By Eve Ryman
Gaia wakes to protect her children whenever the world throws a tantrum, or is otherwise under attack. Scientists reject the concept of a planetwide consciousness, but scientists require replication and corroboration about both the proofs and the methods employed. In a practical world, this is useful. But Gaia is too old, and too wise, to need acceptance or provide evidence. She first awoke during the attack of the evil embodied in the proto-planet Theia, in the aftermath of the great collision which formed the moon and remade the planet. She has been guiding and protecting life on Earth ever since. For four billion years she has guided and protected life on our planet in how to survive, when to evolve, and where and when to move. If humans were not so arrogant, if we could be still as we once could, and listen as we once did, she would lovingly guide and protect us as well. But in our lust for acquisition, we have become a threat, and she speaks to us no more. –From the Tribal Bibal, Chapter 17 zedo, written in the thirty-third year A.C.
It started simply enough. But simply because it was simple, do not think that it was not magnificent. In its way. Although scientists looking back on the matter would see it as the first great harbinger of doom, nearly the entire population of the planet agreed upon this much: it was a breathtaking thing to watch.
(Until, of course, the world got bored, as the world always does, and it turned its collective attention to newer, shinier distractions.)
But when I say it happened simply enough, what I mean is that it did not shock the first witnesses. For when the Great Migration began, it happened in places like Africa, Laos, Haiti, Amazonia, Louisiana—places where the strange is not so strange. Places where animists live, and the idea of great trees uprooting themselves and starting a journey north does not seem all that fantastical. The animists knew, after all, as surely as they knew that the sun would rise in the east, that trees and shrubs and flowers all had spirits, lively and capricious souls, and for these organisms to uproot themselves and move to a different place seemed unusual, perhaps … but not without explanation. Not beyond the realm of credulity. And if these assorted natives saw their rain forests and fields of crops just tear their roots from the ground one vigorous morning, those same peoples also took comfort in the fact that certainly some new species of tree or grain or fruit would migrate to spaces from whence the others had departed.
The entire matter was quite thoroughly documented on film and in some very stunning photographs, so we will recount it rather succinctly for you here, since the purpose of the information in this pod is just to inform people who have somehow forgotten that amazing phenomenon, or who are very young, and have stumbled upon the information in this pod (or vial, as some of you like to call it), and are learning about the Great Migration for the first time.
The Great Migration was, of course, prompted by the Great Change in the Climate.
What so many pompous humans had been denying for decades, the trees knew deep in their souls, and they could feel it from the tips of their roots to the pith of their ringed cores. If they were to survive—not just as an individual tree, but as a species of tree—they must do what they had so very rarely done (and which had never before been witnessed by the humans): they must migrate. And just as it was true for the trees, so it was true for the crops, for the shrubs and bushes, and the flowers of the fields.
The first tree on record to rip its roots out of the ground was a Cashapona; scientific name: “socratea exorrhiza”. We know this because as very primitive as certain dark corners of the world still may have been in the early years of the Twenty-Second Century, it is nonetheless safe to say that there was hardly a primitive in the world that did not own some inexpensive cellphone with a camera on it, and there was nary a tribe that could not point you to their nearest cellphone tower, which they could use to cackle at ancient reruns of Hogan’s Heroes or F Troop or Baywatch, or the latest tele-novella. It was a curious time on the planet: fiercely protective of their ancient ways and rituals, even these centuries-old peoples could not resist a peek at American television.
And so that is how it happened that a child from an obscure tribe in the Amazonian rainforest happened to record the very beginning of the Great Migration. The little boy was minding his own business, gathering prickly fruits for breakfast, when he heard a great groan above him. He stared up and saw what he knew, he just knew, to be a face forming on the trunk of the old tree, under which he had spent so many happy hours playing. It was a full set of almost human features. A mouth, and nose, and eyes were all unmistakably emerging from the bark and moss. With a grimace and a grunt, the great tree heaved from its roots to the very tips of its newest branches. Its trunk shivered, and then, there was a great rumbling. The little boy jumped back, too young to be afraid of the unknown, and watched in wonder as the great tree, with what was clearly an audible cry of pain and gumption, lifted its largest root out of the ground—and then another, and another. And when it put the root back down on the ground, it was a foot away from where it had started. Millions of tiny beings, who had made their lives on and in and around that tree, were startled and terrified—they clearly had planned to live out all their days (or in some cases, hours)—on that one spot. But some of the braver and wiser ones, wee though they were, had the courage to go with that massive moving tree, as it edged its way north.
As it would happen, a man from Texas who was illegally trapping endangered macaws to resell stateside also witnessed the amazing ripping of the roots, and the beginning of the tree’s journey north, so he was the one who was in a better position to get it uploaded and push it to viral. And he got all the credit for it. He also got busted for the illegal bird poaching, so there was that bit of justice.
After that first tree … it was astonishing thing to watch. Although, as history well knows, the entire Great Migration was a massive harbinger of doom.
And now here follows a few verbal snapshots from around the planet: (Although, to whomever is reading this, if you can make your way to a repository of video images, that is the most exhilarating way to relive it. Although we all know that since the Catastrophe, such a thing is easier said than done.)
When the first tree, that grand Cashapona, lifted its roots from the ground, causing itself no small bit of agony, it was an inspiration to the other trees around it. They could all feel the rainforest getting warmer, almost by the hour. Every living thing felt the soundless urgings of ancient Gaia. Humans disregarded them, if they felt them at all, and many less developed plants and animals simply felt the thought … follow. They had been a proud lot, this collection of trees, feeling that they had evolved themselves to be able to withstand the steamy heat of these tropical climes, but it was getting a bit warm, even for them. And drier. They might have been able to stand the higher temperatures, but their bodies thirsted for those beautiful daily deluges of rain, and the storms were dwindling. Fewer. Lighter. It felt like a betrayal.
So when that oldest and wisest of the Socratea began thrusting its roots forward in a jumble of treely steps—first awkward, then with an increasingly mesmerizing waltzing sort of movement, the other trees followed suit. It seemed suicidal to them at first, to rip their roots, elaborate systems that it had taken them a lifetime to establish, and to pull them up from the depths of Mama Earth onto the mushy floor of the rainforest, but after a few moments, it felt rather fine. By nightfall, they had walked several miles. Within a few weeks, they had made their way up through Central America, across the Isthmus, and settled themselves right across the Rio Grande, showing no sympathy or human manners when they edged out and knocked over the last of the dusty and drying cacti.
But by the time they had gotten there, the Great Migration was going on all over the planet, and Canadians (just to name one happily surprised populus) watched in delight through high powered binoculars as millions of corn plantings hoisted their roots high—lifting themselves up by their bootstraps, as one idealistic preacher would have put it—and made their way from the America’s heartland … from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska … to the northernmost border of the United States. Astonished and delighted border patrol guards stood back in childlike wonder as the armies of corn made their way into places with names whose lilting syllables and Aboriginal hearkenings pleased the corn when it fell on their collective ears—exotic locations with names like Winnipeg and Wetaskiwin, Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, Madawaska and Merigomish and Mushaboom. And when the air felt right and the dew kissed their leaves, they stopped, settled down, and let their roots wriggle their way deep into the old dirt that was their new home.
And, lest we forget to mention it, with the forests, and the fields, and with every kind of migration of flora, so also moved the ecosystem with them. All of the heartbeats, the giant and the wee, the mammalian and the reptilian and the insect, those pulses that thrust forward the lives of the ugly critters and the regal creatures, they all shivered and skipped at first, terrified of this new stark choice thrust without warning into their petite existences. But they realized almost instantaneously that this tree, this cornstalk, this snapdragon that was their dinner, their diner, their shelter, the shield, their camouflage, their universe, their home sweet home, their comfort and joy--if the ecosystemites did not follow this flora, this fauna would soon be D.O.A. And so, with the migration of the plants, came the migration of the creatures as well--the great drumming thrum of life, taking matters into their own hands (paws, claws, hooves, wings, tentacles, talons), and hoping that they might find some way to circumvent the folly of humankind.
And speaking of the folly of humankind.
Social media, experiencing a resurgence after the Great Catastrophe (not to be confused by the historically ignorant with the Great Migration), was fat with people telling their personal stories of how the Great Migration had impacted them in all manner of delightful ways.
Bob and Joy Henderson, of McMurdo Station, West Antarctica, became famous overnight, when several dozen apple trees of an astonishing variety marched onto their acreage, planted their roots, and continued offering low hanging fruit as though nothing had ever happened.
And the high-rise apartment complexes of Scandinavia and Greenland found themselves suddenly surrounded by glorious rhododendron plants in all the popular colors—white and red and pink and orange and yellow—and thanks to the radiation still lingering in the air, some places were graced with even more mind-bending colors—neon purple, and electric blue, and one particularly unique bloom that pulsed through a rainbow of different colors, if you watched over the course of several hours. It was wonderful. Some vines rich with buds would even slither into your house as you slept, if you left the door open a sliver.
The Raskolnikov family, of Siberia, for example, provided a wonderful lengthy video of the butterfly garden that had ingratiated itself into their front yard almost overnight, so drawn were the Phlox and Aster and Lantanas and Verbena and Zinnias to this new, temperate terrain. What a delightful change it was from the deserts of Virginia and Tennessee, where the death of their kind had seemed all but inevitable … before the inspiring migration of the trees, which had given courage to so many genera and species that were so much tinier and more timid. The Raskolnikov son, a whiz with creating functional video equipment from the detritus found after the Great Catastrophe, had even been able to capture it on video as the plants migrated in during the night, and sank their delicate roots into the yielding and anxious soil. The whole world watched it in speed motion photography, and there was much huzzah all around.
And where there was massive bodies of water, now gorgeously green (from the neon lime bursts of new algae strains), or Jacques Cousteau aqua (erroneously adjectivilized, since this new hypnotic blue-green shading was the result of radiation absorption--where were we? Ah yes--when the grand forests and field crops and phalanxes of flowers arrived at some large body of water, they were more often than not met by some cargo ship or ferry boat or barge or some similar sailing vessel, and always, the campesinos on show and merchant marines aboard standing, staring, in shock and awe, at the sight before them. They seemed to know that the plants knew so much more than they did. That they were on some great, grand, global mission. And so they helped the plant kingdom in its great relocation. Some crossed themselves, some said a prayer. For what, they were not sure…
And then, of course, there were the legions of plants that simply crossed great and grand bodies of water on the bridges of plastic trash, here and there, joining continents and peoples….
And if the Great Migration meant that millions of people in less fortunate places on the planet were now starving to death in agony, suffering from the overnight loss of crops from which they had eked out the barest of sustenances, well that was all the way around the world; people could only focus on the delight of their new gardens, the fat fruit trees, and the cotillion of bugs and butterflies and small delightful varmints that had escorted the migrants. It was wonderful. And if the Great Migration, caused by the Great Climate Change, had caused inexplicable suffering somewhere else, well that had always been the way of the world. It didn’t mean that one shouldn’t enjoy one’s morning bowl of strawberries, while watching the sun rise over the South Pole.
At the end of the day—or, more literally, at the end of the Migration—the world writ large agreed that it had all been a delightful novelty, a panoramic journey of nature into new lands where vegetation of all kinds sought new homes. Stories were told about it, and scientists all over the globe responded as you would expect—in accordance with whomever it might be that was paying their salary. New arboretums, designed to show off to best advantage a region’s fine new collection of greenery, sprang up nearly overnight, and tourists flocked in to gawk. These massive greenhouses were financed by the new villages and hamlets, which themselves had been springing up here and there, after the Great Catastrophe. And the storehouses of knowledge, located strategically around the globe, expanded their collection to include stories and theories and the movement of millions of plants across the planet, and all by the power of their own root systems initiating a grand and astonishing walkabout. All by the sheer force of animist will. Of the organic drive to survive.
Oh, there were those who warned that this magnificent passage of the trees was a terrifying thing, a sign of times ahead … so bleak and hot, so dry and deadly, that life as we know it would end forever.
But those people were largely perceived as party-poopers, grim gusses, raining on everybody’s parade.
“Oh”, they thought wryly to themselves, “Oh, that we had the power to do just that.”