Chapter 19 – Where We Go From Here
The young Bushtender had thankfully remembered about my dream when she awoke the next day. She seemed to find it odd and curious, as it was likely different from any other dreams she’d had. I could tell she didn’t fully understand the implications of my dream, but the seed of curiosity had been placed, and she decided to experiment herself.
While out gathering, using a new basket-like item her colony had recently innovated from tied sticks and dried foliage, she began to collect bugs, berries, nuts, and root vegetables as per usual. When she got back, she kept a berry for herself, but rather than eating it, she decided to go just outside the colony border and stick it into the ground.
The rows of trees from my memory had been planted in soft, brown dirt, but dirt didn’t really exist in this land, and I had forgotten about it until the memory came. All foliage grew out of the black rocky floor, porous in some places like Bushtender’s colony and along the shore, or solid closer to the mountainside. The plants were well equipped to grow in such environments, and roots often drank from pools inside the porous rock of collected rainwater. In more solid areas they had to rely on water as it rained, or grow long roots that worked their way through cracks in the solid rock to gigantic reservoirs of water below.
Being connected to this earth, I didn’t find it as strange as I might have otherwise. It was natural, normal. Since I had awoken, this had been the only land I’d ever known. The only times I got to see more were when brave lizards set out for the farthest reaches or when memories of my last world appeared in my consciousness.
Bushtender visited the spot where she planted the berry every day, putting a stick into the ground as a marker so she would not forget where it was. After a few months, her interest was greatly waning, nothing was happening. It got to the point that she only checked on it once a week, probably questioning why she was doing this in the first place. But just as she was about to give up, a sprout had found its way through the holes in the rock to touch the light above ground. It was small and fragile, but Bushtender became very excited, and brought her family to show it off. They didn’t quite understand what was happening, nor why she was so excited about a tiny plant rising out the ground, but they were happy that it made her happy.
She kept visiting it over the weeks, watching as it grew. The particular bush she had taken a berry from was fast growing once it broke ground. It seemed to change shape every day, and she was fascinated when it started branching out. Small buds of leaves slowly appeared and unfurled to soak in the sun’s rays, growing large even in its youth. It was about half the size of one of the wild plants when it first started flowering, a string of dark red leaves with a few white flowers near the bottom hanging on the ends of limbs like windchimes.
Another unbidden memory. I could see a windchime with silver pipes hanging from a horizontal post, moving slightly in a small breeze, a small and gentle tinkling sound as a string with a large silver disk clinked into several of the long pipes. Truly the hanging flowers did resemble the windchime of my memory as they swayed slightly in the breeze.
Those windchime-like flowers soon gave way to berries, the red leaves shading them from above. They started out red like the leaves, but soon became dark, nearly black with ripeness. Bushtender was very happy, and spent much of her time with the small bush. Anything she could do while stationary, she did while sitting next to her beautiful berry-bearing bush. Putting together new carrying baskets, making pretty necklaces, even eating meals, all were done in the company of her bush.
Whether or not she could remember the dream from so long ago, I did not know, but she now had the knowledge she needed. She could grow the bushes as she liked, having access to more berries and leaves. She took several of the new berries, and set them in the ground near her first bush, anticipating their eventual growth.
At some point, she brought her family back to the bush, and they were surprised to see a half grown berry bush where the little sprout had once been. They didn’t quite understand, but Bushtender mimed to them how the bush had started out very small, and then grew into the bush they now saw. She took another berry from the bush and showed it to them. One of her mothers reached out to take it, likely to eat, but Bushtender pulled it back, indicating she was just showing it to them. Making sure they were watching, she set it into the ground, and displayed her open hands over the hole she’d inserted the berry into, indicating that’s all it took. Her family looked at each other, a little puzzled. It might take time for them to understand, but so long as Bushtender took her time, she could teach them.
Not all the berries planted grew, and I felt lucky that Bushtender’s first had germinated. Had it not, she likely would not have tried again. I shimmered in my family heart, sharing in her success. These techniques would be useful near the shore and mountainside colonies, as not many shrubs grew there. The mountainside might be harder to grow on, since they were not located on the porous rock that this particular berry bush used to grow, but they had their own shrubs that could withstand the harsh rooting conditions, and so long as they learned how to plant the seeds of their native brush, they could succeed as well.
It would be a very long time before their agriculture reached the point of the memory I had seen, but just having the basic knowledge of planting was enough for now. They could stay safer, closer, not having to venture as far outside their colony borders to secure food and plant material. It put my own heart at ease knowing that. I continued to watch as Bushtender planted many more seeds over her lifetime, dedicating her life to making sure there were enough bushes to sustain her colony’s needs.
It made her so very happy to tend to her plants; Bushtender had been the right name for her. I could see her eyes sparkle every time she came to check on her plants and harvest them, and her scales shimmered in happiness as she worked. It was almost like she was trying to communicate her feelings to the bushes she tended. I felt my heart soften, and I was sure her feelings did reach them. Perhaps it was through me, being connected to the land my lizards stood on.
She never personally taught her art to other colonies like the nomadic Scalesinger had, but those who emigrated elsewhere took the new knowledge with them. Soon, all the colonies would know, and with that knowledge would come more innovation. This was only the beginning of a new age, and where they went from here would surely change all their lives for the better.