Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is That A Worm Or A Snake? Fear And Control.

Sometimes what I fear, is a result of a previous painful encounter. Or I may fear because I've been taught to fear, without really understanding why. If, when I'm a small child, everyone else leaps about screaming upon sighting a small garter snake, there's a good chance I'll do the same. We can take on these kinds of fears, and carry them into adulthood, without ever stopping to question -  just how real is the threat? When I was adopted at the age of 6, I was terrified of snakes. My adoptive brother used to play in the marsh behind our house, and took me down into that wonderland to show me around. He taught me to recognise a garter snake, and to understand that they were essentially harmless. I lost that immediate fear response.

I used to hate and fear spiders, until I took up gardening, and began to understand what place they inhabited in the ecosystem - without spiders, we'd be overrun with other insect life. I slowly began to be able to see a beauty in spiders - the tiny palest of green ones, the color of the inside stalks of a celery clump, who were invisible against new growth, until they moved. I might start a bit, when a larger  black spider burst out from beneath a fallen leaf and took off for drier climes when I turned the watering wand upon that area of ground, but that startle reaction was no longer followed by fear, and the desire to eradicate by stomping.

I learned that my garden might have an infestation of aphids for a couple of weeks, but if I didn't interfere, I would then wake up one day, go out to do my morning wander about my garden, and find ladybugs everywhere, hundreds of them, all munching happily upon the aphid buffet. Once the aphids were gone, so were most of the ladybugs.

I learned to "leave well enough alone." I don't interfere with pesticides or attempts to kill insect life - I allow nature to take its course, and if that means my daylily bloom gets eaten by a caterpillar, I choose to admire the beauty in that living creature, and be glad for all the other blooms.  My husband was raised on a farm, and when we were first together, he would lunge wildly at pale butterflies with a dark spot on one wing, trying to kill them. When asked why, he said it was a "cabbage butterfly!" in a tone that expected me to understand. Further investigation revealed that he'd been taught by his parents to catch and kill them, because the caterpillars fed upon their vegetable gardens.

I don't grow food, only flowers, so I asked him to please leave them be. He insisted the garden would soon be inundated with them, they'd wreak havoc, and eat all the flowers. I asked again that he leave them be. He agreed, finally, although he said it went against the grain, because he'd been taught since he was a tiny boy that they were a disaster for the garden.

Nature has her own checks and balances - in all the years we've gardened together, we've never yet had a plague of that particular insect. We have, though, seen quite a few birds sitting with one captured in their beak, resting a moment before flying back to their nest to feed their young.

I learned not to tidy my garden obsessively in late fall, cutting everything back, because when I do, I remove a food source for the birds in winter - seeds.  I had been taught to deadhead to remove seeds, so that my garden wouldn't be "choked to death by all those seeds when they sprouted." That doesn't happen, because the birds consume most of those seeds. The few that don't get eaten, are easily pulled, or transplanted to another area. When I leave the seeds, we have avian visitors all winter long.

I'd originally been taught, another version of the same lesson my husband received: "You must control, or terrible things will happen!" When I am fearful of an outcome, I feel compelled to control. When I understand that my interference is not at all required, necessary, or even helpful or healthy, I learn to step back, Let Go and Let God. He's got it all beautifully organised. I don't need to be hyper-vigilant, I don't need to be obsessive, I don't need to control.

When I accept life on life's terms, it flows and cycles, eddies and swirls - trusting in my Higher Power not only opens the door to miracles happening, it opens the door to my heart. Which lets in some light and air. Fresh air, sunlight. Beautiful, and all done with no help from me.

Controlling keeps me rigid, unbending, unaccepting, unhappy.

Letting go keeps me flexible, willing to compromise, and delighted.

It's an easy choice, but only after I have decided not to let fear make my decision for me.


  1. God doesn't need my help is what I needed to read. I wish I could start with let go and let God instead of ending with it.

  2. This is such a beautiful post.

    If I'd read it in a magazine I probably would have reprinted it on my blog.

  3. The garden analogy is good. I too let things be. I realize that my good intentions may be my attempt at controlling the lives of others.

  4. So beautiful, thank you!