Monday, January 28, 2013

Letter to a Young Man in Jail, Again

January 28, 2012

Dear  ***:

I worry about you.  I don’t like seeing your name on the jail list.  I’d rather take you out for coffee somewhere and hear about the good things you are doing.  

I care about you.  I know that you care about yourself, too, and want to move ahead.

Love yourself. You have an infinite capacity for love.  You are a loving man.  There is a great deal to love about yourself.  You are worthy of that.  

You are worthy of success, of happiness, of peace.  

Nourish that wonderful spark of amazing love that burns inside of your heart.  Let your light shine, let your love fill this world.  You make a difference in other people’s lives, and you make a difference in your own life.  You, my friend, are a beautiful person.  Believe it.  Act on it.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  

This is wintertime in your life.  Time to rest, to reflect, to refocus and gain new directions.  Get your seeds ready for planting.  Your springtime is coming soon.  This is a time of reinventing yourself, for oiling the gears, and repairing what needs to be repaired.  Your garden is ready for plowing, and seeding, and new growth.  You are a good gardener.  

You know the answers.  You know where you want to go.  I give you permission to go there, to do the hard work that needs to be done, and to fill your heart with love for yourself.  It is OK to love yourself.  It is OK to make the hard choices, and to move in the direction you truly want to go.  That is your destiny.

You have unlimited potential, and unlimited strength.  Your love has no limits.  You are a child of God and you are beloved.  

Tell the voices that bring you down, that degrade you, that hurt you, to shut up.  Find your own voice, and sing your own song.  

You already know all of this.  I’m just flapping my jaws and making noise here.  You already have all the wisdom you need.  You already have all the skills.  You know where to go.  You know the steps you need to take, and the path that you need to walk.  

I’m just saying that you have permission now to go do what you need to do.  You have all the abilities, all the knowledge.  If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t be wasting money on the postage for this letter.  

You also have all the courage and determination you need.

The future is yours.  You are in charge of the present, the now.  Go, and do what you need to do.  Tell the voice of despair and “failure” to shut up, and listen to your heart.  

I expect no less of you.  I expect greatness in you.  I expect you to fill yourself with love and the Light.  Let your Light shine.  

I believe in you.


Neal C. Lemery

Friday, January 25, 2013


--by Neal Lemery

It was a day to clean out a closet, to purge old clothes I hadn't worn for ages, to remove items I no longer used, to literally clean house.

Soon, bare hangers and a full garbage bag resulted, even the basket of newspapers was in the car, ready for the recycling truck in town.  The closet now had room to breathe, and the washer was making some old, dusty clothes ready to be used again, at the front end of the closet.

It was like a shopping spree, with old friends, friends who had gotten misplaced, forgotten.  Yet, room to breathe, too.  Lighter.  A good feeling, freeing myself from some clutter in my life.

With the car full of treasures I no longer wanted,  I headed off to the recycling truck, leaving a month's worth of old news behind.  The quiet whoosh of  piles of newspaper sliding into the town's mound of last month's news mixed with the steady rain that had moved in, another sense of cleansing, renewing.

The second hand store guy eagerly helped me unload the box of old vases, bottles, and lamps, and my garbage bag of clothes.

"This will really help us out," he said.  "We were getting low on men's clothes.  And, this pair of boots will help someone get ready for a job."

He didn't mention the other bag, filled with about three dozen ties.  I'd kept a half dozen of my favorites, ones I might wear to a wedding, or for a special evening out.  But, ties were part of my old work life, and whatever lay ahead didn't include a huge selection of neck nooses.  All those ties would fit in better in the men's section of the thrift store, and out of my closet.

My cleaning and purging project was gaining steam.  It was a part of being alive in my community, making a contribution, being of service.  I drove away feeling tieless and unburdened.

The second hand store would be making some money off of my cleaning project.  And, the truckload of newspapers would be sold soon, putting money into the hands of a local service club, and spent on scholarships for kids' field trips, or feeding the hungry, or some other project that needed some cash.

My next stop was all about me.  It was time for a visit with my acupuncturist, some "me time", part of my inside work this month, getting me settled down and moving on with the next step in my life.

"Retired", that is my status, I guess.  It is what people ask me about, in the grocery store line, or at the post office.  For me, it is a renewal, and a time of self exploration, the next phase in life.

I am not idle, and I do have a new schedule.  For once in my life, what others want of my time is not much of a priority, and "empty" days are filled up nicely, thank you very much.  Including this day, this day of cleaning and purging, and time with the acupuncturist.  This renewal work is right on schedule.

Already, eating better, without sugar, exercising vigorously most every day, spending more time with my music and nature, even some good hours on the river bank, fishing for more than just the elusive steelhead on a sunny, cold January day, were already making my jeans a big baggier, and giving me deeper sleep.

Yet, I'm a work in progress, and I still need to put one foot in front of the other, and move ahead with my life, cleaning out my closets, in every sense.

Soon, I was lying down in a warm and dimly lit room, as the acupuncturist did her magic, finding just the right places to stimulate some of my pressure points, and move my energy around, cleansing, renewing, reinvigorating.

The Chinese call it "Qi" or "chi", the universal life energy force that flows within all of us, the foundation of all of our creativity, and our very essence of being.

Western thinking would want me to analyze it, measure it, describe it, and test out various theories of what is and what it does.   And, my analytical mind is drawn to such work.

Yet, instinctively, I don't go there.  This is something to simply acknowledge, to honor its existence in myself, as a fundamental, essential aspect of my very being, and be accepting.  I need to put my Western mind into idle, and simply lie here on this table, in this warm and safe room, and be.

Now, I need to remind myself that I am a human being, not a human "doing".  This is not the time or the place to "do", but, instead, to just be, be in the moment, to accept this gift, and to let my chi flow.  What is, simply is.

This is "me" time, "being" time.

Soon, all the needles are in place, stimulating and opening up gateways and paths.  I feel the current of energy flow through my body, along all the paths.  This is dynamic, the current and the sense I get from all of this changing, moving, within me, and of me.

I breathe in and out, feeling the leaving from me of things I no longer want, "stuff" that is cluttering me up.  Darkness and crud and the dust bunnies of my internal being leave me, in each breath, in each awareness I have of the chi circulating within me.

Soft Chinese music plays in the background, something I am sometimes aware of, and sometimes not.  The real music is in this flow of energy, and in the breathing in and out.

This is closet cleaning work, too, getting rid of the old newspapers and unworn clothes cluttering up my life, and my soul.  All that "stuff" is going elsewhere.  I am done with it, and moving on, carrying a lesser burden.

I lie here in a halfway world, half awake, half somewhere else not of this world, the music and my breathing and the sense of this flow of energy being my metronome for this space I am in.

Purging, cleaning, throwing away, putting in order, getting lighter; this is my task for this day.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013


                       by Neal Lemery

"We holds these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..."  -- the Declaration of Independence.

Treating people the same; equal opportunity; equal protection; one man, one vote.

Equality is in the Constitution; it is a paraphrasing of the Golden Rule. We like to think our government works this way, that our community lives this way.  It is not just a principle of law, but a basic essence of our culture.  It is a personal moral tenet.  

Our spiritual saviors and our holy scriptures call us to not just give lip service, but to live this ideal of equality, as the word of God, divinely inspired.  

We are confronted by reality, however.  The reality of poverty, of discrimination, of 
 disparity among classes, races, genders, ages, sexual orientation, the powerful, and the powerless is here. Every day, we reap the harvest of anger, of hopelessness, and fear.  Bigotry and fear are big in our culture.  Most of the time, we sidestep these, and move away into easier issues.  

"Them" and "us".  It is neat, and tidy, and insidiously easy to teach.  The dichotomy is the instigator of war, and the fuel for much of our social woes.  

This week, our newly re-elected President boldly proclaims that we should aspire to a society where anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be free to love, and to marry.  He asserts that such freedom is a fundamental, inherent right of any person.  He reminds us of those "equality words" in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and in the depths of our humanity.

After all, we have taken great strides in incorporating other classes of people into our society: women, people of all races, youth, the mentally handicapped.  The acceptance of women, people of all ethnic groups and religious groups is now, at least, part of our laws and public policies.  We pay lip service to such acceptance, and many of us, in our actions and our beliefs, do not segregate others from our lives.

The President has changed his mind.  He has changed his perspective of what freedom and equality mean. In the last two years, he has given great thought to these issues, these questions.  As a lawyer, as a politician, as a Black man, as a father, and as president, he has weighed the questions and wrestled with the debate.  And, now, he takes his oath of office with a hand on the Bible of Lincoln and the Bible of Martin Luther King, and boldly speaks his peace.  He leads us into change.  

Equality.  Of course.

It seems simple and profound, like most great ideas.

In nine states, gay people can now freely marry.  In the last election, voters in three states decided the issue, saying now, in their states, marriage is open to all.  The government will not restrict your right to marry the one you love.

Yet, I cannot find any newspaper stories relating the predicted chaos in social institutions and communities where these marriages now occur.  In these states, gay marriage is not a disaster, not a major event, but commonplace, accepted, the norm.  

If we read our country's most cherished legal documents, our most inspiring speeches, the essence of our assorted holy scriptures, there is no debate.  Of course, loving others unconditionally, and being free to love the one you love, without barriers, without caveats, would seem to not be debatable.  

Not that long ago, I recall church burnings and lynchings, and the police dogs attacking civil rights marchers in the South, and how Black people couldn't go into some places in my home town.  And, women not being able to do some jobs, and hold public office.   

And I remember the day the Supreme Court said that White people could marry Black people, that such a right was part of our Constitution, and it was a remarkable event.  And, when Black people voted and went to college, and won elections, and women could work where they wanted and live fuller lives, the world did not end.  Chaos did not ensue.  And, lives became richer.  Some walls came tumbling down, and life became a little more equal for all of us.

Young people gawk at me in disbelief, when I tell them of these things from my youth and early adulthood, of the cross burnings and lynchings, and voters taking out the racist language in my state's constitution.  It is, perhaps,  ancient history, and yet, that fear, and that divide between "them" and "us" remains.  Such fear, while it is ancient and deep seated, lives among us today.  

Yet, we are deeply divided, even angry about whether or not people of a different sexual orientation than ourselves, can have the same rights, the same freedom.  People cling to their readings of scripture, their own fears and doubts, keeping the barriers to accepting others raised high.  

"Not here, not in my family, not in my community.  It is not the Will of God."

Yet, the neighbor, the person next in line at the grocery store, maybe even your son may be "Them".  Other discriminations, other segregations are easier.  The color of skin, one's gender, one's language,  they are easier to spot in the crowd.  This category of "them" and "us" is harder to see, harder to root out.  Somehow, it digs deeper into us, into our sexuality, into topics not prone to rooting out over coffee with a friend.

Are we not all human, are we all not endowed by the Creator, as having certain unalienable rights, to pursue happiness and liberty, to love, and be loved?  Are we not entitled, as human beings, to enjoy families, to raise children, to be part of our communities, and be free from prejudice and not being labeled as someone apart from the norm?  

Are we all not children of God?  

"What would Jesus do?," is an oft-asked question, used by those teaching morality, and instilling good parenting and decent morality in the lives of our children and in the affairs of our community.  

Indeed, what would Jesus do?  I have not found His views on homosexuality in the New Testament.  Yet, His Sermon on the Mount and His other teachings speak of loving others unconditionally, of finding acceptance and brotherhood.  He spent his time with religious outcasts, prostitutes, the poor, the sick, and politically impotent.  He berated the money changers in the temple, and spoke extensively of forgiveness, acceptance, and love.  He honored marriage as a celebration of love and partnership, and performed His first miracle at a wedding.  

Love.  It is found in your heart, and not in the color of your skin, or in your genitalia, or in how you seek to understand God.  

In other faiths, there are profound teachings of love and acceptance, brotherhood and community without conditions.  What would Jesus do?  What would Buddha say?  What would Muhammed preach?  The answer seems clear.  

I also look back to my youth, in spending time with my best friend.  We shared our lives, our schooling, our hopes and our dreams.  We would hike the beaches, and explore the forest, going through life and growing into men.  We shared deeply, as best friends do, of fears and doubts, and what type of men we wanted to be.  

Years later, when I had settled down a bit, he came by to visit.  

"There's something you should know," he said.  "And, its about me."  

He told me then that he was gay.  He had stumbled through life, sorting things out, running away from himself.  There were the stories of alcohol and drugs, of anger and loneliness, and broken relationships.  There were the stories of fear and despair. There were stories of acceptance and love, forgiveness and healing. And, at last, relief and honesty.

He was coming out, and he was proud of himself.  

"This is who I am," he said.  "And, now I know that about me.  And, I want you to know, too."

We hugged and cried, rejoicing in his acceptance, and in my acceptance.  We rejoiced in his healing, and him finding his rightful place in life, and in finding a partner he could truly, and honestly love.  That was what we had dreamed about, and that was what we talked about, deep into the night, around the campfires of our teenaged years, looking for love and finding our rightful place in the world.

Honesty.  Best friends being honest, going deep, accepting each other for who we were.   It was a rich gift he gave me that day.   It was the best gift.

It was a day of freedom, and liberation.  It was a day I would want everyone to experience, deep in their heart.

Would I not want the same for my son, or my neighbor's daughter, or for the barista at the coffee shop, or the person next to me at the grocery store?  Don't they deserve to be loved and to love, to be with someone they cherish and adore?  

And, shouldn't that love be celebrated and embraced, by all of us?  Isn't love, unconditional love, and sharing all that that is with each other, isn't that why we are here in this world?  

Isn't that really what equality is?  


Monday, January 14, 2013

Water Dippers Dating

inches above the river
roaring down the canyon;
twirling in almost frozen drizzle,
water dark and green.

Dancing, and laughing
in bird talk
ignoring me
as I snarl my line
and catch a stick.