There Is No Box

Arianna teaching about bat flight movementsI have been an environmentalist since I was a teenager. And since college, I have been teaching and sharing about the natural world. I recognized that it is my life’s work.

After college, when I went to work for an environmental center in New York State, I had already formed the opinion against hunters. I am not even sure why. I suppose I saw them as just killers of wildlife; all that I held sacred. But it became more challenging to reconcile this misinformed opinion while I worked with so many Boy Scout groups who belonged to hunter families. My supervisor overheard me mention something against hunting in front of such a group and later he pulled me aside and asked me to think about the people I was meeting and interacting with. From that experience my tone and thoughts started to change about hunting and hunters. Just like any group I came to realize I couldn’t just lump them together – they were individuals too. The “hunter box” was too limiting.

Arianna teaching Years later in graduate school, Rick Bass, both an environmentalist and hunter, came to speak at Antioch. He talked about his relationship with deer. It was spiritual. Appreciative. Honoring. And he hunted them too; ate their flesh. Again, it was spiritual. I took this in and reflected. I am an omnivore. I love wildlife. I appreciate their very existence. The members of the world outside are my neighbors. And yes, I eat some of them. Their flesh nourishes mine. Whatever may have held the “hunter box” together before – exploded. There was no box. A label does not define all who you are.

Wild game - it's what's for dinner tonight.A couple of years ago I decided to join the Ashfield Rod and Gun Club. I admittedly enjoy the flavors of wild meat and I had heard about their annual Wild Game Night. Even though I am currently not a hunter, I felt welcomed by the group. I knew many of the club members; they are my neighbors after all. Being an avid outdoorsperson, this group seemed to be an appropriate outlet for me because its members enjoys the outdoors too. And I thought, here is a group that enjoys wild foods. I facilitated a spring greens wild edibles walk and enjoyed the comradery so much I decided to offer it seasonally. We could learn from one another.

Over the years I have come to see that it really is unhelpful to put people into boxes. He is a this and she is a that and they are a this and we are a that. We are so much more than a label. Sure, I can proudly say I am an environmentalist. And someone may form their opinions and judgments about me because of that statement. But if you know me, you know you cannot put me in a box, not even one with sparkles and bows. I won’t fit neatly inside. Don’t you believe that is like some many of us? I can’t think of too many people I can fit in a this or a that box. And if I try, they will suddenly surprise me and I have to remind myself to check my preconceived notions at the door.
So no more boxes except for carrying things to car. And whether you define yourself as a this or that, please, take a moment to enjoy the outside from where you are. With the air we breathe and with scenery we gaze upon, where does the outside begin or end? We can’t put Nature in a box either.

Arianna Alexsandra Collins in her wetlandArianna Alexsandra Collins, naturalist, poet, writer, and wild edible enthusiast lives in Ashfield, MA.

Into the Outside by AriannaInto the Outside is a bi-monthly feature in the Ashfield News and Shelburne Falls & West County Independent. This article appears in the July 2017 edition of the Ashfield News. 

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