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  • Writer's picturetrevorcarterva .

The Mind of Nature

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

In my latest novel, Datura Serpentis, I explore the relationship and interconnectedness between humans and the natural world. It's a story that combines elements of fantasy, suspense, and science fiction; a thrilling contemporary fantasy work of fiction.

Below is a sneak peek (pitch and first chapter) of my novel, Datura Serpentis.

Pitch: In a world where the bond between Nature and humans is frayed, Alaina Landry, a botanist with an extraordinary ability to communicate with the natural world, uses her rare gift to battle the dark forces behind the creation of unusual plants, ones that breed deadly insects that pose an existential threat to humanity.



Trevor Lang Carter

Copyright©2023 Trevor Lang Carter

All Rights Reserved.

“In time the earth will be inhabited by almost god-like beings who shall analyze and discuss the remnants of humanity as we now discuss the chimpanzee.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox, American Author and Poet

Chapter 1

Once there was a tree

—Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

There are dark forces in nature, born from the human mind.

When the elements of Nature synergize to bring nourishing rain to thirsty crops, the farmer’s heart blossoms with joy. But he knows his crops need more than just rain. They also need the invigorating energy of the sun to become healthy.

He understands there is also a delicate balance between the different elements of Nature necessary for his crops to materialize. Too much sun will cause sunscald on the leaves. Those leaves will eventually dry up and crumble, leaving the crops exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Too much rain will drown his precious harvest.

Then there are the weeds, those baneful tendrils that creep up through the soil to strangle his crops, leaving them lifeless and listless on the ground. He may wonder why weeds exist at all, not realizing that they help protect and revitalize degraded soils, which provides an ideal habitat for organisms that contribute to the biological control of pesky insects and provide fodder for certain animals.

The farmer may question why there seems to be an imbalance in Nature at times that can threaten his livelihood. Does he consider the possibility that the imbalance he perceives could be directly related to the destructive forces set in motion by his species?

Nature exemplifies the essence of dualism, having both a nurturing hand and a darker hand that seems indifferent or even antagonistic to human beings. It can produce a gentle breeze that stirs the imagination of a poet. But it can also generate a tornado that whips that poet into the air, tossing him or her about like a rag doll, causing them serious injury or even death.

Perhaps the human mind reflects the polarity of Nature. From that mind, beautiful dreams emerge. But that mind also produces inflictive imaginings.

Or does Nature reflect the polarity of the human mind, acting as a feedback system, revealing both the light and dark inside of us, releasing karmic forces that can nourish and plunder?

Who can know the mind of Nature? Who can understand her logic? She giveth but also taketh away. While one farmer’s crops are nurtured, another farmer’s crops lay desolate, nourished only by the sorrow falling from his eyes.

Six-year-old Alaina Landry had not yet learned the complexities of Nature or experienced its whimsicality. She looked at it as most children her age would—through the filtered lens of innocence. She saw only colorful rainbows, dainty flowers, and beautiful butterflies.

On this particular day, Alaina’s knowledge of Nature expanded even further when she found a bundle of Creeping Phlox cascading over some rocks near the edge of the woods in her backyard.

Barefooted, she padded over to the flowers, feeling the lush green carpet of the Earth slipping between her toes with each step.

Standing below an azure canvas, stroked with several wispy white clouds, Alaina was entranced by the pink petals; pink being her favorite color. Her chestnut-brown hair flittered as a gentle breeze combed through it, moving it like the strands of a Weeping Willow caressed by the wind.

Alaina’s mother, Beth, stood at the hedges in her backyard talking to her neighbor, eighty-four-year-old, Clara Cornwell, diverting her eyes between Clara and her six-year-old daughter as the conversation about Clara’s deceased husband carried on; he had recently passed away.

Alaina, wearing a short blue polo dress, plunged her knees into the soft viridescent grass, studying the wildflowers carefully, gently caressing the petals with her fingers. She bent over, moving her nose toward them, breathing in deeply, intoxicated by their enchanting aroma. Her honey-colored eyes glinted with ebullience as she turned to look at her mother, waving for her to come over and look at her newfound treasure.

A moment later, the conversation between Beth and Clara ended; Clara’s daughter had just pulled into the driveway.

Kneeling beside her daughter, captivated by the beauty of the flowers and overjoyed that her daughter was fascinated with nature, Beth looked at Alaina with twinkles in her eyes. “Aren’t they beautiful, Alaina?”

Alaina nodded. With an inquisitive look on her face, she asked, “What are they, Mom?”

Beth, being a “nature nut” as her husband often called her, loved exploring the woods. She had two large bookcases filled with books on flowers, plants, trees, and insects. It was her love for nature that nurtured Alaina’s curiosity about the natural world.

Clara touched one of the pink petals and replied, “Creeping Phlox.”

“Creeping?” Alaina cast a curious gaze at the clump of flowers.

Beth, happy to satiate her daughter’s curiosity, explained the reason for the name. “Notice how the flowers spread across the ground and move over the rocks,” she said, sweeping her hand inches above the flowers.

Alaina nodded.

“They creep across the ground when they grow,” Beth continued.

“Oh,” said Alaina.

“This is only one species of phlox. There are hundreds more. They belong to the Polemoniaceae family of flowering plants.”

“Pole moan ah see,” Alaina attempted to pronounce.

“Close,” said Beth and grinned. “These look like Phlox stolonifera. They can grow to eight inches tall, sometimes taller.”

“You sure know a lot about flowers, Mom,” Alaina said.

“And I’ll teach you everything I know,” Beth said with joy on her lips.

As time passed and Alaina grew older, her mother continued to impart her wisdom about the natural world. She would take Alaina on short hikes through the woods behind their house, educating her on the different varieties of plants, flowers, trees, and insects. It was the inception of a wonderful relationship between Alaina and Nature, one that would take deep roots in her psyche and later blossom into something extraordinary.

Alaina, like her mother, kept a journal containing information regarding the plants, flowers, and trees that she and her mother discovered on their many excursions into the woods. As for the insects, Alaina had less interest in them. The only insect she liked was the butterfly. She called them “flying flowers” because of their colorful wings, which she said reminded her of flower petals.

It wasn’t only the sumptuous beauty of Nature that captivated Alaina’s mind. As she grew older, she developed an extraordinary bond with it. When she went on nature excursions, she felt as if time slowed down, that she had entered another realm, one that brought her a profound sense of peace. There were times, while exploring the woods, that she could sense an all-pervading presence, one that stroked her imagination and enlivened her. She wondered if the trees, the flowers, the plants, and even the animals she observed, were communicating with her.

Alaina’s mother often used allegorical tales intertwined with metaphors and symbolism to share her philosophies and wisdom about life with her daughter. Then there were times when she spoke with a more direct and literal tone. Beth had an extraordinary ability for planting and nurturing the seeds of her wisdom within Alaina’s mind. There was one lesson that would later have a profound impact on Alaina. The lesson would come at a time when she was blossoming into womanhood, at the ripe old age of twelve.

Beth and Alaina were exploring the woods one day, walking close to the edge of a spirited creek, when Alaina discovered a plant that she’d never seen before. She darted across the grass to where the plant sprung from the ground.

Beth followed after her daughter.

Alaina, glancing over at her mother standing beside her, asked what the name of the flower was.

“This is a Turk’s-cap Lily. It’s a perennial wildflower. Look at how the foliage spirals up the stem,” Beth replied.

Alaina’s gaze moved from the leaves to the colorful petals which were fiery orange with speckles of maroon on them. Like the inquisitive girl she was, she asked her mom why the spots were there.

“Those spots appear as a result of root rot and fungus.”

“They’re so pretty. And they’re super tall,” Alaina noticed.

Beth huffed. “This is nothing. These plants here are only about four feet high. They can grow up to eight feet.”

Alaina’s brows sprouted up. “Whoa!”

“Look at the stamens.”

“They look like an insect with dark orange heads,” Alaina commented.

“Those stamens contain precious nectar that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.”

Alaina touched the stem of one of the plants. “They’re so thin. You’d think they’d curve toward the ground as tall as they are.”

“Yeah. Seems like they would. But their roots are secured firmly and deeply in the soil. They have a strong base.”

Alaina nodded. “Kind of like when you build a house. You need a good foundation.”

Beth cocked one brow at her daughter with one side of her mouth curled up. “What do you know about building houses?”

“That’s what Dad says when he’s talking about school. He always says,”—deepening her voice— “if you’re going to go to college, you need to keep your grades up. You gotta build a strong foundation…” She chuckled at herself.

Beth chortled. “I didn’t know your dad talked like a sick old man.” She grinned wide. “Please. Continue.”

Alaina shook her head with her lips turned up. “Okay.” She continued in the same gruff tone she used before. “It’s like building a house. You gotta have a solid foundation. Otherwise, your house will crumble to the ground one day.”

“He’s right,” said Beth.

“Yeah. Dad’s pretty smart at some things.”

“Take this plant for example. It digs its roots into the soil so that it can get the nutrients it needs to sustain itself. But it doesn’t just take from the soil.”

Alaina narrowed her eyes at her mom.

“There’s a lot that goes on underneath the surface. You know that the roots anchor the plant. They absorb and conduct water and nutrients from the soil to other plant parts. They also store energy. On the very tip of the root is something called a root cap. The root cap only serves one purpose. It helps the root penetrate the soil. The root caps are shed as the roots grow. Then the roots are lubricated as they go deeper into the soil. Behind the root cap is something called the apical meristem. It produces new root cells and a new root cap. Those cells get longer and push deeper into the soil.”

Alaina looked nonplussed.

Beth, seeing the confusion on her daughter’s face, realized her explanation was verbose.

“I didn’t catch all of that, Mom. But, please, don’t repeat it,” Alaina said and grinned.

Beth’s lips curled up. “I know. I did it again. But there’s a lesson to be learned from the interaction between the soil and the roots of a plant.”

Alaina, knowing that her mom was about to impart her infinite wisdom, said, “Trim your words back, Mom.”

Beth cocked her head. “Trim my words back? Well… Aren’t you a smarty pants… Okay. I’ll make it brief.”

Thank God, Alaina thought.

“We, humans, are like plants. We are sustained by the gracious hand of Mother Nature. If we plant our roots deep into her fertile soil, we’ll become strong and resilient, able to weather even the worst of storms. Plants don’t just take from the soil. They give something back. The roots of the plant help stabilize the soil, keeping it from eroding over time. We—”

“Humans,” Alaina interjected.

Beth nodded. “Right. We will be required to give something back to Nature one day.”

“You’re talking about…like death, right?”

“Yes. That’s part of it. But there’s something else. There’s something inside of us that cannot be seen with the eyes. It’s a part of us that interacts with all living things, with Nature.”

“Like our spirit?”

“Something like that. Your thoughts have an impact on Nature. If your thoughts are pure and wholesome, they will blossom into something wonderful. If they’re not…”

“I think I understand.” I have no clue what that woman is talking about.

She has no idea what I’m saying. “Let me just finish with this. And it’s a very simple concept that anyone can understand. What you give, you get back. Life is about give and take.”

Alaina nodded. “Yeah. It’s like karma.” Her friend Sarah’s parents were Buddhists. Sarah was the one who introduced Alaina to the concept of karma.

“Yes. It’s very similar to that. What you do with intention will have an effect, not only on you, but others,” Beth continued.

“I get it. I really do, Mom.”

“Good. Now be mindful of your thoughts,” Beth said and rubbed the top of Alaina’s head.

“And you be mindful of your words,” Alaina said and giggled.

“Why you little…” Beth wrapped her arms around Alaina and swung her around in circles. When she stopped, they both nearly fell into the creek.

Beth’s lessons continued as Alaina grew up. But it wasn’t until Alaina entered high school that her relationship with Nature truly flourished. During that transformative period in her life, she would meet a remarkable girl who would lead her into the deeper realms of Nature, opening her mind to a new reality, one that would continue to unfold throughout her life.

As Alaina’s knowledge of Nature grew, she began to comprehend its paradoxical quintessence, challenging certain assumptions she held about it. But she was certain of one impression she received from Nature—it was imbued with intelligence. Just how intelligent, she didn’t know, but she was determined to find out.

A day would come when Alaina would begin to understand the underlying structure of the natural world, revealing to her the existence of other forces intimately entwined with it. Some of those forces would heighten her psychic sensibilities, while others would become an existential threat, not only to her but to all of humanity.

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