Novel, first published: Putnam 1971
The story jumps ahead five-thousand years. Jason Whitney and his wife, like the Websters in City, have been living for five thousand years in the same house. They have remained alone, although they can readily communicate with the departed "People," including their many descendants scattered throughout the galaxy who flourish on innumerable planets and possess the power to travel freely throughout the universe. They receive a visit from their cousin from the center of the galaxy, who breaks the news that the People are on their way back to Earth. The humans have not been changed by their travels to the stars - they are brutal, arrogant, and materialistic in their use of technology - and will most certainly return to exploit Earth and destroy its Edenic way of life. Cousin John also brings news of the Principle, the central intelligence of the Galaxy, an aloof, uncaring intelligence, whose awareness of humanity may be likened to humanity's awareness of a microbe.
One of the Indian maidens, Evening Star, discovers that she can converse with the trees and animals of the woods and, more than any human has an insight into the reality of the community of life throughout nature. She falls in love with another parapsychic, David, a "pilgrim" from the West and descendant of agricultural workers who is a "healer" with the power to kill or cure all creatures, even aliens. David "cures" the sorrow of an ugly alien resembling a can of worms, who came to Earth seeking his "soul." When David and Evening Star join their powers, they have a revelation of the wholeness and purpose of the universe.
Concerned about the return of the People, Jason and his Indian friend Red Cloud (despite Red Cloud's misgivings - Indians dislike and distrust all machines) reluctantly visit the wild robots. The robots have been busy perfecting the "Project," a super-robot who has taken command of their society and has achieved communication with the Principle, becoming its spokesman. But when the Project first contacts the Principle, it shows little interest, replying that "humanity is a transient factor and is none of our concern" (Chapter 22).
As Simak warned, the novel reaches no carefully planned resolution. When representatives of the People arrive, the robots give them the message, through the "Project," that Earth in its present condition is part of a deliberate experiment by the Principle, with which the People must not interfere.
Ewald, Robert J.: When the Fires Burn High and the Wind is from the North, p.101-102