The Ripple: Takers of the Wild and Free

Takers of the Wild and Free

“Where Does the Dance Begin, Where Does It End?” by Mary Oliver is one of the poems to which I aspire to align my perspective on the world.

We are not the movers and shakers of the earth, for that would be far too appraising of how we have laid claim to a home that was never rightfully ours; rather, we are the Takers of all things wild and free and the Leavers* of a world whose light dims a little more each day.

With all of our advancements, we have not progressed to the point of living in ways that will allow us to continue to inhabit the earth. We are simply atoms that are arranged to form beings capable of comprehending arrangements of atoms, and we have not yet mastered the art of awareness – or so we pretend.

We turn forests, fields, and streams into machines then spend even more time and energy armoring ourselves against the earth’s backlash for our enslavement of lands and waters that will never be fully tamed. No matter how many seawalls we build or trees that we plant, our debts will never be repaid until we learn to live within our means. There is no free lunch and no free land, as the inherent value of habitat and biodiversity cannot be calculated. Hydropower, wind, solar, and tidal power are not entirely renewable as long as they require us to harvest and discard materials that allow these technologies to function; even the sun’s energy in the form of food is not sustainable unless we cultivate it in such a way that does not diminish a) our ability to continue to grow it and b) other beings’ access to food. The only way to truly coexist is to consume less and consider the consequence of our every action.

Actions and consequences do not flow in a linear path, and while we pretend to be only the creators of ripples, we cannot afford to fool ourselves into thinking that these ripples cannot circle back around to their origin.

* “Takers” and “Leavers” are terms used in Daniel Quinn’s 1995 novel Ishmael to distinguish between the consumeristic tendencies of different cultures over time as humans have transitioned from living within our means to ways of forcing the natural world to suit our needs.


Phoebe Gelbard

Phoebe is a teacher at Biocitizen and is currently studying environmental psychology and natural resources conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Phoebe has lived in the Pioneer Valley for all 19 years of her life, and when she is not leading young children through the rivers and woods of Western MA, she can be found doing the same with her friends and family. Check out this monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!



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