Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rifles in the Woods

A little over a week ago, my oldest had her wisdom teeth out. The next day, she went on a scavenger hunt all over town and had a blast. (We are tough women in this house when faced with pain and physical adversity. Perhaps not so much existential adversity, but that’s another topic….)

The second day, she went shooting in the woods with her fellow “viper assassins,” as their beloved Tae Kwan Do teacher and mentor likes to call this girl cohort of spectacular teen martial artists—two black belts, four red-black belts approaching that milestone.

The teacher is a Marine, a grizzled martial arts and self-defense expert who mixes his dedicated teaching with standup comedy (a combination that goes over extremely well with the under-18 crowd), a voracious reader, and a flaming political progressive. When he asked me if my daughter could go, I felt it was in part a test of me and my biases, and I have to admit that I quailed a bit, inside, at the thought of sending my child out into the woods with guns.

However, I immediately and pseudo-confidently gave my public permission, and decided I could think it over on my own time. Who knew, maybe her father would veto it?

He did not.

However, in my conversations with several friends, a number of them did. Veto it, I mean. I am firmly against gun ownership and use, despite having grown up in the Midwest with shotguns in the house (I never had the slightest interest in them, and steadfastly refused the occasional duck, pheasant, or deer flesh that landed on our table). But aside from my initial hesitation (largely due to the unexamined safety issues), I didn’t see that learning a little bit about gun use necessarily went against my opposition to private gun ownership.   

One friend, whom I respect deeply, was shocked and expressed the fear “what if she really likes it?”

I have been thinking a lot about this decision, and its implications, and how we make these incremental, sensitive, potentially consequential decisions. Many emotional responses come into play in doing so, without our even being fully conscious of them: fear is a big one—of the unknown, of tangible dangers, of exposure to who-knows-what; unfamiliarity and its evil twin, avoidance of displaying one’s ignorance–I suffer a lot from this, especially in meeting international acquaintances, as I am mortified that my knowledge of so many cultures is woefully superficial; self-consciousness—political, moral, socio-economic (as I made clear, this one conditioned my immediate response in this instance); the list is long. 

However, in my life, I am trying increasingly to allow a desire for new experiences that will stretch me and my loved ones to govern my decision-making.  As I look back on my life, my adventurous choices are the ones I remember best, treasure most deeply, and learned the most from. The moments  (surprisingly, more than a few, in my previous incarnations) where someone asked me to do something because they knew I was a risk-taker, or would be open-minded, or was someone who was up to an adventure, carry a special glow in how I conceive of myself. The moments where I allowed myself to quail, or focused on the inconvenience or difficulty a challenge might present, rather than the possibilities it might offer, are those that I still occasionally struggle to put into perspective.

As for the guns in the woods…. No one was injured. Everyone had a great time. My daughter didn’t think she was up to the kick of the shotgun after the oral surgery, and didn’t try it. She preferred the slim, easily handled .22 and its low recoil.  Followed by the AK. The Glock was attractive but hard to stabilize.                                                                   
 A bold  addition to the metaphorical arsenal of her life experiences, and by extension, mine.

Mary for the Poplar Grove Muse


  1. Mary, this is wonderful. I love the stretching part and you know, I'm all about adventure. Great piece.

  2. Love this idea of what really is diversity and it is all good at expanding our edges. And actually there are no edges.