where the wild things are

When we came home from tour the spaghetti squash in our chaotic little garden had climbed the beanstalks and the fence and made a break for the bushes that separate us from a well-kempt university lawn. Every time I look at the baby squash hanging light green on the vines, drool begins to collect in my mouth. Spaghetti squash isn’t too common in Germany, and I can hardly wait for the first ripe batch: to pull out the stringy cooked insides with a fork and to eat them with butter and salt. Here comes that drool again.

I like low-maintenance plants; I am no farmer, nor do I want to be. I lack the motivation, interest, and energy to deal with agriculture on a large scale. I like plants that can fend for themselves, that are hardy, that can get by without the coddling of some stupid human. Though I decided not to plant any tomatoes this year (such princesses with their trellises!), when twenty plants came out of the compost I’d filled the garden with in spite of my plans, I tipped my hat to them with a little more respect. I don’t like growing them, but I love the smell their stalks leave on my hands after I’ve touched them and the way their fruit explodes in juice and seeds in my mouth when I take a bite. I was glad that they had decided to stop by.

When the world falls to pieces I don’t plan on homesteading. I’m not interested in starting another society based on agriculture or animal husbandry or cultivation. I want to live in a world full of wild things: animals that didn’t unknowingly trade security and regular feedings for death, plants that thrive without my interference, an active relationship with my habitat as the source of my continued life. I applaud the folks who homestead, who grow their own, and who support local farmers through their food purchasing choices. (And at the moment I also am one of them.) I just don’t want to live in a world where that’s The Way. Ah, but here I am…

A few months ago I started eating meat again occasionally, and while I have come to terms with what it means to eat meat (as I set out to do when I began my meditation in vegetarianism and veganism seven years ago), I still find animal husbandry less than ideal. I would never trade security for the certainty of being slaughtered when my caretaker needed to eat. No, I’d rather live free until the moment when a better hunter than I took me, and that is the kind of relationship I’d prefer to have with the animals that could become my food. Death is a part of life, we eat as we will be eaten, but it seems that in order for death to be an acceptable part of life, life must first be a part of life. Intense, free, wild life.

Would I survive a crash situation? Maybe, maybe not. But if I do, when the supermarkets and the highways go empty, I know where to find the rabbits, the pheasant, the snails, the walnuts, the blackberries, and all the other wild edibles that I see every time I go for a walk around the university campus. It’s a good feeling (though my hunting skills are laughable), the same feeling the dumpster diver comes to know when she finds edible abundance beneath every lid, a feeling that, if you learn how to open your eyes, you will be taken care of. Or, perhaps more accurately said, that everything you need to take care of yourself is already there, waiting to be noticed.

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