Knowing full well how many of you visit Hoarded Ordinaries looking for the lastest word on fashion, let me be the first to tell you. The hottest look on the runways of Keene (hotbed, we all know, of high couture) is, yes, blaze orange.
Yesterday I walked the dog at the Dillant-Hopkins Airport in nearby Swanzey, NH. Keene’s municipal airport is one of my favorite places to walk during the winter months. Although the runways themselves are fenced and thus inaccessible to walkers, the mile and a half stretch of road leading from the terminal parking lot to the Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant offers a relaxing there-and-back stroll overlooking the airport runways as well as surrounding fields, marshes, and woods. Closed to vehicular traffic on weekends and holidays, Airport Road is a favored place for locals to jog, roller-blade, walk, and let dogs run off leash. So although I haven’t (recently) strutted my stuff on any high fashion runways, yesterday the dog and I walked near some runways.
It’s currently deer hunting season here in New Hampshire. Although you might think that a nature lovin’ Zen Mama like Yours Truly would be an adamant animal-rights touting, anti-hunting (and anti-gun) zealot, let me be the first to set you straight on all counts. Although many of my Zen-friends are vegetarian, I eat meat, and I have no illusions about where beef, chicken, and pork come from. Even when I was a vegetarian, I never condemned hunting per se: predation is a natural aspect of any balanced ecosystem, and it doesn’t make sense to condemn people for doing something that comes naturally to wolves, mountain lion, bobcats and the like. Mother Nature herself makes no qualms about killing, so neither do I. Responsible hunters and so-called “gun nuts” love nature just as much as tofu-eating Zen-heads: in fact, many of my citified, eco-sensitive Zen friends know substantially less about the actual wild than do even neophyte hunters.
So these days when I’m driving on the outskirts of Keene and see trucks and SUVs parked on the side of the road, I don’t rail against their drivers’ butchery. Instead, a part of me wishes I had the time, know-how, and wherewithal to pull over myself, striking out into woods and fields without heed for established trails and parking lots. (For the record, this is one time of year when I don’t believe in trespassing: when the signs say “Posted: No Hunting” or “Private Property: Keep Out,” that’s a signal to be heeded regardless of whether you’re toting a gun or not.) These days when I see a group of hunters hefting a deer into a pickup truck or field-dressing a deer strung up in a tree, I don’t shake my fist in anger or exclaim “Ewww! Gross!” Instead, I’m savvy enough to know that eating and, yes, killing are a part of survival, and for many Granite Staters, deer season is one way to cache an inexpensive stockpile of food for the winter.
Instead of condemning hunters and hunting, I try to be smart and prepared. Although the municipal airport itself is closed to hunters, the surrounding fields, marshes, and woods are fair-game. On Friday, Reggie and I took a quick jaunt up Pitcher Mountain, the first time we’ve been hiking anywhere remotely “wild” since the start of hunting season. Seeing other hikers in their blaze orange stocking hats, vests, and ball caps, I came home afterwards and dug out my orange hat and the dog’s orange vest. It’s easy to forget to be prepared…but it’s just as easy to keep season-appropriate togs in the car, close-at-hand for any impromptu walk.
None of the two other walkers, their black long-haired German shepherd, or the lone jogger I saw on Airport Road yesterday was wearing blaze orange…but the pair of walkers I talked to mentioned they’d seen hunters down the road, and they wished they’d thought to wear orange as well. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. On the trek back to the car, I heard a rapid-fire succession of gunshots coming from a distant field: here’s hoping someone bagged this winter’s stockpile. And after hunting (unsuccessfully) for the beavers responsible for this fierce bit of arboreal predation, I spotted an equally wild sight: two bow-hunters in full, head-to-toe camouflage gear returning to their parked trucks on bicycles. Dress for success is the law of the wild, it seems. If you know there are hunters afoot, wear blaze orange; if you know deer and turkey lurk in a place where you can’t drive your truck, break out your bicycle. It’s smart to be prepared no matter what color your cap.