Monday, August 19, 2019

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

                        Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

By Neal Lemery

            When I was a kid, Nat King Cole made this a popular song, and the lyrics still seem to sum up summertime on the Oregon coast, with an increasingly strong emphasis on the “crazy”.  My good intentions this year were lots of reading on the deck, working in my flowers and vegetables, and plenty of time for friends, taking it easy.  
            Summertime is paved with good intentions, yet the calendar has filled up with friends and relatives who live in other states “just dropping by”, numerous parades, festivals, concerts and fairs, and a steady pace of casual get togethers. The idle hours of reading on the deck by my flowers has become a rare hour here and there between all of the scheduled and unplanned activities. The dread of being caught in bumper to bumper traffic on the highway and too many people at my favorite haunts has cut into my summer plans, motivating me to cross off a number of calendared “fun” to dos. Instead, my reading chair on the deck is my refuge, my hiding place from the mob. 
            We paid the price for a visit to a friend’s open garden tour with an hour and a half of stop and go traffic on a Saturday afternoon.  What were we thinking? We even skipped our customary treat at a local dessert shop as that would have required making a left turn. This is, after all, “No Left Turn Season” and tourists are definitely in their “bubble of oblivion”.  
            My classic example of no thinking this summer occurred in front of me on the Wilson River Highway, with both lanes completely crammed full and traveling at 25 mph.  The out of state car ahead of me suddenly skidded to a stop and pulled a U-turn, forcing the oncoming car and me to burn rubber.  In their frenzy, they had to back up in order to fully turn around and head in the other direction, oblivious to the chorus of our collective repertoire of swear words. 
            I fantasized about a robotic State Trooper flying a drone, forcing them over with tractor beams and issuing a multitude of traffic tickets. Can I apply for a “tourist tax” grant to supply that needed addition to local law enforcement? 
            A friend calls the syndrome “tourist brain” and swears there is scientific evidence in support of that psychological condition. I know the local anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.
            I wonder what all the emergency responders call it, but I probably couldn’t repeat their phrases here. 
            A long overdue class reunion challenged me to deal with a restaurant on full tourist overload, and spurred me to politely discourage a gaggle of out of town visitors intent on their ice cream cones at the Creamery.  I’m not up for dealing with 10,000 people clamoring for sugar on a summer day, preferring a quiet conversation on the deck with some iced tea, no parking lots and lines. After all, I’ve planned ahead and have a nice stash of ice cream in my freezer.
            It’s time I take a deep breath, and look at the calendar.  Time is on my side. It’s only a few weeks until Labor Day. That Tuesday is our traditional visit to our favorite beach, as we celebrate “Take Back the Beach” day, my favorite summer holiday. We might even be bold and make a left turn. 


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Water Fills The Space It Finds Itself In

Water fills the space it finds itself in.

            When I recently found myself in an uncomfortable situation where I felt attacked, I was, at first, drawn into anger, in many of the dimensions of that old and familiar emotion.  Anger seems the first place I go, when a situation spins out of order and sense.  My “buttons” get pushed and I am dragged off in the direction of my reptilian, crisis oriented brain. 
            The dark clouds of raw, untamed, uncivilized emotions and untempered responses obscure my usual cheery, gentile approach to the daily challenges of life.  It is a quick journey to the Dark Side.
            I want to just throw my thunderbolts, and shoot endless rounds of arrows into my foe, throwing my weight around and relentlessly wage my own private war.
            Old fears show up, ghosts of anxieties past, spurred on by familiar inadequacies, the voices of old and powerful critics, and the scars of self doubts. 
            My rational, more civilized mind, just sits there, paralyzed by all the sabre rattling, until I can take some deep breaths.  I’ll need to allow myself to listen to my frontal lobes, home of reason, logic, and good memories of my prior successes in peace making and problem solving. 
            Slowly, thoughts of how I am a good problem solver come to mind.  I can entertain the idea that challenges in my life don’t need me inputting launch codes into my own arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
            I am capable, I remind myself.  And, my many talents at peace making and problem solving can be applied to the problem at hand. 
            I realize I haven’t faced this particular problem in the past, but I have worked through things and lived to tell the tale. 
            I just need to apply those hard-earned skills into this new challenge.
            Filling the challenge with my own unique abilities is what is needed.  I need to be adaptable, flexible, and, yes, methodical.  The reptilian reaction of anger, rage, and war-making won’t work, and will only lay waste to relationships and problem solving. 
            Change and crisis, and that initial response of anger, spiced with overpowering feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, failure, rejection, jealousy, and revenge, all stirred up, makes for a toxic cocktail.
            Sometimes, I wonder if I’m addicted to that gut-wrenching response, and those stress chemicals are my own kind of heroin. Or, am I just a human being, hardwired to be the cranky alligator awakened from his nap. 
            Yet, when I can pull myself away from all that, and let my gut unclench, I can see the forest for the trees, and I can adapt my problem solving skills, and get to work.
            I pour myself into the shape of the problem, like water in an ice filled glass, and fill in the spaces with my skills.  Once I take this approach, and take off my armor and lay down my sword, and pick up my peacemaker tools, the solutions show up, and I can move ahead.
            “Let it go,” I tell myself, pushing away the hot coals of rage and anger.  “Give it time and this will play itself out.”
            When I slow down the war talk, and take my time in walking through the battleground, I do better, and I start even liking myself. I begin to believe that this too shall pass, and I don’t need to start World War III. Later, that seems a simple truth.  But, in my first response, I just don’t see it.  I’m only the ‘gator in the swamp.
            Life does that, giving us opportunities to revisit a lesson, and dust off some old tools. Again, I relearn the lesson and realize that not every affront and perceived insult calls for my reptilian warrior mode. 
            “It’s just life,” I remind myself.  “I’ll get through it, and move on.”
            I can deal with this, and do that work well. 
            I come to that, eventually, after I remind myself that I am like water, able to fill the space I find myself in.

--Neal Lemery,  August 8, 2017


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Note to a Friend Facing Grief

Sometimes, there are no words to say or write.  Being present and loving another person is often what is called for.  You honor their life and their love for you, in how you live, and love.  Words may come later.  Actions speak now.  Love others as another has loved you.

--Neal Lemery, July 24, 2017

Saturday, June 17, 2017


            They come into my life and then, too early, they are gone.  And I mourn and grieve, cry and moan.  I am angry at my loss, my pain, the void in my life as their sudden absence is a bleeding, infected wound that never quite seems to heal.

            Grief dances its macabre and bittersweet retinue of every emotion, taking fiendish joy in ambushing me when I least expect it, when I am least able to cope with the pain.

            Yet, deep down, I still carry their light and their love, and sense their their soul, still resounding with me, still an integral part of my life.

            Why? What was so special about that person that I am so profoundly affected by their passing? What was it about them that reached me, touched my heart, and brought them so close to me, such an essential part of my life, my own story?  What is the lesson to be learned?

            I just read that plants emit light frequencies in a part of the light spectrum that is invisible to our eyes, yet photography is now able to record those images, those vibrations, and reveal another dimension of the profound beauty and intricacies of these living beings.

            Is it that much of a stretch in thinking that people also emit vibrations and frequencies of light that is invisible to our eyes, yet sensed in a much deeper level by us, on a different, yet intuitive, level.

            “You are special.  You bring something into my life that is beautiful, meaningful for me.”


            The law of attraction teaches us that we attract to ourselves the emotions, the feelings, the vibrations that we need.  And when we open ourselves to those feelings, the presence of what we crave, then we become more complete, and more able to live the life that we deeply desire.  We come closer to fulfilling our true purpose in this life.

            And when a special person leaves us, there is a void, an emptiness, a loss.  Yet there is also the knowing, deep down, of what they have brought to us in our all too brief time together.  That memory serves us well, teaching us what we had needed and desired, to be a better, more complete person.

            In that loss, that death, there are lessons to be learned, lessons on what we have needed and taken in, and grown from.  When the class is over, only then do we fully appreciate the lessons learned, the experience gained, the real benefit of being present for the lesson, the experience.

            At the end of a particular journey, the end of that special time when a special friend has come into my life and walked with me, only then do I first realize what I have experienced, what we had set out to learn, and how I needed to grow.  I look back, and only then see from where I have come, how far I have traveled, and the name of the road I am on.

            These dear ones who have passed on, the ones whose light I have needed along my own journey, have taught me great lessons, and deeply impacted my life.  I find that when they are gone, only then do I start to fully realize the gifts they have given me, the lessons they have taught me, and the special places they have held in my life.  Only then do I fully appreciate them, and find some sense of completeness and understanding of their presence in my life.
            Somehow, their teaching to me is not complete until they are gone. Only then do I learn all the lessons they have been teaching me.

            Only then is the full spectrum of the light they have shared revealed to me.

            Only then can grief lead me to the understanding I have been led to eventually discover.

--Neal Lemery 6/16/2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

I Choose To Build

            I can choose to do nothing, to embrace the status quo, and not examine my own thinking, my own, old ways of doing things.  Or, I can be the wrecking ball, the sour voice of discontent when new ideas and new ways come my way.

            Or, I can be the builder, using the solid, time tested materials and ways that have worked in the past, and incorporate the new energies, the new ideas, and make things better. 

            My choice. 

“There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.”  -- attributed to Eldridge Cleaver.

            My community is going through a lot of change now.  Our downtown traffic pattern is being completely revamped, and the streets and sidewalks are torn up.  The usual routines and paths are disrupted, and our city bird is the construction crane. Construction worker orange and raincoats is the new fashion statement.

            I can curse the detours, the mud, the mess, or I can look through that and see the beginnings of the new town plaza, the spots for new street trees, and the better traffic flow that will come from this. 

            I choose to build, to make stronger, to help others on their own path, so that they can achieve their dreams, and to find their path a little easier.

            And, I can join the voices embracing the new energies, the vitality of a prosperous, active downtown area.  I can be part of that, and be a builder.

            I’ve done my share of whining about what is lacking in my home town. But, I am choosing to be a builder, not a destroyer, a part of the solutions and not part of the problems. 

            To that end, I’ve helped organize and host a monthly open mic downtown on Saturday nights, providing a performance space for writers, musicians, and other artists.  Part of that work is joining others to bring gallery space for artists downtown, and promote the creative arts.

            I’m a master gardener and have helped educate myself and others on sustainable gardening and educating the community about being better stewards of the land.  I’ve nurtured and planted community garden space.

            I’m working on a foundation to help fund improvements to local parks and recreation spaces.

            And, I’ve spoken out in favor of our community library, and worked on the campaign to renew its local funding.  

            I’m not alone.  This community is on the move, and change is on the wind.  New ideas, new projects are everywhere.  Nearly seventy of my neighbors just returned from a ten day trip to China, having new experiences, learning about another part of the world, and coming home with new ideas and a new international perspective. 

            Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, which encourages us to share an inspirational poem.  Here’s my choice:

The Bridge Builder


An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

Anthology of Verse, 1931

            Change is all around me.  I could choose to be the stick in the mud, struggling against the tide, holding fast to the old, the familiar.  Or, I could be part of the change, going with the flow, being one with the river; and embracing the change.

            The old ways can be comforting, certainly familiar. Yet, will they be successful, meaningful as the world, as my community changes?   

“The civilization that is able to survive is the one that is able to adapt to the changing physical, social, political, moral and spiritual environment in which is finds itself.”  (Leon Megginson, 1963. quoted by Thomas Friedman, Thank You For Being Late, 2016, p. 298)

            I can be the bridge builder, the advocate for a better community, or I can be the stick in the mud, and let the tide move against me, leaving me rotting in the muck of the past, as the world passes by.

---Neal Lemery, 4/27/2017