Short Stories, Poems, and Other Works in Progress
Updated: May 14, 2020
The Upside-Down Tree People By J.T. Blossom
Lydian and her father were walking in the woods one day, when her Dad stopped and said, “By Cracker, will you look at that!”
“Look at what, Daddy?”
“That! Now that’s a big one!”
“You mean the tree? There are lots of big trees here. It’s a forest!”
“That’s no tree, Lydian. That’s an Upside-Down Tree Person, that’s what that is. Maybe even the Queen since she is so big! We’re so lucky to find her!”
Lydian was used to her Dad saying stuff that was completely wrong all the time.
“You’re bonkers, Dad! There’s no such thing as an upside-down tree person!”
“Oh, but there are, Lydian, can’t you see? Look closely. The queenly waist there stuck in the ground? Her royal legs split off and kicking up at the sky? I know her legs are not too dignified sticking up like that, but she didn’t ask to be stuck upside down in the ground. It’s just what happened when she fell from outer space.”
“That’s just a tree, you Kookamonga! You can’t fool me!”
“Okay, you win. I’m the Kookamonga, not you. No, wait. That’s not true. You’re the Kookamonga.”
“No, Dad. You’re the Kookamonga.”
“No, I’m not. You’re the Kookamonga!”
“I am not a Kookamonga. You’re the Kookamonga!”
Raising his finger for her to wait, Dad said, “Uhm, Kookamonga, would you please excuse me for a moment? I need to say something to the Queen here.”
“Da...aaad! Oh, okay.”
Dad left Lydian on the well-worn trail and stomped through the rich forest soil to the nearby giant tree. He stuck his nose and butt-shaped chin into the bark.
“Dear Queen, please don’t be angry with my sweet daughter,” he whispered loudly enough for her to hear back. “She’s just a Kookamonga and doesn’t know you as well as I do. She is fooled by your disguise...like most Kookamonga humans are.”
“Dad,” Lydian whispered back at him. “You are the Kookamonga. Look at what you’re doing! Talking to a tree!”
“Sshhh, Lydian! It’s not any old tree. It’s the Queen. Ssh! The Queen is telling me something.”
Her dad raised his bushy eyebrows at Lydian and put his ear to the bark.
“Yes, uh huh, yes, I see. Hmm. I didn’t know. Wow! You mean that happened just today? Well, that’s wonderful news! Man! Congratulations! Can I tell the Kookamonga here? No? Yeah, you’re probably right. Okay, then. I’ll keep your secret for you, oh Queen, if I have to, but she’s really going to want to know. What? What’s that you say? Oh, you mean if she passes the test? Okay then. That’s only fair, I guess. But not otherwise, right? Even if I really want to tell her? Yes, I get it, my Queen. That’s important, yes. You have my word. I won’t tell her, unless… Okay, bye Queen of the Upside-Down Tree People! Congratulations to you and your people! Good job! I’m so happy for you! Bye!”
Dad walked back out of the forest to Lydian waiting for him on the well-worn trail.
“Dad, you were talking to a tree. Um, Dad? What were you talking to the tree about?”
“I can’t tell you. It’s a secret, but it’s very exciting.”
“You can tell me. I’m good at keeping secrets.”
“Oh, it’s not a secret you would have to keep from anyone else. It’s something the Queen said she would want you to tell everyone if you knew.”
“Well, then, just tell me then.”
“No, she says you’re not ready. It’s a secret until you’re ready.”
“I’m ready! I’m ready! Tell me! Pleeeese! What did the Tree Queen say to you?”
“It’s The Queen of the Upside-Down Tree People. The Queen of the Tree People is someone entirely different. But not really. I mean, not really anymore. Oh, but I forget! That’s part of the secret. Now I’ve gone and told you too much! Oops! The Tree Queens are going to be very mad at me. Oh dear. Maybe I am a Kookamonga. Let’s talk about something else, shall we? And do some more great walking on this well-worn path.”
And with that, Dad started walking again. Lydian hurried after him and finally caught up with him after a minute or two.
“Nice day we’re having, Lydian. Don’t you think?” continued Dad, swiveling his burly head to look about at the trees on each side of the path.
“Daaaad! You can tell me. I won’t tell anyone! I mean I will tell everyone! I mean, I won’t! Whatever! Whatever the Queen wants me to do!”
Dad stopped in his tracks. “You mean you really want to find out? You’ll have to do what the Queen wants you to do.”
“Yes!” said Lydian. “I really want to find out! Tell me!”
“Well, she did say you could learn her secret and tell the world her whole story if you could pass an eye test.”
“An eye test?”
“Yes, well, more like a seeing test, a sight test.”
“I’m good at tests in school.”
“Yes, you are, Lydian, but this is different. It’s a seeing test, a way-of-seeing-test.”
“And you’ll have to hear the Queen’s story before you can pass the test.”
“Okay, I can try. Should we go back?”
“No, I already know the story, and the test we can take anywhere. Well, anywhere where there are trees.”
“There are trees here! Look! Tell me! Tell me! What is the Queen’s story?”
“What is the Queen of the Upside-Down Tree People’s story, you should say.”
“But you just called her the Queen!”
“That’s because I’ve already spoken out loud her real title, and you haven’t done that yet. The Upside-Down Tree People are real, Lydian. You need to name them, to know their story, before you can say you know them.”
“Okay, she’s the Queen of the...”
“No, wait, wait, not yet! You haven’t heard the story yet!”
“Well, tell me, already!”
“I’m telling you! I’m telling you, Kookamonga!”
“You’re the Kookamonga!”
“I am not! You are!”
“No, I’m not! You are!”
“Okay, you’re right. For the moment, I’ll be the Kookamonga. Ready to hear the story?”
“Okay, sit right down here on this log with me and prepare yourself for seeing. If you pass the seeing test, the Queen told me I could tell you the secret, and you can then tell everyone you know. But you have to pass the test first. That’s very important.”
“I’m ready for the test. I told you I am very good at tests!”
“Yes, you are. You’re very smart at tests and many other things way more important than tests. Okay, but you have to hear the story first before taking the test.”
“Okay, tell me the story, already!”
“And no secret if you don’t pass the seeing test!”
“I know, I know. Tell me the story, pleeeese!”
“And you have to call her by her proper name!”
“Wait, does that part come before or after the seeing test?”
“After. How you say it is part of the test. It’s easy to laugh at the Upside-Down Tree People and not take them seriously, but their story is very sad.”
“I don’t like sad stories.”
“Well, it’s sad up until the ending. Then it’s very happy.”
“Ooookay. Daaaad! Are you ever going to tell me the story?”
“Of course I am, you Kookamonga. I’m going to tell you right now!”
“You’re the Kookamonga!”
“Oh, right. I forgot. Wait, no I’m not! You’re the Kookamonga!”
“I am not the Kookamonga! You’re the Kookamonga!”
“Okay, well I’ll be the Kookamonga just so we can get to the story.”
“Goodie! Tell me!”
“Well, the Upside-Down Tree People were not upside down on their own planet, a planet far away called Otherland that was just one big ocean. The Upside-Down Tree People were swimmers called Leaf Paddlers who used their many arms with leaves to paddle about freely while their hair absorbed food from the air.”
“Yes! Wow is right! And all was great on their planet until the Queen on one of her royal swims ran into the Shark King who ruled the waters.
Now the Shark King used to get along with the Queen and her Leaf Paddlers until he had a very bad dream one night after watching television that filled him with fear and anger. He couldn’t rid himself of the feelings from his very bad dream, so he swam from his underwater shark palace and caught up with the Queen on her royal swim.
“My people have been complaining that you Leaf Paddlers have been disturbing the water too much with all your swimming about and having too many babies,” proclaimed the Shark King rubbing his sore head with his fin. “We don’t need you or like your kind anymore. We want the ocean all to ourselves because we are fierce and have big teeth and you don’t. By my authority as the ruler of this world, I am declaring that you must leave our planet immediately!”
The Queen was shocked and sad. Leave the planet? But they have lived here since before anyone could remember! She and the Leaf Paddlers had gotten along with everyone up until now. This was their home. The Shark King was obviously not in his right mind, but there was nothing she could do.
“You have until tonight to gather your obnoxious paddler people and board this giant asteroid boat I have rented from the Star Travelers. The Captain will take you away from here forever!”
“But where will he take us?” said the Queen. Her paddle leaves quivered in the water with fear and sadness.
“Oh, somewhere out there in space. What do I care as long as you are out of my ocean? Goodbye, Leafy Queen. When you are gone my headache will get much better, I am sure. They told me so on T.V. Find the captain and gather your people on the asteroid boat. You have one day to do so. Anyone left behind will be eaten!”
And the Shark King swam away as best he could while holding his head in his fins.”
“Oh, poor Queen. What did she do?” asked Lydian.
“What could she do? She was just a gentle swimming giant. She pulsed a message through the waters to her people, and they all floated into the Captain’s asteroid boat, crying and saying goodbye to their ocean home where they had lived peacefully for many years even among the shark people and all the other creatures of the sea.”
“So where did they go?”
The asteroid boat lifted them from the planet and zipped them into space. It was horrible in space, very cramped because the asteroid was so small and hard and uncomfortable. They missed their ocean so much, and many Leaf Paddlers, especially the young ones who had yet to branch out and feel their way in the world, got very sick.”
“Did they lose their leaves?”
“Yes, some did, and it got so bad after many days in space that the Queen got desperate and said to the Captain, “Please let us get off at the first planet you see that has an ocean.”
“My pleasure,” said the asteroid boat captain who just wanted everyone off his asteroid so he could sleep and go space-fishing all day long again.
“Well, there’s only one planet nearby - Earth,” said the Captain. But the Captain already knew he was going to Earth because the Shark King instructed him to find a planet with land and ocean and drop the Leaf Paddlers onto the land just to be mean.”
“Why was the Shark King so mean?”
“Well, people with too many teeth just are that way sometimes when they get a headache from a bad dream that they think is real.”
“Mean old Shark King!”
“Yes, it’s sad. But what’s sadder is the Captain did what the Shark King instructed him to do. He dumped the Leaf Paddlers off high over all the continents on earth. Not one landed in the ocean.”
“Oh, no! That’s so mean!”
“So when the asteroid ejected them, each leaf swimmer fell from space toward land head first, their branches and leaves flapping wildly in the wind behind them. When they hit the ground they sunk halfway down and got stuck. That’s how they became the Upside-Down Tree People.”
“That happened to the Queen?”
“Good question, but what should you call her?”
“That happened to the Queen of the Upside-Down People?”
“Right. Good. Well stated! Now that you know her story and have named her, you have the right to call her just the Queen, and, yes, that did happen to her. Can’t you see her legs sticking up there?”
Dad looked up and so did Lydian. Lydian looked back down at the ground.
“That must have hurt her head a lot!”
“It did, especially when she was used to the soft ocean. The Earth is very hard and earthy, not like the watery, easy feel she was used to. The Queen wasn’t home anymore and her sore head was stuck in a strange, dark, and dirty place with all kinds of rocks and roots everywhere, the roots from other types of trees, the ones who were at home in the forest and would never think of themselves as being upside down.”
“What else was down there in the forest soil?”
Lydian took her shoes and socks off and dug her toes into the dirt next to the well-worn path. It felt damp and cool.
“Lots of strange things not found in the ocean - earthworms and mold and networks of mushroom roots connecting every part of the forest floor.”
“Yes. Mushroom roots are amazing. They can go for miles under the earth, like the old telephone wires you can still see sometimes on poles by the side of the road. They even send messages like those old telephone wires, believe it or not.”
“What kind of messages?”
“Well, when the Queen and her subjects became the Upside-Down Tree People, the Earth Tree People, who hadn’t fallen from space with the Queen and who didn’t think they were upside down, sent messages through the mushroom roots to each other that a strange new breed of tree had just arrived and were not to be welcomed because they were strangers.”
“Oh, how sad for the Queen!”
“Yes, she was very upset, and so were her subjects. All through the forests in every land the Earth Trees shunned the Upside-Down Tree People and wouldn’t talk to them or share advice with them about how to live in their new home in the forest. This really made the Upside-Down Tree People very sad because they needed help to learn to live with everyone. Things were so different here on Earth than in the ocean on their original planet. They missed Otherland, but they couldn’t go back. They felt really stuck!”
“Dad, how many Upside-Down Tree People are there?”
“That’s a very good question, Lydian. The asteroid boat was very huge. Shall we go look for some Upside-Down Tree People and see? I think there are some of her subjects who landed back there by the Queen.”
Lydian scrambled to put on her socks and shoes again. It was hard for her to tie her shoelaces and look around at trees at the same time. Her dad just watched her and smiled.
“Ready!” said Lydian. She heard him, but she didn’t care that her dad called her a Kookamonga again at that moment. She just wanted to find some Upside-Down Tree People.
“So, the trick to finding the Upside-Down Tree People is remembering them falling from space and getting stuck in the ground.”
“But I never saw that happen, Dad! How can I remember that?”
“Oh, but yes you did, in your mind. It’s a memory we all have if we think back far enough. Every being on earth, yourself included, was also once a traveler from space who landed and got stuck somewhere. When you look for the Upside-Down Tree People all you have to do is remember when you felt the same way, when you felt lost and away from your home, and you’ll have no problem finding them.”
Lydian walked slowly back along the path toward the Queen. She looked at each tree and remembered a time at school when her friends didn’t want her to join them on the jungle gym. How lonely she felt. How much she missed home right at that moment. All of a sudden, there in front of her just a few feet off the well-worn path was a tree she was sure was one of the Upside-Down Tree People. It had a skinny trunk, but the two branches coming out of it looked just like legs sticking up into the air!
“Dad, I see one! I see an Upside-Down Tree Person who fell from outer space!”
“Where? Show me,” said Dad.
“Right here! This one. See? See her legs sticking up and spreading out from landing so hard?
This is definitely one of the Upside-Down Tree People. Hi, Upside-Down Tree Person!”
Lydian patted the trunk gently and smiled.
“I think it is trying to say hi back, Lydian. Look up. It is wiggling its leaves at you!”
“Oh, I see another one over there!” Lydian scampered further into the woods and Dad followed, thrilled to be off the path and deeper into the lush forest soil.
“Are you sure that’s one, Lydian? The legs don’t look even to me.”
Lydian squinted her eyes and pointed.
“That’s just because it landed so hard, Dad. Can’t you see it? The chest and belly here, the legs going off here and there?”
“By Cracker, I think you’re right, Lydian, and look, we’re almost back to Queen. Doesn’t she look regal from this angle away from the path?”
“Oh yes, and her legs are so queenly and majestic!”
“She’s quite a beauty all right, even if she is upside down. Out of this world, really! Wait, she’s calling me!”
Once again, Dad put his ear and his chin that looked like a butt into the bark of the Queen of the Upside-Down Tree People.
“Yes, dear Queen, I think she sees you and your people now. And, yes, she has called you by your proper name and can now just call you the Queen.”
Lydian put her arm around her dad and her ear to the Queen’s bark too.
“I can? I can tell Lydian the secret? The secret that doesn’t have to be a secret that she can tell everyone about? Oh, Queen, she’ll be so happy! But I think she might have already guessed, you know. She’s listening to you and seeing now. Maybe she knows that the other trees, the ones who think they aren’t upside down, have figured it out too?”
Lydian tugged on her Dad’s t-shirt.
“What, Dad? I couldn’t hear her. What’s the secret? What did she tell you?”
“Well, the Queen is very happy with you, my dear. She says she knows you have noticed that all the legs of the Upside-Down Tree People aren’t always perfectly even because of the hard fall they’ve taken from space.”
“It was a hard trip for them. It took a little while for the Queen and the other Upside-Down Tree People to accept that they were no longer in their beloved ocean home. They were lonely for the ocean and the fishes and the other creatures there, even for the sharks and the Shark King despite his horrible dream and too many teeth.”
“After a while, they discovered that the mushroom roots were a way to communicate with the other trees who call the forest their home. It wasn’t as easy as pulsing the ocean with their leaves had been before, but once the Queen figured out that she could connect with the forest network, she started sending messages to the Earth Trees.”
“The messages were exactly about what you noticed just now about her people - that no one Upside-Down Tree Person looked exactly like any of the others. Some had two legs that were perfectly the same shape, and others had legs that were wildly different in shape and size. Some had legs that started low in the trunk (those were the ones who hit the softer ground and sunk farther in) and some had legs that started way up in the air (those who had hit the harder ground).”
“Some had smooth legs, and others had legs that were very scraggly and ragged. Some even had more than two legs, many many legs, and some just had only one leg. When the Queen sent this message out on the mushroom network to the tree people who were already in the forest, it took a long time to sink in, but slowly the Earth Trees realized that this variety of shapes and sizes - no two exactly alike - was describing them too.”
“Slowly, they had to admit that although they called their legs branches instead of paddle legs, they did all look the same as the Upside-Down Tree People - if you just look at them closely enough.
Eventually, the Queen got every tree in the forest to pass the sight test. That’s why she is so happy now. In fact, things are so much better that The Queen of the Tree People made a proclamation on the mushroom network that her people too may have long ago come to earth in the same way as the Upside-Down Tree People.”
“Wow, so all the Tree People are friends now?”
“Yes, Lydian, they are. That was the great news the Queen shared with me. They are all welcome in the forest now and have found a new home!”
“And every tree is an Upside-Down Tree Person who came from outer space?”
“Yes, but you still have to have the right vision to see them for who they are. There are some trees that the Queens say will take a little more time to see correctly and understand.”
“Oh, Dad, I’m so happy. Would you ask the Queen if we can look for more of her subjects?”
“Of course we can!”
Lydian looked around but was not sure where to go. Should she stay in the forest or get back on the well-worn path?
“Do we have to stay on the path?” she asked.
“That’s up to you, Lydian. The Upside-Down Tree People are all people whether you find them on a path or deep in the forest. Once you pass the sight test, any walk becomes an adventure!”
“I’m so happy! Look! They are all Upside-Down Tree People!”
Lydian did a twirl right there in the forest.
“That’s right, dear. The Queen is so proud of you!
“You know, Dad, maybe you aren’t a Kookamonga after all.”
“Ah, Lydian. That’s sweet. You’re right about that. So, then….that means you’re the Kookamonga?”
“No, I’m not the Kookamonga - you’re a Kookamonga!”
“How can I be a Kookamonga when you just said I’m not a Kookamonga, you Kookamonga!”
“I am not a Kookamonga! You’re the Kookamonga, you Kookamonga!
“Don’t call me a Kookamonga, you Kookamonga!
“I don’t have to be a Kookamonga to call you a Kookamonga because you are a Kookamonga!
“You know what, Lydian. Maybe we all are Kookamongas when it comes right down to it.”
Lydian just stopped and nodded her head slowly. “Yessss!” she said quietly.
“How about we go get some hot chocolate!” smiled her Dad.
And the Kookamonga Lydian and her Kookamonga Dad walked slowly home admiring every one of the Upside-Down Tree People who fell from outer space to their beautiful home in the forest.
April 12th 2019:
Many thanks to all who commented on the Upside-Down Tree People story that is in the editing stages. I hear from some that it is more of a parable than a story. Others liked it but felt it might be too "preachy." Others just thought it was too long. Some liked the playful name-calling and others did not. Thanks for the feedback. I will work on alternative versions. In the meantime, I hope some enterprising illustrator might want to collaborate with me on this!
On another note, it has been fun watching the web page for this story attract lots of likes. One person said she keeps seeing trees as people now. That makes me smile.
April 12th 2019
A poem written too many years ago that just resurfaced in my email files:
Unity Day Sonnet: Kalopa April, 2011
The message of this forest not revealed
The hang ups of the day to day impinge
I think I hear some thoughts that are concealed
Or maybe just the feelings on which they hinge.
The bird astride the tree above who sings
Is subtler than the rooster crowing there
Too many thoughts of what the future brings
Crowds out the sweeter life of Now laid bare.
When I get into this car and drive back home
With softness of the ferns upon my eyes
Will the energy of woods behind this poem
Help me say adieu to Ego’s lies?
For here in nature is my truest soul
Despite the fears that steal my highest goal
And here's another one slightly more recent that I actually still like:
Villanelle: What to do?
Ahead there lies a future quite unclear
And yet so many leads before us spread
To force ourselves to know what's truly dear
The bad mistakes we've made have led to fear
And circling confusion has been bred
Ahead there lies a future quite unclear
Surely there's a plan that hovers near
A gilded step by step that someone said
To force ourselves to know what's truly dear
If only we could get ourselves in gear
And know that we would never be misled
Ahead there lies a future quite unclear
Or a magic ball in which to peer
To point the golden path to wed
To force ourselves to know what's truly dear
Instead we sense the pain of pointed spear
On every road that beckons us from here
Ahead there lies a future quite unclear
To force ourselves to know what's truly dear
Here's a recent article I submitted to Yoga journals for consideration:
Intermittent Fasting Deepened My Yoga
This is not an article about how Yoga saved my life (although it kind of did). Nor is it about finally discovering the benefits of good nutrition (although you could make an argument for that). Frankly, health and nutrition have been kind of an obsession for me since that time in college (1975) when my best friend asked me to go for a run with him, and I totally bonked. Ask my spouse. To this day my routine is to get up at four-thirty in the morning to meditate and do yoga. Then I blend a power shake containing every variation of fibrous seeds, fruits, and raw protein powders on the planet. The thick shake makes it easier to swallow the obscene number of supplements I love: two types of coenzyme q-10, pycnogenol, astaxanthin, spirulina, chlorella, NADH, EFA’s, etc. (My gastroenterologist looked at my two-page hand-written supplements list recently and asked, “Do you really take all these things?)
When I discovered supplements and a healthy lifestyle after college, I couldn’t help making unsolicited recommendations to everyone I knew who so needed to become enlightened. When my skeptical friends (the ones I still had) started asking me where exactly I got my information, I decided it was time to get formally educated, in order to speak with at least some legitimate authority. After I earned my masters degree in holistic nutrition, though, I flat out stopped giving advice unless directly asked. I learned, as I should have known all along, that we’re all different, and everyone needs to find their own path.
But that social skills revelation didn’t slow down my personal obsession with health one bit. If a day goes by when I haven’t had a long walk or bike ride on top of my morning yoga practice and healthy breakfast, I become genuinely sad and start wondering how could I ever let myself go like that? So, it takes a lot for me to be impressed by anything “new” that comes down the nutritional pike, and I have to say Intermittent Fasting is the first thing in a long while that I have truly become excited about - mainly because of the effect it has had on my yoga practice.
Sure, I could reveal that before starting intermittent fasting my cholesterol and glucose tolerance levels were borderline high. (Always a mystery to me considering that I was only a few pounds overweight for my height.) And, I could further reveal those pounds I have lost that bring me back into the normal range. Also, the disappearance of a bit of inconvenient acid reflux, but really the most amazing part of intermittent fasting is how much better my body feels while doing yoga. That I want to shout about!
The theory, in case you’re interested, is that by skipping dinner (I do the 16 hours daily fast overnight version of IF), one’s body can focus on other things besides digestion. It has the time and the energy to work on flushing out the liver and kidneys, change bad cholesterol into good cholesterol, and heal muscle tears and tendon strains. It also seems to generally reduce inflammation. I say that with some authority because I can now do a complete forward fold, yes, head between the knees, something that has eluded me for a decade.
My body is stronger and more flexible in the mornings after IF than on mornings when social obligations force me to eat dinner to be polite. Asanas that I previously would be very satisfied with at the end of a yoga session are now the norm at the beginning when I am not even warmed up, and I am enjoying the process of finding out what my new limits really are once I am warmed up. After a decade of daily yoga practice, it all suddenly feels new and full of possibilities again, like I am thirty years old, not sixty-three.
And the price to be paid? A little social awkwardness around those eating dinner when you are not, and, frankly, going to bed a little hungry. Yes, the going to bed a little hungry thing is not a lot of fun. You feel like you have missed out. You miss noticing hunger pangs and immediately squashing them by mindlessly eating something, usually right before bed. Now I take a different pleasure, an anticipatory pleasure about the next morning's yoga session. I enjoy the sensation of a mild bit of hunger in the evening now, especially since it is almost always the case that there will be no hunger in the morning whatsoever. Yes, it is true. Go to bed hungry, no hunger in the morning. Why? It’s a mystery. Maybe overnight the body shifts into burning fat. Who knows? In any case, it feels great to go to bed knowing that I will be doing fabulous yoga in the morning on an uncomplaining empty stomach and then enjoying a hearty breakfast afterward.
My new IF routine is great. It might even have saved my life. It certainly deepened my yoga practice. But please don’t take this as a recommendation. I need as many new friends as I can get.
March 16, 2020
About the pandemic:
This is a time of great sadness. Serious illness and death are sure to impact all of us in one capacity or another, and no one is to blame for this act of nature. We will learn from our mistakes and make adjustments to our lifestyles. Lessons will be learned. Life will go on. As humans look back on this corona virus crisis and reassess priorities, perhaps we can hope for a silver lining to all this pain and suffering. Perhaps we can view the slowdown of our economy as a dress rehearsal for the consumptive changes we absolutely need to make to stop climate change. How interesting that an immediate threat that is arguably only mildly consequential to long-range human survival can motivate us to act when the truly existential threat of climate change has been essentially ignored. Perhaps this pandemic can help us understand that the human species must play by nature’s rules just like every other species. When a species over-dominates in an eco-system, nature brings a force (usually some form of death) to bring that species back into balance. This is not new information, but we live as if humans are the exception to this rule. It’s not just our huge population, but mostly our greed and disrespect for the essential role the existence of other species play in nature that constitutes the dangerous imbalance. We have not been good at sharing with our plant and animal neighbors. Since the pandemic began we are hunkering down with our families. We are burning less fuel. We are buying essentials, focusing on survival and our children. People grew more gardens during the Depression and World War Two, and they were healthier for it. We can and should do that again now. We can be more creative about spending more time with our children who cannot go to school for a while. We can change our priorities so that time with children can be economically possible again. We can ramp up the value of industries that are less materialistic and consumptive. Music, art, literature - all of these things have new chances to thrive in a home-centered entertainment environment. The corona crisis is horrible, no doubt about it, but we can emerge from it better humans and stewards of nature if we pay attention to the lessons the planet is teaching us right now. If we don’t, we can only expect more “tough-love” lessons to come our way.