Issue #42: FEAR
Fear is both a parasite and a built-in human alarm bell. On the one hand it can save us from immediate danger, but on the other it paralyses. Decisions made in fear rarely produce spectacular results, if you ask me. This month we’re talking about fearless women, scary plants, ecocide, gardening and anxiety, and more. We’re facing our fears, fearlessly.
On a personal level, much of the fear I experience is parasitical. Fear, and its pals anxiety and worry, spreads its needy roots deep within the subsoil of my stomach. It dances in the hours between dreams and dawn, and strolls through each day sniffing casually for more food. Unchecked, my thoughts feed it. I feel it grow, shrink and grow again, its tendrils reaching out from the dark to consume more light. It’s one of the very few things I’d be happy to watch die.
Mary Oliver, as usual, captures the fuzzy, unnecessary fears that impact on our lives like few others. So, here she is.
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
And me, I’ll keep calling fear out for what it is. A parasite, a weed, a good for nothing no hoper. I’ll garden my fears and turn them into hopes. Because, as Rilke says, “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
“I Worried”, by Mary Oliver, from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems. © Beacon Press, 2010.
Quote from Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet, 1929