Something altogether different happens; the younger members of the botanicus family decide to remain at their current encampment rather than accompanying the older members across the valley. It is not the result of conflict or discord, nor the reflection of any estrangement or alienation within the group. Rather, it feels natural, in some unacknowledged way, evolutionary, and occurring within the experience of botanicus in the world, not at all isolating. Their embodiment of the natural world, its light, air, color, odor, texture, strength, and movement, is total; botanicus does not suffer the pain of separation because botanicus never feels separate from others or the natural world.
Jens, Saha and Kaya take the change in stride. They have increasingly felt a growing cultural difference between themselves and the younger members of the family, whose communication and interaction bonds them to each other ever more tightly. Although the family still gathers for some ritual chanting, it’s become less frequent as the constant flow and mirroring of states of being fulfills the sense of connection with each other and the world that the younger family members desire. Nearly chameleon-like in their visual signaling, they learn all they need to know about each other wordlessly, as if reading the ripples in a creek. In a sense, they have cracked Mother Nature’s code, and can “read” each other and the natural world as effortlessly as Jens once read a children’s book.
Even the babies remain with the younger botanicus; they too have made the evolutionary communications leap and are developing a sophistication of expression as powerful as their older siblings. The fact that they are babies poses no safety risk; the absence of any predators and no need to find food imparts the baby botanicus with a stress-free, largely risk-free life.
The botanicus pigs assume a cultural position akin to that of dogs in Homo sapiens history. Their emotions on continuous display, the pigs enjoy a natural resonance with Homo botanicus, physically and emotionally. They occupy the same locations, travel together with the group, and even participate in rituals and chants, lending their voices and colors to the process. Even the babies interact with the pigs, who in some cases are almost the same size.
Curiously, the pigs begin to display differences within their family, too. Whether or not in reaction to their relationship to Homo botanicus or independent of if, the pigs are also dividing into subunits, the older pigs forming one and the younger pigs forming another, paralleling the changes within the Homo botanicus clan. When the older members of the botanicus family depart, the older members of the pig family depart with them. Despite their relatively small numbers, the new bloodlines initiated by Pierre Gittleman differentiate, an event that portends the spread of various botanicus species and sets the table for them to fill various environmental and climatic niches.
Before leaving, the entire family gathers. “AhhhOooooB” they sing melodically, its chanting quality essentially left behind along with other spoken words originally included. The young don’t even know the derivation of “AhhhOooooB,” its original meaning derived from “We Are One Body.” The song fills the valley floor, echoing off the hillsides and seems to melt into the breeze. Exchanging hugs and colors, the group divides, with the expectation of gathering again when the season changes.
Jens and Saha, hand in hand, lead the small group across the valley on what is now a well-worn path. “We suppose this day had to come,” Saha says, squeezing Jen’s hand and prompting a yellowish glow spreading across his palm and stretching up his forearm. “They’ll be fine, and we will join them again at the end of the seasonal cycle,” Jens replies. “We do wonder what other changes we will see when we gather together again,” he adds, his color darkening. “With each new generation, new changes appear.” “That’s so like us, Jens,” Saha breaks in, “to think about all this and try to anticipate. We’ll find out when we find out.”
They walk on in silence, unhurried. The late morning sun, hot and bright, fuels their energy as their photosynthetic skin becomes more active. Glistening in the sunlight, their hairless, smooth bodies, lean and lithe, look healthy and vibrant, which they are. One effect of Pierre’s plant/animal genetic hybridization, an effect he could not anticipate, is the absence of the effects of aging. Rather than skin which wrinkles and thins over time, like the skin of Homo sapiens, the skin of Homo botanicus renews itself continuously; despite their age of many decades, Jens and Saha look very much like they did twenty years ago.
“Do we remember Len?” Saha asks Jens, suddenly. “Of course, we remember Len,” replies Jens, his color shifting into yellow ochre, a sign of deep feeling. “Why do we ask?” “We’ve just been thinking about him recently, that’s all,” Saha offers, “wondering if he is well, and if he is still with Pierre. To be locked up in that old house for so many years, to have never seen these wild lands or experienced nature the way we do; we wonder if we will ever see him again?”
“It’s impossible to say,” Jens replies. “We are very far away from Halifax and the roads we used to get us here are long overgrown and covered.” “Yes,” Saha responds, “what you say is true. Even so. We would like to see him again.” “And Pierre,” she adds, “must be very old; he was old when we lived in Halifax. Pierre was so different, in a way, less dimensional. His skin would change from pale white to reddish, sometimes, when embarrassed or frustrated. But it was hard to fully sense his feelings. It must be strange to only be able to turn reddish.” At this, Jens laughs. He takes hold of Saha’s hand again and turning towards her flashes in waves of reddish color from the top of this head to his toes. “You mean like this?” he says, continuing to laugh. Saha joins him in laughter, and they fall into each other’s arms. “Give us a hug,” he says.
“It’s getting dark. We should pick our spot for the night,” Jens suggests. “How about those boulders over there,” Saha offers, “They will remain warm for a while, having been in the sun for all hours. We think we all would enjoy that warmth as the air cools.” Approaching the boulders, they take notice of piles of small stones, stacked and balanced on the larger rocks, the handiwork of Karma and the group during past trips.
“We wonder what happened to Karma, why he fell. Do you think it was an accident, Jens?” Saha asks, squatting down on the top of one of flatter boulders. “We are very thought-filled today, Saha,” Jens replies. “Yes, that’s true. Don’t know why, just that kind of day, perhaps.” “Lie down here, Saha,” Jens asks, as the others in the group begin to scatter among the granite. She moves towards him; they lie on their backs and watch the stars begin to appear in the clear sky. “Karma spent hours and hours looking up at the sky and muttering to himself as if having a conversation. When asked, would always say ‘We will find out’ but little more. Thought-filled, it produced silence and isolation. We older ones like Karma, brought up in Pierre’s house under Len’s care, are inclined to think, to rely on inner thoughts. I think the children and their children are different, less thinking and more feeling. In a way, better off, perhaps.”
The moon begins to rise over the Valley hills, a large, golden ball that illuminates the valley and produces a pleasant, faintly photosynthetic response in their skin. The troop falls asleep, dreaming of smells, colors, movement, texture, and sounds in a virtually timeless world.