Fear is, without a doubt, the root of all evil. Some say it’s money, but money merely fights the fear of having nothing. The needy and the greedy succumb to fear. It is universal. No amount of gold or things or bling can stop fear. It will paralyze you. Fear dashes dreams. Fear kills crushes. Fear fakes the funk.
If we can minimize fear, we can approach freedom. You may have met freedom, but fear was just around the corner, telling you know you didn’t belong. The first time you spoke in public fear was jumping around and cheering and doing a whole fucking routine. Fear has a pretty decent set-up in your stomach, considering it’s been there for years.
Thankfully, I realized fear is our main foe years ago. I’ve let go and stopped caring about a bunch of shit. Life has been better ever since. Yet, there has been one nagging fear I’ve yet to face. In the grand scheme of things, it may seem minor, but my fear of snakes has had a major impact.
Every time I’m around Gabriel, one of Oregon Country Farm’s fine stewards, I think about Ecuador. That small coastal country in South America is my paternal homeland. And Gabriel sits atop a list of friends and acquaintances who’ve been to Ecuador. Each time I meet someone new that gets added to the list, I curse myself.
My Grandparents emigrated from Ecuador in the mid-1950s. Ever since I could remember adults making promises, I remember being promised a trip to Ecuador. It was mainly from my Grandma. My Grandpa could’ve cared less about the Old Country, he was too busy chasing the American Dream.
The promise was never fulfilled. (My Ecuador trip or my Grandpa’s Dream.) The next thing I knew I was graduating from university, evicted from the warm bosom of adolescence into the harsh world like a loitering drunk. It was early 2008 and I didn’t want anything to do with Bush’s America. I had to get the fuck out of the country, but where to?
Ecuador was the obvious choice, but there were no work visas. Did I really want to spend money on a six-week volunteer project and have to return so soon? My frugal father would never support that kind of reckless philanthropy.
Pull up your own bootstraps before you help my distant cousins with theirs, he’d say.
Alternatively, there was a six-month work visa for the United Kingdom. I chose the European adventure, not only because of the earning potential, but also because Ecuador sits in the Southern Hemisphere, where most snakes slither and dwell.
During my short time on Oregon Country Farm I toiled among the creepy crawlers. Sure, the Southern Willamette Valley is no Amazonian rainforest, but there are a host of earthworms beneath the soil. And as I weeded the gardens I observed and adored those friendly little hermaphrodites, which remind me of snakes, who I believed to be my mortal enemy. I reflected on that fear during my first stroll through the hazelnut orchard.
Later, out in the greenhouse, I got to thinking; why do I fear snakes so much? Surely, the media was to blame. Indiana-fucking-Jones. That suave archeologist! Thanks a lot Hollywood. Okay, there was that one time my friend Hunter brought me to his mom’s classroom and fed a mouse to her pet snake. That was gruesome. Either way, the fear is deep rooted. And like those pesky weeds, I need to pull the whole thing out.
It would be premature to say that I’m free of my fear of snakes. But I’m ready to face the fear. Because while I was on Oregon Country Farm I also contemplated the interconnectedness of life. All forms. The trees and the bees and the weeds and me.
A few years ago, during the existential crisis that sparked my curiosity and nurtured my nomadic nature, I spent many hours meditating on that idea. But this time was different. I touched the leaves, breathed the air, turned the soil, planted the seeds, peered into the holes, and inspected the insects. It hit me hard, like an apple falling from a giant Gravenstein.
We are all connected. Every one of us. Each bit of bark and starter seed. The homeless and the homemaker. The beast and the bug. The cobra and my conscious. We’re in this together. Coexistence. It’s not a dirty word. Let it be. The Beatles said that.
I’m going to Ecuador. I said that.
But I will never get to share my experience with my Grandma. She passed away the month before I came to Oregon Country Farm. For the last thirty years of her life she kept a vegetable and rose garden in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It wasn’t her father’s farm in Ecuador, but it was her own piece of land. Now her ashes will return to the same soil that once supported her award-winning flowers, like she supported me, and I support small-farmers and so on and so forth and forever.
Forevah, forevah-evah, forevah-evah? Three Stacks said that.