First, let me introduce myself.

I'm a gnome. I write. Therefore, I am a gnome de plume.

If you know anything about gnomes, you know that we are earth-dwellers. We live in the woods, sometimes under the roots of trees.

You know that we are legendary as guardians of secret treasures. Most people presume that "treasures" means gold, silver, jewels, Rolexes, gallons of gas and other expensive crap. Wrong. You really don't know what the treasures are unless you're an Insider, like us.

Other earth-dwellers, all kin to us, are the creatures who share our environment: foxes, woodchucks, chipmunks, bobcats, rabbits, voles...

In a word, "envarmints."

There are a few other mythical beings who, like us gnomes, are Insiders of the Outdoors: elves, trolls, troglodytes, fairies and such.

Some human beings are Honorary Insiders -- people like American Indians, environmental activists, tree-huggers, organic gardeners, birdwatchers, recyclers.

Now you know.

We Insiders of the Outdoors don't own the earth, but we guard it. Some call us "stewards," believing that we manage it. Well, we try.

As Gnome de Plume, I have the difficult job of trying to communicate with all you Outsiders who are constantly invading the Outdoors. My fellow envarmints assigned me to write a concise "Insider's Guide to the Outdoors" telling you what you need to know before you come. Here is what you need to know:

1. The Outdoors, also known as Mother Earth, Nature, etc., is the only real world, because it's the one made by the Creator. It is all sacred because it was thus created. All the rest of the stuff that you live with and live by is manmade, but not sacred. By that stuff I mean technology, material wealth, money, credit, society, ego, politics, trade, law, religion and your delusion that mankind outweighs all other life.

2. We envarmints appreciate your interest in our natural world, and we welcome you to come and learn about it, but when you come, we ask you to leave your "stuff" behind. What you do bring in, we ask you to take it back out when you leave.

3. We want you to come quietly and respectfully, under your own leg power, unless you're crippled. We don't need or want to be "shocked and awed" by your invasion; we already know how destructive, noisy and wasteful you are. We're not impressed by your power; an ATV, even a bulldozer, is puny compared with lightning, wind, geologic and hydrologic forces, and all the might of nature that we've always known. Your manmade stuff is a mere nuisance, and so unnatural that it's just plain annoying. Tell us how much you spent at Cabela's, and we'll just shrug.

4. If you stomp in, with intent to exploit, you will never see us or find the sacred treasures we guard. You might find resources, but not the true treasures. If you get a glimpse of us, it'll be just as we duck out of sight. You'll not see us, but we'll be watching you. These red hats we gnomes wear are like Santa's. They give us the power to know who's naughty and nice. You don't want to be on our naughty list.

5. Probably the naughtiest thing you could do right now, in our opinion, would be to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (We gnomes don't guard the Arctic, but Santa patrols it and lets us all know who's naughty and nice up there.) The reason that Refuge is so important is that it's the last place on this continent that's still the way God made it, and if you exploit it, well, you'll face the same punishment those guys who are doing mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia have in store for them.

You don't even want to know what that'll be. Let me put it this way: Even Dante wouldn't describe it.

There, in general terms, is our INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE OUTDOORS, First Edition. More to come.

Gnome de Plume can be reached at .