THE TRADING POST

“Suicide is not just death’s call.

It’s a wake-up call.”

Michael Stone, Buddhist teacher

Awake in the World, Penguin Random House

There will be a store in the mall that sells plush black and white whales with tags that read BLACKFISH and plastic elephants with great tusks in boxes that read BOYCOTT IVORY. There will be polycloth tigers and panda bears each one labeled MADE IN CHINA, a place where people wear masks to protect their lungs from air. But there will be no sign of varmints buried under the polished stone floor. What tag would do for a pregnant prairie dog? GASSED ESPECIALLY FOR YOU.

There will be a store in the mall catering to the child’s longing for love, but not a whisper of the child’s grief. The child’s books will not story a muntjac who chewed off his foot in a struggle to be free of the wire snare, one of a thousand snares in the hedge of death erected through remote Southeast Asian forest. Far. Far away from the factory where the child’s stuffed deer was stitched. Farther still from the child’s house on the burning Front Range.

Wildfire stole Bambi’s home. The whale and the reactor are muffled. And if the child hears about tainted water spilling into the Pacific, there will be a happy ending to a hero’s myth that includes sweeping down from the sky or up from the depths to seal the crack. The child, a hero comforted by his solitude until he finds the world empty. And nothing can fill this hole even greater than the one in his own heart left by parents who were never home.

There will be a store in the mall filled with things for the child to love, but not a whisper of the child’s grief. The child’s drug addiction will be his own. His depression, before the suicide, nothing to do with the microwaved burrito on a paper plate at the empty dining room table graced by a marble floor covering starved souls. His own, buried alive.


note: THE TRADING POST reflects on the cost of materialism, heroism, and associated suffering, including addictions. The poem is prompted by the March 2015 removal of a large prairie dog colony in anticipation of the ‘Nation's Biggest Mall’ at Castle Rock, Colorado.

I've had the privilege to watch prairie dog pups grow and practice speaking. At first, their voices can be too big for them. They get knocked off balance. Sometimes toppling backward.

So, feeling enough anger that I was unable to be present after learning about the murder for the mall, I wrote THE TRADING POST in search of relief. The practice worked. The process proved, for me, the transformative nature of real and peaceful expression.

“The center of the ecological crisis is not the weather

but the ongoing and wholesale destruction of life.”

Allen Kanner, psychologist and co-founder Commercial-Free childhood

‘Why Extinction Matters at Least as Much as Climate’ via Tikkun

Buddhist teacher, husband and father Michael Stone offered so much before he passed summer 2017. His teaching legacy includes perspective on a deeper materialism. Innocent fascination with objects and material pacification can consume young children when they enter the mall. Children are essentially victims of the market, curious and unaware of the immorality and loss of what's real, including their own senses. It’s helpful to model healthy attachment to living beings while practicing the yamas - non-harming, honesty, non-stealing, wise use of energy, and non-greed. And to avoid modeling attachment to objects and superficial appearances/identities. Please see Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood: commercialfreechildhood.org/

Michael Stone passed unexpectedly and tragically July 2017. Unable to acquire prescription drug to manage a manic episode, Michael took a street drug. His prescribed medication had recently been increased. Initial toxicology reports suggested he had opioids, including fentanyl, in his system. (Lion’s Roar) A crowdfunding campaign has been established by Michael's community for long-term support of his wife and children.

I read a version of THE TRADING POST in conversation with Dave Hampton and Ruth Humphreys on 'Watt Next?' Marlow FM: Suffering With: Grief, Art & Peacekeeping (March 5, 2018) via SOUND CLOUD

Megan Hollingsworth