Living and eating in the wilderness

While wilderness is a powerful metaphor for discussing reorientation and becoming, it is also a very real thing right outside our doors. — AJ Delgadillo

Editor’s note: AJ Delgadillo has joined our team of columnists for Anabaptist World’s online Faithful Living and Eating column. He is from northern Indiana, where he used to do composting. He now lives in Los Angeles. Welcome, AJ!

If you’ve had the misfortune of hearing one of my homilies, you would know I accidentally come back to the wilderness more often than not. The wilderness is a transitional place. It exists between two other places, and people experience it in between chapters of their lives. At the beginning of COVID-19, I remember preparing a homily and writing, “The corridor is room, the journey is place,” and realizing, Oh no, I’ve done it again; I’m talking about the wilderness. But this time I’ve done it on purpose — we’re talking about the wilderness!

In the Bible, the wilderness is a place of becoming. It’s where those who fled Egypt became a nation, it’s where John lived until he began his ministry, and it’s where Jesus gathered the strength to endure the passion.

Our worship resources even celebrate how we should be in community while in the wilderness with lines such as, “Love the journey and love the homeland; love is the kingdom of God,” and “We are pilgrims on a journey we are travelers on the road / we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.” These lyrics are inspiring and uplifting, but when we step away from these stories of becoming, we remember that in real life, becoming is changing, and changing involves unbecoming.

A year ago I moved away from my home, and I find myself (a good Mennonite boy) in a metropolis — farther than I’ve ever been from rolling fields or dairy farms. I am facing new challenges and finding new abundance. These force me to grow differently.

As I change, how I find and experience God changes. And I think that may be the biggest thing. I don’t know that living in the wilderness is a punishment, but I think it’s an uncomfortable path to seeing more of who God is.

While wilderness is a powerful metaphor for discussing reorientation and becoming, it is also a very real thing right outside our doors. Instead of a recipe, here are some tips on interacting with and managing the physical wilderness around you.

Learn your wild edibles. — AJ Delgadillo

For those who move through their local wilderness:

  • Learn your wild edibles! Lamb’s quarter, purslane, and oxalis can be found in most of North America. Lamb’s quarter can be eaten like spinach. Purslane is high in 0mega-3 fatty acids, so it is always a great addition. Oxalis is a wonderful sour herb that can bring life to a salad, or just make gardening a bit more fun.

For anyone tending their own wilderness, here are some tips for spring:

  • No Mow May. Don’t even put gas into your mower until May is over. This allows larvae and early plants to play their part in the environment. Larvae and grubs make up important parts of the food web for traveling birds. We don’t have to like grubs, but it’s still best to let them be. Early flowers, especially dandelions, are an important food source for pollinators.
  • Leave the Leaves! It’s best to keep your leaves in your yard until you mow them in June. If you simply must move leaves, pile them onto garden beds. This will keep any larvae alive, and will increase the fertility and carbon in your garden bed.
  • Check out the recommended pruning times and ideal shapes for any trees or bushes in your care. This will maximize the health and yield of your plants. Pruning is never comfortable, but on the other side of pruning is a more abundant life, for us and for the plants we care for.

AJ Delgadillo

AJ spent his youth and early career around Goshen, Ind. He has cycled between social services and environmental education, striving Read More

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