and some softly weep light green tears.
By sundown, they gather again, greeting each other with warm affection and colorful embraces, as if they have been long apart. But they have not been apart; to the contrary, as a group they have all experienced, and constantly experience, the great unity that bonds them with each other and the entire world around them. Lying in the grass, they move closer to each other, their bodies finally touching and sharing warmth. As darkness spreads, they softly coo themselves to sleep. In this way they spend their first of many nights together on the warmer side of the valley. For botanicus, tomorrow does not occupy their thoughts, only the profound moment of nowness that they share with each other and all of creation.