Monday, November 30, 2009

River Walk pictures

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

River Walk

“Let your eyes see God everywhere. Give up fears and expectations. The Friend, the Beloved, your Soul is a River with the trees and buds of the world reflected in it. And, it’s no illusion!

"The reflections are real, real images through which God is made real for you. This River Water is an orchard that fills your basket. Be splashed!

"But not all flowings are the same. Different donkeys take different loads and different persuasion sticks. One principle does not apply to all rivers.”


I walk along the river, watching its current, deep, and cold. In the deepness, the movement of the current is hidden, almost, and only a few swirls on the surface hinted at its depth, its power.

And, then, I walk further, and come upon a great falls. The power of the river comes to life, the mirror of the surface breaking into thousands of rapids and waves, and then, cascades over a great basaltic cliff, falling, crashing, roaring. The river moves down and becomes nearly air and mist and white light, until, deep in the canyon, it turns back into its old self, deep, cold, again hiding its power, its light.

I move on, splashed.

Neal Lemery 11/09

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November Tree Planting

Kathleen Norris writes that the care for a tree is a form of prayer. The planting and caring of trees is an expression of St. Paul’s “hope in things unseen”. When she visits them, she doesn’t take responsibility for them, but considers them her friends. Where trees are scarce, each tree is a message bearer, a metaphor for perseverance.

But she writes about Dakota trees, and I dig here today, in a meadow surrounded by hills covered with trees. We are all Oregonians. This is the land of trees. No scarcity here, except when we try to burn down the forest, or cut it down, leaving large, ugly squares. I look up into the hills, seeing a patchwork quilt, and not the forest of my ancestors. Here, too, trees persevere, if we leave them be. And, so I plant.

Today, the cold wind blew down from the hills, down from the first snow of the season, the first day of elk season. Thanksgiving is two weeks away, and nearly all the leaves are now off the maples, and only piles of composting cornstalks and dead sunflowers remain in the garden.

Most people plant trees in the spring, when there is hope for the coming summer, and we are anxious for blooms and the leafing out of trees, and the shade offered by them on a hot day. Yet, a few stubborn red and yellow leaves cling to this tree in a big pot, with most of the limbs already taking on the gray pallor of winter. It is heavy enough that I am amazed it all goes into the wheelbarrow, my arms and back moaning as I lift.

My favorite book is The Man Who Planted Trees, a delightful allegory of a French Johnny Appleseed, singlehandedly reforesting a valley near the Alps, one acorn at a time. A war has ravaged the area and it is dry and barren. Yet, over many years, the forest is reborn, the rivers flow again, and people come to make their living in the lush new Eden.

The book’s author, Jean Giono , and I are a lot alike, I think. We both think of trees and tree planting. It is part of our souls. I keep loaning the book out to people I meet. They keep it a long time, but always bring it back, always with a note saying how they enjoyed it. And, maybe they plant trees now, too. I hope so. Maybe my copy of the book is really an acorn.

Every year of my life, I remember planting trees. It is something I must do every year. It is a form of my worship, my spirituality, my giving back to the Earth and the Sky for what I receive every day.

The sod in the field slice easily with my shovel blade, and the ground is not yet completely sodden. Next week’s storms should take care of that. The sun peaks out for an hour, yet the sky turns a pewtery gray, and rain is coming again tonight. So, I dig on, gradually widening the hole, and digging deeper into the earth. Deeper and deeper, finding rocks and the end of the roots of the grass, and even a few earthworms, who haven’t taken off to higher ground next to the garage.

I take a break from digging halfway to China, and fill up the wheelbarrow with September’s offerings on the compost pile. What was the remnants of the late summer vegetables we sliced and canned is now a rich pile of brown and black, well rotted, ready to return to the soil, to this place I live, where this tree will live. With the bare rooted tree now in place in its hole, I dump the rich compost around the roots, mixing in a bit of the soil I just dug out. I move the tree a bit, helping it to settle in, solemnizing the marriage of tree and soil and compost in what was once just an empty spot in the field.

Another wheelbarrow of mulch and I am done, the tree standing tall now, seemingly bonded to earth and reaching to sky. The last of its colored leaves looking fine across the field. It stands straight, the top poking high into the sky, aiming at the stars.

The tree is home now, and already my mind’s eye can see its new green leaves opening up next April, on a warm spring day, near the birch tree and the wild roses that have lived there for five years.

The barn swallows will swoop around the new leaves and the goldfinches may even perch there a bit, while they check out their new nesting sites. They may call it Sweet Gum, the name on the label tied to a limb. The nursery woman was especially pleased with my choice, saying it will grow strong and tall and it will have the most beautiful fall colors next year. Do goldfinches or barn swallows name their perching trees , or simply accept what is there for them, each time they visit us, no naming needed?

But, today, the wind swirls around, slicing through my jacket and down my neck, reminding me that winter is coming, and this idea of planting things outside needs to stop now. Time to put away the shovel for the season, time to bring in the wheelbarrow, and stash my knee pads and garden shoes in the shop, where they will live until that first day in February, when there will be a breath of less icy wind, and remind me that spring is coming.

Neal Lemery 11/09

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Strings and Raindrops and Napping Cats

Day of rain, day of thunder
A day of writing part of my paper on spirituality and counseling
and how those two concepts come together and make
sense. Or not. They just come together
more often than not. Isn’t everything at least
one of those?

Day of restringing my guitar, tuning each string
finding my ear is hearing flat today
and I want to restring going the wrong way around each post
but maybe that is because we are between Halloween and the Winter Solstice,
and things aren’t just working right, until December.

The new strings sound bright and crisp, bringing old songs on happier,
and “Imagine” comes to life with me, and I do, indeed
I do. An hour later,
I take it up again, on another song, and the storm front and new strings
make me tune each note up again, and again, perfect pitch
being elusive today.

I lift my weights and walk my brisk treadmill mile, driving into the Y
others sweating and grunting a bit,
some even watching TV football in silence, as they run
inside from the rain.

The coffee line at Starbucks is long, for a Sunday afternoon,
and we all want room for cream and serious caffeine
On our ways back home, in between raindrops and hail.

Pork and sauerkraut slow cooking in the oven, and the last of the coffee
downed as the last of the Sunday crossword gets nearly solved.
Today, we do this in pencil, not trusting ourselves to read
the twisted mind of Wil Shortz perfectly, with ink.

Cat on lap, cat needing head rubbed, belly rubbed, as he slips into
yet another nap under the warmth of the lamp, while I read my book
and take one last stab at the last word in the crossword
before I slice the bread and toss the salad, and summon the pork
from its bright red iron and enamel pot.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Knives

Laid out on the counter, steel glinting in the light--
edges dull and worn, lined up for the honing stone.

Summer frenzy, berries and fruit,
Then veggies from the garden, peeled, sliced, chopped.

The garage shelves now filled, glass rows after rows--
the pressure canner retired again, back in its place.

Freezer and food dryer tired, too. Shelves groaning
with what the knives had to do, again and again.

Each knife to the wheel, blades rebeveled,
honed, stropped, even, and back in the drawer.

Sharp now, ready for the next task--
Thanksgiving right around the corner.