Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pep Talk

Pep Talk for My Buddy in Prison
Time for a pep talk.  
If you think I am “disappointed” in you, well, I’m not.  I admire your courage and determination to take on challenging tasks and to push yourself.  I admire how you grow and take care of yourself.  
You inspire me.  You inspire others.  You take on stuff I probably don’t think I have the guts to do myself.
I don’t think you need to hold yourself to the standard of S.  He is S, but you are you.  You are unique, and you are special.  There are a lot of things you do easily, and he finds those things hard.  We each have a special path to walk in life, and others may not know how hard it is for us to walk our own path.  
Looking back, the “failures” I’ve had in life have strengthened me, and challenged me.  Sometimes, I’ve had to change direction, but that’s been OK.  Good things have resulted.  I get stronger, healthier, and thus, happier.
Time is a valuable tool.  Time gives us perspective, energy, and a different viewpoint.  Time also gives us more wisdom.  Time is a big tool in your toolbox.  
My job is to support you, to be part of your team.  I’m at your back, and if you stumble, my job is to help pick you up and keep you on your trail.  
I don’t know of anyone who asks more of you than what you can do.  You have a huge amount of ability and talent and determination.  You aren’t perfect.  None of us are.  We humans learn best from our “mistakes” and our stumbles.  Not “succeeding” is an educational tool.
You want to go to college. You want to better yourself.  You want to be educated.  OK, so isn’t that a healthy and positive direction to be going?  And, aren’t you working on that?
I’ve given you books, music, letters, a guitar, and time.  All of that is designed to challenge you and inspire you, and to give you tools to achieve your goals.  There is a method in my madness of what I bring to you.  
You have a lot of anger.  It is righteous anger.  I challenge you to understand that anger, its sources, and its power.  I challenge you to redirect that anger into life energy which you can apply to work you need to do.  I challenge you to direct that anger into healing, and into the determination you have to make a good life for yourself.
You know what you need to do to deal with your mother and your brother.  You get to decide what that relationship looks like and how the relationship functions now.  And, in doing that, its OK to do what is good for you.  You are in charge of your life and you are in charge of your relationships.  
I also challenge you to forgive yourself.  Forgiveness isn’t forgetting; it is taking that energy and redirecting it into growth and self development. Forgiveness takes away the power that the garbage in your life has over you.  Forgiveness gives you freedom.  Forgiveness gets rid of shame and guilt.  Shame and guilt are poisons.   It is OK to put away the club you’ve been using to beat yourself up.  It is time to take out the trash.  
I don’t judge you on who you are or how you are living your life.  My job, instead, is to support you and to believe in you, and to give you positive energy.  My job is to reinforce the goodness that you have inside of you.  And, I do all of this out of respect for who you are and the manliness you have inside of you.  
Don’t underestimate yourself.  Don’t put yourself down.  If you see things in your life that you need to put in order, and to clean up, then do that.  You do that in the jobs you have.
I can help you study for college, and to get ready for tests, and to work on academic work that is challenging.  Put me to work.  It’s OK to ask other people for help, too.  Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.  Asking for help is not saying you are stupid – it is saying I want to learn, I want to grow.  It is being in charge of the direction your life is going.  It is leadership and self respect.  It is being a healthy man.  
It is OK to stop beating yourself up.  And, it is OK to reach out your hand and ask for a little help on the way, as we all hike along this trail of life.  
I’ll help you get ready for college.  This is training.  This is getting in shape and warmed up for the big basketball game.  If you don’t warm up, you will sprain an ankle, pull a tendon, tear a muscle.  If you don’t warm up and train right, you won’t play well.  
I’m part of your Team.  Put me to work.  Make me earn the privilege of sitting with you every week and being part of your amazing life.  
Neal C. Lemery

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Planting The Future

“One generation plants the trees, the next gets the shade.”
Chinese proverb 
Sequoia sempervirens, the coastal Redwood tree, can live up to 1800 years and grow as tall as 380 feet (200 feet in Oregon).  Their natural range goes north as far as the southern Oregon coast. They like the warm coastal fog of California and lots of rain.  And, one of the most spiritual experiences in the world is to hike through the groves of giant redwoods in the Redwoods National Park on a warm, foggy day, in the midst of ancient trees.  
I’ve got a few of them growing here, but I wanted some more.  Part of my soul lives in the giant coastal redwoods of California and I’ve nearly always had a redwood tree growing on my land.  I like the promise of starting a forest of giant trees that will live for hundreds, maybe several thousand years.
Today, I planted three more.  They won’t get to “giant size” by the time I leave this Earth, but I’ll know they are growing, taking root here, and heading skyward with their lacy leaves and thick red bark.    
I’ve always planted trees.  When I was a little kid, my folks had a cabin on 30 acres in what we then called the Tillamook Burn.  Several forest fires had raged through the area in the 1930s to the 1950s, turning the forest into a collection of burned snags and ferns.  So, in the late 1950s, my dad and I would go out with bundles of little Douglas fir seedlings, and our Pulaski (a combination axe and tree planting blade) and plant them on the hills and ridge above the cabin.  The deer ate a lot of them, but enough survived, so that when I drive by the place, I can see a nice forest there.  I like the idea that I had something to do with that.
When I was seven, my dad and I planted a few redwoods on the place we moved to.  Those trees are still there today, about sixty to eighty feet high, doing well, and getting pretty big.  And, the little guys I planted today, well, they are on their way, and will soon be spurting new growth towards the sky.  The fog will collect on their leaves, and big beads of wet will drop down to the earth at their roots.  And, someday, they might be the giant redwoods of the neighborhood.  They will be happy, making their home here, century after century, providing some shade, and peace and serenity to the generations that will come after me.
A few years ago, a friend gave me some little Monterey Cypress trees.  I wasn’t sure they would make it here, too cold and wet, I thought.  But, I babied them along, repotting them, keeping them watered in the summer, and they’ve done well.  They have nice healthy buds for this year’s growth, and big, thick root systems.  Today, I planted them, too.  They’ll be a good addition to the groves of trees I’ve been tending.
The other cypress trees I’ve planted here, Leyland, are doing well, too.  I read up on them today, learning that they are a cross between Nootka (or Alaskan) Cypress and Monterey Cypress.  In their native habitats, they didn’t get to crossbreed, but an English botanist experimented with them in the late 1800s, and they do well in moderate coastal climates.  We’re a bit of Alaska and a bit of California here, which explains why the cypress like it here.  
The rains are moving back in now. The little bit of sunshine I had between storms, which was just enough to grab my shovel and do my planting, is gone now. But, my trees are there, in the rich dark soil, the southwesterly breeze of the coming storm dancing in their needles.  They are ready to put down roots and make this place their home.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Being Painterly In The Desert

Being Painterly in the Desert
Out here, the wind and the sun
has become the all around me
its rhythms, in sync with eons
before me, the maker of mountains,
sand, and dried river gulches,
granite smoothed by water and sun-- 
the palms and creosote brush
just an afterthought.
Others, with brush and paint, 
painted what they saw, felt
and the light, the glorious light
in all this emptiness--
much more, now, that I see
at last.