Early on in creating the world and culture of Planting Life in a Dying City, I wrote the life story of ‘a random person in the world’ to get a feel for the culture and society. This is the life story of Koltche.
Koltche was born in the communal area of the family compound and named for the hearth–the first thing eir birthing parent saw after the birth. Ey spent most of eir first 6 months with eir birthing parent*** but any of eir parents would care for eir or nurse eir at need.
At six months ey was given the run of the compound in the care of the grandparents and elders. Ey continued to nurse for 2 more years, but most of eir care was taken by Paumtche, one of the grandparents.
When Koltche learned to walk, ey began spending most of eir time with eir younger siblings. Ey learned to help tend the family garden and home, at first imitating eir siblings and grandparents in play and then helping in earnest and ey learned what to do and how.
At 5 years old, Koltche was allowed to leave the compound in the care of eir siblings. They explored the great city, especially the wharf area, hunted for fish and seaweed in the shallows, and sailed the small boats out to the reefs to hunt grouper and sea urchin and skates.
Koltche quickly learned to swim and dive, but never gained skill with the small boats. Ey’s skill with a spear caught the attention of one of the grandparents, who began taking eir into the jungle surrounding the city and teaching eir to hunt on land. The jungle was strange and disturbing, but ey learned quickly and the endurance swimming taught translated well to grandparent’s endless jog through the jungle.
Though it wasn’t talked about, everyone understood that Koltche would not be staying with the family.
When ey came of age, the family entered negotiations with another family that survived through foraging the jungle. The new family was poorer and less respected than Koltche’s family of traders, but a marriage would give Koltche’s family access to trade goods they normally had to buy through city merchants.
Koltche met eir prospective spouses and they spent time together for several moons. Koltche found that sex wasn’t something ey enjoyed, butthe marriage group was well established and already had several children so eir participation wasn’t needed for the family to continue.
The change was gradual, with Koltche spending more and more time with the marriage group until ey stopped going ‘home’ in the evening.
With eir new spouses, ey spent most of eir time in the jungle, hunting and learning what plants to gather. While ey never went on the great trading ships, conversations around eir birth hearth had taught eir much about what was and wasn’t valuable. Ey used this knowledge to help eir new family decide what to focus their gathering on and who to bargain with.
Ey never lost eir love of the sea, going at least once a moon to the harbor to dive and gather the oceans bounty. These trips were welcomed by eir marriage family, who rarely had fish to eat and enjoyed the treat when eir fishing went well.
As in eir youth, Koltche remained a loner, most comfortable on eir own. It wasn’t until Aiutche came of age and joined the marriage group that ey found anyone to connect with. Aitche was notoriously clumsy but one of the best trackers in the family. Ey and Koltche often hunted together, Aitche tracking the game they sought and Koltche bringing it down.
Koltche had been with the family 5 years when one of the children caught eir eye. Chotaikystche was often following Koltche to the docks and ran with the children of the fishing families as often as with their siblings. Koltche didn’t act immediately, but discussed it with eir spouses, in the normal way they discussed all the family’s children. No official decision was made but the general feeling was to wait and see.
Chotaikystche continued to haunt the docks and Koltche traded favors with a friendly fishing family to allow the child to go on their child-boats. Chotaikystche takes to the boats easily and gets along well with the fishing children. Koltche makes hirself available to answer questions Chotaikystche has about live among a sea family.
Others among the older children are also being guided towards their future path. Chopaumtche begins tagging alone with Koltche and Aiutche learning from them both tracking and hunting.
For Koltche, early mornings hunts are increasingly challenging. Dimming eyes are less a problem for eir than for Aiutche, but sore bones and old injuries make the early cool painful. As Chopaumtche gains in skill, they start staying back at the soawpawt some days. One day Koltche stays behind, a few days later Aiutche stays behind. As Chopaumtche learns from them, they learn from their parents, the grandparents.
Used to long hours on the trail, Aiutche easily fell into caring for the tchaftche, the toddlers. Koltche, to eir surprise, found hirself helping eir siblings with the few babies. The patience gained waiting to the right moment to strike and the skill reading non-verbal cues served eir well in handling colic and knowing what caused a baby upset.
Koltche had little interactions with the elders, but the last of them died in those years when ey and Aiutche were learning to be grandparents. Ey saw the change this brought to the grandparents, some of whom seems bereft and like they had lost their way without the advise and guidance of their parents. At this time, Koltche and eir siblings began taking medicine to stop fertility. The family had enough children and it was important the break between generations be unambiguous. When there were no more babies to tend, Koltche pitched in with random work about the home. There would be more babies soon enough.
The oldest of the grandparents began retiring to elder status. Chopaumtche took more and more the trail work and Koltche and Aiutche stayed more and more at home. Until the day came when Chopaumtche read a trail that Aiutche could not.
The hunt was Chopaumtche’s from then on. Koltche admitted privately to zeself that ey had stayed on the trail the last year from stubbornness. Chopaumtche’s acceptance and respect for eir need to remain, instead of pushing to take eir place, earned Chopaumtche eir respect and support in taking leadership among the emerging generation of parents.
The first marriage was an exchange. Chotaikystche married out to the fishing family, and one of theirs married into the new generation of parents. With this marriage, Koltche and eir siblings officially became grandparents. The first babies came with in a year.
Koltche rarely got involved in the wider matters of the family. Ey did not participate in negotiations for marriages or trade arrangements with other families. Nor did ey have any interest in sitting in the council house.
Instead, ey became a mentor to the young parents. As the one member of the grandparents with the most experience with babies (even though ey could never have had a baby of eir own), Koltche was the one they would come to with fears and concerns both during and just after birth.
Ey finally became close to another one of eir spouses, a grandparent who had birthed four children for the family, all of whom survived to marriage age. Suotaikystche took primary responsibility for tending the pregnant parents and assisting with births, which through ey and Koltche into close association on a regular basis.
The years passed quickly, with most of the youngest parents being married-out so they could be in a like-age group with their spouses.
Aiutche was the first to take one of the parent’s under eir guidance. Chasing tchaftche was for the young, when all was said and done, and Aiutche’s knees were hurting and energy dwindling.
Suotsaikystche too soon took a student, a young parent who was too fertile for eir own good and wore eir body out with pregnancies before it’s time. Ey would have no more children, the parents’ agreed. But eir experience made eir a wonderful apprentice for Suotsai.
Koltche never officially took a student, but ey was quick to recruit a few of the parents to take over walking the colicly babies for eir, as eir knees became less and less able to keep up. With in a few years, ey was sure that there were three parents who would gladly step into eir role when the time came. And with how fertile the parents had been this generation, they might need that many.
Koltche did not live to retire to elder, but passed quietly in front of the fire, a baby sleeping in eir lap.
Ey’s body was taken to the jungle and left for two weeks. Then eir skull was retreived, cleaned, and given a place of honor in the family home, next to eir few spouses who had gone before eir.
I made several changing to the language — especially how names were grammatically structured — after writing this. But with some variation, this is how most of the characters of Planting Life expected their lives to go.
If you missed it, Seasons 1 & 2 of Planting Life in a Dying City are available on my website, Season 3 should be posting here next winter.