Whole Terrain managing editor reflects on boundaries

Originally posted on January 11, 2011

by Susan Jane Gentile
Managing Editor, Whole Terrain

Earlier today I was reading some of the submissions we’ve received for the upcoming “Boundaries” volume of Whole Terrain. I’ve just now returned from a walk with a friend through new snow— the kind of snow that clings to tree branches. It seems to be such a clean line, such a contrast between the dark bark and the white snow. And yet, each of those lines is ever shifting, the snow melting, wind blowing some away.

And then my mind turns to glaciers, retreating glaciers. A satellite image at any moment in time might suggest a clean line, glacier ice contrasted with dark of land, yet those lines are ever shifting too. And then my mind turns to neighborhoods. On a map, there is a clean line, distinguishing one from another, but down on the street one eases or oozes into another with overlaps in architecture, language, and cooking aromas. What about a concrete wall or a barbed wire fence? Does that make a hard line? Air passes over or through. So do seeds and a variety of animals. No boundary then?

Perhaps the hardest lines are in our minds, the boundaries between beliefs? Stark contrasts? Or is there easing, oozing, and overlap in our minds, in our thinking? Can there be? Are boundaries in our minds meant to separate, to keep in, to keep out? What are the boundaries in our minds? Do we dare to cross them? And, what does it mean to be out of bounds?

Maybe we should all strive to be out of bounds more, out of our own bounds, to explore others’ ideas and beliefs with an openness of mind unbounded, without boundaries. Arizona is on my mind.


Bio: Susan Jane Gentile served as managing editor of Whole Terrain until 2015, and is an adjunct professor at Antioch University New England in the Environmental Studies Department and Education Department.

Order the “Boundaries” volume (and all other volumes) of Whole Terrain here.

Photo by Hanna Wheeler

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