Editor’s Note – Boundaries

Rochelle Gandour and Vivian Kimball, Editors

We always thought they might come someday, perhaps slipping through Canadian woods and into New England’s North Country, but when we heard news reports of mountain lion sightings in Greenwich, Connecticut, less than 30 miles from Manhattan, we were amused-these suburban “cougars” often turn out to be someone’s golden retriever. And besides, range maps for the cougar show that, except for a small remnant population in Florida, it lives no farther east than the western Dakotas and Texas.

Then a few days later came a confirmed report that a car had struck and killed a 140-pound male mountain lion in nearby Milford, Connecticut. So much for the golden retriever idea, but perhaps Connecticut officials were right when they suggested that the cat had escaped from captivity.

What happened next took everyone by surprise. Tests showed the cat’s DNA matched that of a subpopulation found in the Black Hills of North Dakota. Even more surprisingly, the tests showed this was the same animal that had been spotted in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010. This cougar had walked 1500 miles from its home in the Black Hills! In one instant, the boundaries of mountain-lion possibility dramatically shifted. The range maps became antiquated curiosities. It was as if the cougar had reached across half a continent to pin the Northeast under its paw. Welcome to cougar country.

Whether physical, ecological, political, cultural, or conceptual, boundaries are everywhere, and they matter. In this volume of Whole Terrain, contributors explore the boundaries between states, nations, cultures, species, and ecosystems, as well as those dividing the safe from the toxic, and reality from belief. They look at what happens when traditional boundaries break down, but also at what occurs when political and geographic boundaries turn into barriers of steel, asphalt, and concrete.

Boundaries may be places of separation or places of connection. Fences emphasize separation, saying you may not go beyond here. Gates connect; they invite us into new territory. Perhaps no gates so strongly convey both boundary and invitation as the torii gates found at Shinto shrines in Japan. At the boundary of the profane everyday world, the torii gate invites us to enter the world of the sacred. Cover artist Sue Allen beautifully captures this sense of connection in “Torii Gate” and “Entry into a Different World.” Artist Erika Osborne emphasizes connection in a different way. Her artwork, painted on the backs of her models, dissolves the boundaries between human and landscape, human and map, in unique and compelling ways.

As a small-scale farmer in northern Vermont, Julia Shipley lives with the need for both separation and connection. She sees the fence as both a practical daily necessity and as a long-term metaphor. In “Fence Tests,” she writes of electrified wires and torii gates, trespass and reconciliation, containment and release, control and letting go, all seen through the fences in her farming history.
For Bernd Heinrich, no life is possible without boundaries. At the micro level, cell boundaries must be maintained or death ensues. At the macro level, a variety of behaviors and configurations help organisms to keep “the life-threatening out, and