IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Eight years ago, Outdoor America magazine commissioned me to illustrate an article titled “Full Circle”. Written by Tovar Cerulli, the article contemplated the author’s personal transition from vegan to hunter. Tovar asked some provocative questions that invite us to think more deeply about how we consume life, and what it means to harvest both plants and animals. I invite you to read his article. Here is an excerpt:
If sustaining our lives inevitably requires death, is the question ultimately not what we eat but how that food comes to our plates? Does it simply come down to respect and restraint—to how we treat soil, water, plants and animals, to whether the tilling is prudent and the killing clean? Ecologically, wouldn’t it make more sense to pasture a beef cow myself or shoot a deer in nearby woods than to buy processed blocks of tofu made from soybeans grown a thousand miles away on industrially farmed land where diverse prairie habitat once thrived?
The story goes on to include an anecdote about a special belt, and belt buckle, from the author’s uncle. This was a perfect symbol for the title. So I created an image of a belt, looped into a circle. Inside the circle is the dichotomy encompassed by the author’s journey, and in our human relationship with nature: tilling the earth and hunting animals.
The editor at Outdoor America chose me for this job because of my own hunting experience. I was honored to do it. Like Tovar, I used to be a vegetarian (but never vegan), and I still eat meat sparingly – almost exclusively meat that I hunt and butcher myself. As a hunter, forager, and gardener, I can relate to the profound connection one feels in taking sustenance directly from the land. The nourishment gained from such an exchange is far more than physical. I share Tovar’s far-rippling perceptions of where food comes from, and where it goes. The energy of wild food carries the essence of a life we have perceived, and yields micronutrients that cannot be bought in any food store. Similarly, cultivating your own vegetables brings a sense of communion with the earth that is deeply satisfying. I enjoy Tovar’s thought-provoking observations about how we choose to participate in the cycles of nature through food.
Tovar was pleased with my illustration. We became acquaintances and corresponded for a while. Every now and then during hunting season, we inquire with each other about how we have done. Tovar lives in Vermont, and has since published a book called The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance. I recommend it.
Wishing you a good week,
D Yael Bernhard