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.
Wonderful essay, Joey. I enjoyed reading it very much. I am reading a Leonard Cohen book right now that reminds me of our interconnectedness, that we are one. I think ego and fear have a lot to do with one another.
Very well written. As for snakes, you should know that they are fairly harmless. I have handled snakes my whole life. I have never been bitten by one. I even handle wild snakes or large snakes with ease. They are calm animals, prone to sitting still and giving exaggerated warning long before they strike. They would much rather just have you walk away than bite you. Snakes of a size to swallow a mouse as a normal meal would be lucky to do half the damage in one bite as, say, a cat. In fact cats are inherently more dangerous and yet people keep them everywhere and I bet you’ve pet quite a few yourself. In fact, oftentimes snakes are so docile that the mouse that it’s fed wins. I have heard lots of stories of live mice kililng snakes that weren’t hungry enough to fight back. In fact it’s illegal in some areas of the world to feed live mice to pet snakes for that reason.
I wish you best of luck in your snake fear. Know that they are very relaxed animals with no cause to bite you unless you give them one.
You luckly to have see the Apple fall from the tree @ such a young age. Some folks never see it in their entire life time, most after its to late and they have worked for the man for way to many years, and suddenly realize they missed out. Go to Ecuador ! As soon as you can.
Even if it is for only six weeks, six days. Just do it. I think Niki said that. I like your blog-thanks
As it turns out, I was walking on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver (BC) today and saw a man with a big snake! I was in a hurry to catch a bus and then a ferry to the Sunshine Coast so I didn’t have time to stop, but I didn’t look away like I usually would. I stared right at it and if I spot him in Vancouver when I return in two weeks, I’m definitely going to ask to pet it.