Being Green

Chapter 15

The discovery of other “green” animals in the valley has unanticipated results. The family has expanded to include not just Homo botanicus, but the new members, the botanicus “pigs.” The botanicus children, in particular, bond with the little creatures, and spend time singing with them. Over time, the song’s complexity increases, and with it the bonds of companionship. In some unexpected way, botanicus culture is evolving, it’s modes of communication expanding and moving in new and expressive directions. One of these is the use of verbal language, or rather, its diminishing use.

Jens, Karma, Kaya and Saha, all raised by Len and Pierre in a highly verbal environment, fully rely on words in addition to the information conveyed by body language, expression, and color change. They also have musical ability; their cooing quickly became song, which progressively took more and more of their time. Their children, exposed to the regular use of words, quickly mastered them, but rely on their color communication to a far greater degree than their parents; they are quieter, verbally. And the grandchildren, Waving Grass, Warm Breeze, Morning Dew, and Slanted Cliff, although not only capable of speech but adept at it, utilize it less than all the others. Within the span of just three generations, botanicus culture is changing.

Singing appears to trigger more complex color changes, too, and when songs are sung in unison, colors synchronize and shift in unison as well. Tempo changes are accompanied by color rhythm variations, and harmonies produce subtle but discernible modifications of hue. Between song complexity and color shifts, an entirely new mode of expression with its own character and grammar is beginning to replace words and verbal communication. The four-legged pigs, never word-based in their communication, naturally take to conversing through song. The combination of botanicus voice combined with squealing utterances is striking. The children and their little companions spend hours exploring song, tonality, melody and prosody,

Even stone decoration becomes conjoined with song, an activity that engages even Karma. Karma is psychologically different than the rest, subject to a sense of isolation and distress, beset with cogitation about meaning and prone to compulsive behavior. The songs help him relax and retain a feeling of companionship with others. Although some songs prompt periods of group silence, others produce bouts of laughter. Remarkably, with the demise of animal life like songbirds, the wilds of Nova Scotia that had become progressively more silent begin to be filled with the sounds of music and joyful expression.

When Pierre incorporated Cephalopod chromatophores into the photosynthetic skin of botanicus, his intention was to explicitly link emotional expression with the visual cortex. As part of his re-engineering of humanity, he believed that if emotions, often hidden behind verbal artifice and self-deception were plainly visible, it would remove deceit from the human lexicon. He was partly correct; he had miscalculated the overall effects of the recalibration and rebalancing of the brain’s two hemispheres. By increasing the activity of the right hemisphere’s greater emotional intelligence than the left’s, botanicus was inherently empathetic and honest. And yet, signaling emotional expression also added immeasurable complexity to the emerging botanicus language of color.

While in the middle of song, the youngsters Breeze and Grass notice that the littlest of the green pigs is silent. Lying on its side, it appears to be asleep instead of participating, a very unusual behavior. Moreover, something about its color is different; the vibrancy of its green has faded. Breeze sidles up to the pig and strokes its smooth green skin. Instead of responding, the pig remains still. Breeze’s skin shifts from green to ochre, and Grass takes notice; she too moves closer to the sleeping pig. Breeze and Grass exchange glances, and their ochre changes to light brown. Darker, almost black spots are scattered across their faces. Intuitively, they know that something about the pig is different, but what it is remains unclear. Neither Breeze nor Grass have encountered death before.

Noticing their sudden silence, the entire botanicus group directs its attention to what’s happened. Not only have they had no meaningful, interactive contact with wildlife before, they’ve had little to no contact with other animals and no experience at all with death. They gather around the dead pig, each reaching out with their left hand in curiosity. Black spots appear on all their faces, which are uniformly light brown. The group, including the other pigs, sits this way for two days, observing the changing colors of death.

Finally, Saha speaks, her colors returning to greens and yellows. “I have never seen this before, but I think the life force of our little companion has left the body.” “Yes,” replies Jens, “Pierre called this death, but he also said death ‘Looks like coming, looks like going’.” I think he meant that what we see as change is not change, that all things are constantly in transition from one form to another.” His colors begin to move in waves up and down his body, an indication of deep emotion; others begin to display the same way. “This is how it is for us, as well. We are constantly in transition.”

“Does that mean we are death?” Asks Cliff, his colors darkening again. “Yes,” Jens answers, “we are life and death, both and neither. As Pierre explained to me, what seems like opposites are not; we contain all and everything within us.” Jens waves of color shifts begin to slow. “Observe our friend closely. Can you see what’s happening?” They all direct their gaze to the still body, now in full sunlight. “Over the two days, the body has continued to be full of energy, but now it’s the energy of death. Over time, this little body will dissolve and melt into the earth. This is what happens and is happening to us. It is happening right now, although it seems as if nothing is happening like that at all. Pierre called these “integration” and “disintegration” but added that it is one process and is happening continuously; it looks like coming, looks like going. But it is both and neither. This is, he said, simply the nature of things.”

Of the group, Karma alone takes all this in and begins to think about it, trying to figure it out. He is convinced that there is something that Jens, and for that matter, even Pierre does not understand. Karma knows that great and powerful beings control what happens and the destiny of all things. He hears them speaking to him, explaining how things are, telling him what to do and what is true, but he has learned not to speak of such matters. When he’s tried in the past the others just seem confused and cannot follow what he says, so he keeps his knowledge to himself, for now.

Unknown to the others, the stones that Karma decorates include designs and elements suggested to him by the voices he hears. To others, the lines and shapes Karma inscribes and colors are just that, lines and shapes. To Karma, however, they are expressions of truth, representative of the special words and knowledge being given to him. Karma knows, he is convinced, that he is special, and has been chosen by the great beings for a reason. But he has been told to say nothing until the appointed moment arrives. He does not know how or when that moment will happen but is confident that it will. And he waits.

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