On the Path of Life


On the Path of Life

It was an ordinary path: pavers on top of coarse sand, a nice basket weave pattern, edged by other, longer stones. The gray stones mirrored the sky, on this cold day, hardly noticeable to most everyone using it on the breaks between classes.

He’d wanted to do something special, and bring some beauty into this utilitarian place, adding his own special touch.

We found some thyme plants in an herb bed. They’d done well this past year, and the little rooted new plants in that tangle of pungent leaves and stems came out of the dirt easily. Today, his idea was happening; it was time to start.

He told me what he wanted, a little plant in each sandy triangle, where the pavers came to the edge of the path.

“Don’t we need more dirt?” he asked.

I didn’t think so. Thyme grew well in harsh conditions, and the roots still had soil attached, the sand along the path wasn’t’ very deep, and was laid on top of the dirt of the old lawn, before it became a path.

“It’s tough stuff, grown from hardy plants which can survive summer heat, drought, and getting stepped on,” I said. “Just like you.”

He grinned and nodded.

We had talked about his life, the chaos before he came here, how he endured fists and drunken rages, his soul battered by neglect and abuse, how he learned to hurt others, and ended up here.

“I’m doing great here,” he told me. “Best place I’ve ever been.”

This is prison, I thought. There’s a tall fence, with barbed wire, not a hundred feet away. Guards roam and surveillance cameras look down on our path, where we’re setting in our little thyme plants, giving them and the young men here a fresh start in what looks like a tough place to grow.

He nodded at me, looking deep into my eyes.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said. “Me saying prison is the best place I’ve lived.”

“But, you know, this is the first place I’ve felt safe, where I’ve been able to go to school every day, and get some good help on growing up, becoming a man,” he said.

There had been a neighbor, and a kind teacher in his life, people who’d taken an interest in him, feeding him dinner and giving him a couch to spend the night on when things at home got crazier than usual.

“They gave me hope,” he said. “A sense of feeling that I was worth something, that I could change my life, if I wanted to.”

He’d never forgotten them, and the idea that he was, deep down, a good guy, someone who could move ahead and be someone who was decent and kind.

We kept planting the little plants, each of us taking an edge of the path, working our way down to the other end, side by side.

The late winter sun took the chill out of the air, and we paused to take off our sweatshirts. A few drops of sweat ran down our faces, and we laughed about working up a sweat on this February day.

“It feels good to laugh,” he said.

I agreed, telling him I was admiring his project, that we were making the pathway a refuge from the daily routine.

“The rest of the guys, they’ll enjoy the path more,” I said. “They’ll notice the plants and smell the thyme, and they’ll have a moment of beauty in their lives as they walk along here.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’d thought about that, when I came up with this idea, and ran it by the garden teacher. She thought it was a great idea.”

“Even if the guys don’t say something about the path, it will still be part of their lives, part of their experience here,” he said.

This path, and the beauty he’s creating here, will also be part of his life, I told him. He was making a difference, changing lives, and teaching people about love.

We’d come to the end of the path, and paused, letting our muscles stretch and the sweat on our faces dry. We stood up, looking back, taking in all the new plants, and how the path looked different now, with its new design of green among the pavers, the faint smell of thyme fresh in my nose.

“You are a creator, making this corner of the world just a little better place to live and grow in,” I said.

“Thanks for doing this, for being an artist and brightening up this path for everyone,” I said.

“Thanks for helping out,” he said. “And for being a friend.”
He got quiet, looking down at the path, and the work we’d done this morning.

“It’s everything I’d hoped for,” he said.

—Neal Lemery 2/23/2016

Change


What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Today, the first day of the new year, is here. Change is here. Change is inevitable.

I take down the old calendar, and put up the new one. Its pages are fresh, clean, but soon to be filled up with appointments, events, the significant occurrences and adventures of the new year.

A fresh year, a new start, and off we go. Already, I am deciding what to do, how to interact with the world, how to be a productive and healthy person.

How do I meet the challenges of the new year? Old habits, old ways of thinking, or maybe a new approach, a new paradigm for the new year.

Every day, actually, is like New Year’s Day. We have that ability to make a fresh start, and embrace new ways of thinking, every day.

I embrace the old ways, the routines. They are comforting, predictable, familiar. Yet, following those old ways, being in my rut, assures me of not growing, and not realizing my potential in this new year, this new day.

A new year is a new beginning, if I want it to be truly a fresh start.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” Mahatma Gandhi said.

I do want the world to change. But first, I need to change. It is up to me to begin.

Today.

Neal Lemery 1/1/2016

The New Year Comes


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The new year is almost here. I’m ready for a change, to go with the new calendar on the wall. Soon, there will be a new month, a new year, and the rest of winter. But, I’ve been adrift, not quite able to put words to this feeling, this restlessness for looking at life in a new way, with new words.

A new friend and I meet, sipping coffee milkshakes, as he tells me of his life and his hopes for the future. He is full of optimism, and hope for a new beginning. His life is changing, much for the better, as he distances himself from chaos and anger, to curiosity and new vocabulary.

He thinks I’m wise, and I can teach him much. Truth be known, he is my teacher, my spiritual guru today. Like him, I need to free myself from old patterns, old demons, and look ahead. I need a new vocabulary, and fresh eyes to see the world unfolding before me.

“I want to explore so much,” my friend says.

I could easily define him as a failure, a cast off, for something he did several years ago. His family has rejected him, and society has sent him to prison.

He’s a prisoner, I thought, but really, he’s free now. He’s been released, and can now truly live his life. One person’s idea of prison is another’s university of life.

A paradox. Yet, he feels free now, for the first time, to be who he wants to be, to stretch himself and move ahead in his life.

For the first time, he is with people his own age, making friends, going to school, and learning to write. He’s waking up every morning in a place where he is not beaten, screamed at, or kept away from the world. He’s escaped from the darkness of his family’s chamber of horrors, and has come into the light, joining the world as a real person.

He searches for words to express himself, and the words for his waves of emotion, all new to him. This coming year is a new beginning for him, a gift to be opened and cherished, with words and emotions he has never known before.

We discover we are both gardeners, in every nuance of the word. Like me, he’s browsing the seed catalogs, and placing his order, dreaming of the coming springtime, where one plants and brings forth new life. He yearns to nurture the garden of his own soul.

“Who am I?” he asks.

“Anything you want to be,” I reply. “You can choose now. The world is yours to explore.”

And, not just for him, I realize. It is my choice, too. I, too, am in this world, and I also can make those choices and have those opportunities. We are both gardeners and poets, thinking of spring.

And we are both prisoners, of our thoughts, our old perceptions of the world and how we fit into the mold of what others expect of us, how they think we should act and think.

Like my buddy, I too can be free, and move on towards the coming newness and freedom of the new year, and be who I really want to be.

12/28/2015
Neal Lemery

Changing Times


 

Change is all around me. I look outside and there is more than a hint of Fall in the air. Leaves are changing color, my garden is in harvest mode, and the air is cool and damp.

After a summer of unusual warmth and dryness, we have had some rain, and plants are reviving, coming alive again.

I turn the calendar to a new month. Summer vacations are ending, and there is a flurry of activities. Classes, meetings, events are happening. Community life is coming alive again. There are things to do and opportunities to grow.

Driving by my neighborhood school, I see it coming alive after the summer break. The parking lot is crowded, and families are heading inside to an evening welcoming, celebrating the opening of school. Excited, nervous little kids break into an enthusiastic skip as they walk into the school, parents smiling with pride.

Their child is starting school, and opportunity awaits. Anything is possible. I see that in their faces, in how they walk, and hold their kids’ hands.

At the store, I navigate through the hordes of tourists and weekenders, and I run into old friends. We reconnect, realizing we haven’t seen each other all summer. We pause to catch up, and reconnect, reweaving the fabric of community. This weekend marks the end of the high season, the wave after wave of visitors who crowd our roads, and walk our beaches and trails. Soon, it will be quieter here, and we locals will breathe big sighs of relief, and reclaim our peaceful moments in the places we treasure.

They, too, are caught up in this sense of change and transformation. It is a new season, a new beginning.

Before yesterday’s rain, I planted a new crop of peas, beets, and radishes. My new lettuce rows are already up. I harvest more broccoli for our dinner, knowing that my work will bring on yet another feast in another month.

A friend is soon off to college, and we pause for coffee, and share his excitement for his new adventure. He’s ordered his textbooks, and is already packing for his move to a new city, and a new school. Excitement is in the air and in his eyes. His future is happening, and he’s ready to grow.

All this newness and excitement. I feel alive and invigorated. Anything is possible. Anything can happen. I am part of that, and I am all of that.

Change. It is in the air, and I am ready to take a deep breath, and move ahead.

 

Neal Lemery

9/7/15

 

Planting Our Gardens


 

This was a week of planting flowers.

A few days ago, I’m able to tend some flowers in our town’s community garden. Over a cup of coffee, a young man and I talk about changing attitudes in this community. Two street preachers have periodically shown up on Main Street, condemning homosexual love, accosting young people, telling them they are going to hell.

One brave high school girl made a sign, and stood next to them on the street corner, contradicting their views. Her hand-lettered sign spoke of the idea that love is the highest human value, that everyone should be able to love who they choose to love, that homosexual love is an aspect of Christian love and compassion.

She was joined by others, and a Facebook group was created, #TillamookForLove, its members now close to 3,000. The preaching and the counter demonstrations became the talk of the town. The young girl’s actions were mentioned around the world, tweeted by Ellen DeGeneres and becoming a featured story in the Huffington Post.

The young man I had coffee with joined the girl and her supporters, taking a public stand on an issue dear to his heart.  As often happens in a small town, and across America, people criticized him, condemned him, telling him he’s a sinner because of what he is willing to say. His job was at risk for what he believed in, what he spoke about on his own Facebook page.

Yes, fear and bigotry and discrimination, right in his face.  Change his opinion or lose his job. The old beliefs, the old discriminatory, bigoted ways aren’t just something to talk about, not just some textbook First Amendment clash between freedom of religion and free speech. Now, it’s seeing the reality of imposing one’s own religious beliefs, and beliefs about who you can marry, to the point of crushing someone else’s right to their own opinion, to the point of getting fired.

Our coffee cools as we wrestle with his story, his pain and anguish, his moral dilemmas hitting his wallet and his conscience.  Being called out for what you believe in and threatened with losing his job, his challenges and choices aren’t just an academic debate. He’s on the battlefield, and the spears and the clash of swords on the front lines aren’t confined to a history book. The blood being shed is real.

Bigotry and fear run deep in our little town and across our country. He’s still in shock about how deep the cancer grows, how quickly the moral question got personal. The ugliness is something we both don’t like to see, don’t like to admit is thinking that is all too common. What is the price of his own conscience?

Yet, he knows his own mind, and he knows his standards of ethics and morality. Quietly, firmly he speaks his mind, knowing that he can sleep well tonight, knowing he made the right call, knowing that his beliefs are truly his own, that getting fired for what he believed in was really the best response to his boss, his own epiphany for what we are facing.

I shake his hand, seeing real courage across the table, feeling proud that he knows himself well enough to know his own mind, that he’s confident enough to follow his Truth, and live according to his own heart.

This flower garden is growing well.  The weeds have been called out and named. Weeds are being pulled and beautiful flowers have been planted. Strong plants send their roots deep into the soil of this young man’s heart, his morality strong and fertile.

Today, I plant some flowers of my own, going to a nearby prison and planting flowers inside the fence, behind the locked gate that slams shut every time I leave.

The young men I visit, several other volunteers, and I weed flower beds. We work on setting the supports for a new arbor in fresh cement, finish the week’s projects, and tidy up the garden. This weekend, the young men will host a Family Day, with food and games, and tours of their garden. Proudly, they will show off their hoop house, their raised beds and chickens, showing off all the growing that has been going on.

The youths clean up the garden and carry out their tasks, making the place shine, their flowers and vegetables thriving under their careful and meticulous gardening skills.  They are learning a great deal in their class, where they are studying a wide range of subjects.  I help correct their homework, and work with them, one on one, as they delve into the hands-on work of both the academic work and their hoop house and raised bed projects.  Their work is top notch, and their gardens reflect the pride they are taking in their agricultural work, and the rebuilding of their lives. It is garden work on many levels.

We work happily together, asking questions, sharing our knowledge, expanding our curiosity about how sunshine, dirt, seeds, and tender care can produce vigorous growth.  The young men ask great questions, get their hands dirty, and do the weeding, pruning and fertilizing they need to change themselves, and move on with their lives, becoming healthy, and vigorous young men. I’m given the task of adding several flats of marigolds to some bare spots in the flowerbeds. I create my own slice of Eden, being a role model for the young men, and adding some beauty to this world behind the fence and the barbed wire. A young man takes the time to admire my work, and ask me some questions about pruning. Our talk goes deep, until I answer what he is really asking.

Lives are changed here. I’m thankful I’m able to dig my trowel into the receptive soil of these young men, and plant some flowers.

This week, the gardens of our community have needed a great deal of work. Hard decisions have been made, and the spade work, hoeing and planting have made us sweat.  The gardeners have new blisters, some new aches and pains.  We’ve pulled the weeds and planted new flowers, and we are ready for a little more sunshine and truth in our lives.

—-Neal Lemery, May 29, 2015

Another comment on my book


Am thoroughly enjoying (through a few tears) your book. Thank you. Perhaps enjoying isn’t the appropriate word, I am appreciating your ability to not only help these young men, but allowing us all to glimpse at the possibility of changing and enhancing any young person’s life through mentoring and listening to their stories. (And giving them the opportunity to write their own stories.

–Shannon Rouse

Commitment, Change and Solstice


“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth: that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans; the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”

—Goethe

It is easy to do nothing. It is easy to not take a step, not to have that intent to move forward. Inertia is on the side of the procrastinator, if one never plans to achieve anything. Doing nothing means I intend nothingness.

My essence, my soul calls for something more. Moving ahead in life is all about intention. Where do I want to go? What do I want to accomplish? What is on my “to do” list?

I have intention, even if I intend to do nothing, to sit idle. If I am intentional and purposeful, then my intentions form around my purpose, and I am propelled forward, onward. I take that first step, which is always the hardest step. My inertia changes and I move. The laws of physics apply and I stay in motion. I move in the direction I am moving, forward.

Implicit in this motion is a goal, a purpose, a direction. I am going towards something. And, that something should be important, because I am engaging my life in moving towards that something. I am being purposeful, intentional. Yes, directional.

Over time, I find myself down the road, along the way. I am somewhere else, and my perspective, my surroundings have changed. I am changed by this moving forward. In moving, change becomes inevitable, the essence of the motion.

Today is the winter solstice, the day of shortest daylight in the Northern Hemisphere—longest night, shortest day. Tomorrow, the celestial movement will have taken us from here to somewhere further, and daylight time will grow— a new season, a new year.

This year, the Moon joins in, with a new moon today. The heavens are calling for us to pay attention.

I am within all of this, change acting upon me, motion and inertia, pushing me ahead. Dare I embrace this change, and reform myself, finding my intention, and ride this wave onward? That is the call of this day, the morning birdsong of this first winter’s day.

Yes, it is time to move, and to change. I intend it to be so.

—Neal Lemery 12/21/2014

Root Beer and Potato Chips


I see him every couple of weeks, our time spent playing a game and talking about his accomplishments. Tonight, he’s got on his best shirt and a pair of khakis.

“I dressed up for you,” he says, as we shake hands and sit down at the table.

He takes the games seriously, being focused, attentive, a big smile showing up when he wins, or when he makes a good play. He smiles when I win, too, just enjoying the company, and having a good time.

“I played with my dad, too,” he says. “We had a good time.”

I nod and talk a bit about having fun playing games when I was a kid. I make light of it, not wanting to linger. A few visits back, he talked about how his dad abandoned his mom and the kids when he was ten, and then died of a drug overdose.

Life went downhill for him, and he found himself in long term foster care, then an adoption. The family rejected him, and he was adopted again, and then that family rejected him, too. He ended up in some program for lost and abandoned teens, and then, he ended up here, in prison.

I make sure I show up when I say I will, and I’ll play any game with him he wants to play. I buy him a coffee drink from the prison canteen, and sometimes a cookie or a hamburger. I try to be one of the few who stick around for him, who show up, and are willing to spend time with him.

I’ve known him well enough now that we can talk about most anything. He’s growing a goatee now, and its starting to fill in, and look like a real beard. It’s growing in with two colors, patches of brown and then patches of tan, almost white. His hair grows that way, too.

I say something nice about his addition to his face, trying to send a compliment his way, to notice his new manliness.

“Interesting that there’s two different colors,” I said, suddenly realizing I might be coming off as rude or obnoxious, tripping over my tongue.

“Yeah, just like my hair,” he says.

“I was a failure to thrive baby,” he adds. “I was in the hospital for my first three months, and then my mom got special formula for me.”

“But, she sold that for drugs, and fed me root beer and potato chips for six months, before the case worker finally caught on.”

“That’s why my hair grows in patches; two different colors. Malnutrition.”

No big deal.

He goes back to the game, intent on studying the cards in his hand.

He lays down some cards, making a brilliant play in the game, racking up a bunch of points. He laughs, telling me he’s going to beat me on this hand.

Root beer and potato chips. I’m still back on that, still trying to wrap my head around a mom who would sell her baby’s formula for drug money.

And, it’s no big deal. Just a fact in his life, just part of the craziness he’s gone through, just his story. Another matter of fact anecdote to tell over a game of cards.

He’s finished up with high school, and he’s ready to graduate. He was going to go through the graduation ceremony, the one the high school has here every June, but he got sick and had to go to the hospital for three days, and missed the ceremony.

We’re planning a special ceremony for him, a day just for him to get his high school diploma, and get a round of applause. He thinks his mom is coming, in a couple of weeks, and his brother, too. He wants them here for his graduation, wants them to see him get his diploma.

She’s only been back in his life now for the last six months. They talk on the phone, and she’s come to see him a couple of times. He says it’s a good thing, and they are starting to have a real relationship.

“But, when she comes to visit, I don’t get any root beer or potato chips,” he said, breaking into a chuckle, and giving me a wink.

“We’re just moving ahead.”
8/30/14

Cleaning His Basement


The lock on the door is rusty, his key barely wanting to fit into the hole. An awful screech fills the air as he turned the key hard, his hand trembling, his heart pounding. For most of his life, no oil has seen its way into the lock or the dead bolt on the door, or the rusty old hinges. The door screeches its reluctance to his visit here today, a place he seldom visited. There are too many memories here, too many monsters to wrestle with.

A puff of stale, moldy air seeps out of the darkness below, filling his nose with the dark, fetid stench of a place he’d always been terrified to enter, let alone even acknowledge that it exists, deep below the rest of his life.

He’s lived here all of his life, and all of the other rooms, finally, are fixed up and remodeled, reflecting his idea of what a happy house should be. It has been a long journey, but, finally today, he’s ready to tackle the basement. Until today, he wasn’t ready to take this on. But, now, at last, he is.

Large windows, often open to the fresh outside air, and the bright sunlight of happy days, polished wood floors, and the fresh green of house plants fill the rest of the house with brightness and contentment. Cheery art work, and vases of fresh flowers brighten his living space, where he plays his music, read his books, and fixes meals for his friends and family. Books and pictures of family and beautiful places he’s visited crowd the bookshelves, and the shiny floors brighten his heart as he sips his afternoon tea, reads his books, and visits with his friends who drop by.

He’s worked hard to make a good life for himself, to bring the sunshine into this house, brightening the rooms and sweeping away the darkness and gloom of his childhood. He’s landscaped the yard, planting beautiful flowering shrubs and annuals, taking care to arrange secret little refuges under the trees, places where one can simply sit and enjoy the day, soaking up the quiet of the neighborhood, taking in the fresh air and birdsong.

Others come here, too, neighborhood kids and young lovers, looking for a place for some solitude and communion with all the plants and the birds and the squirrels, creatures calling this place their home, their place of safety from the chaos of the world. His friends and neighbors tell him he has a beautiful life, that he inspires them to be happy and fulfilled. Yet, the dark, scary basement is still here, underneath all of the beauty and peace.

It’s taken most of his life to re-order this place, this home of his, to truly make it his space, a place where he can relax, a place he can finally call his own
.
Every time the trash man came, he managed to fill up the trash can with the results of his remodeling, his sweeping of the trash, his emptying of closets and shelves, sometimes the remnants of entire rooms, as he cleared away the old, the mildew, the unpleasantness and the dirt of days past. He’s brought in new wood, new sheetrock, windows, and cans of bright, cheerful paint, covering the old and remaking this place into what he really wants, a home, filled with real love, a place where his soul can be, at last, at peace.

Yet, late at night, in the quiet of moonless nights, or when a storm moves in and rattles the windows, rain beating on the glass, he hears the old monsters, the old memories, the old ways, lurking in the darkness of the basement. In the dank of the sunless space, where cobwebs and the occasional rat lurk, the old thinking, the old way of childhood life, still linger.

“It’s always been this way,” they whisper, in the black hours before sunrise. “You’re not good enough,” is the response to the emptiness, the quiet. “You can’t change. You are a failure.”

Even before he could remember, even before he’d thought about arguing with those thoughts, those voices, those words of doubt, those thoughts of worthlessness, those horrid voices filled the house, finding a place in his soul. They ate away at his young heart, even when he was so wanting to find love and acceptance. Yet, that is what he heard, all that he heard, and so, he believed those voices, taking their messages deep into his soul, believing that such words were the truth in his life, the way it would always be.

Part of him knew the truth, yet, he could not escape, not then. And, when he failed in his efforts to leave, the dark voices laughed, reminding me once again that he was a failure, that his despair was just the way life would always be. Hoping for happiness was just ridiculous.

Yet, later on, when he found love, and there were people who came into his life who would love him for what he really was in this world, he began to hear other words, new messages. He began to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of feeling, learning that he wasn’t who he had been, not who he was expected to be as a child, a person who could only know shame, and guilt, and looking at what he wanted to be only as a failure.

Other people opened up the blinds, and washed the grime from the windows to his soul, bringing flowers and sunlight into his life, asking him to breathe the fresh air, and to drink from the pure waters of sacred springs, asking him to truly live.

At first, he hid from those loving people, knowing deep inside that he was a failure, that he wasn’t good enough, not worthy enough to sit in sunlight, and sip rich, sweet tea with others, to think new thoughts, and to actually know love. The old voices were strong, and they had always been there. And those who should have loved him told me that the old voices were right, that he wasn’t good enough to live any differently. It was just the way life was. He should just accept that, accept that he wasn’t worthy of anything else.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he opened the door to the people who came into his life, the people who loved him, and who talked about love, and acceptance. He finally heard them speak, as they told me the idea that life can be filled with joyfulness and with purpose, that we are here to love others, and to be loved, that we are truly children of God, and that the God we should know is a God of love, and acceptance.

He breathed in that fresh air, and soaked up the sunshine they offered, his soul craving the goodness that was offered to him, freely and with love.

His doubts and his wounds, always bleeding, and always painful, soon began to go away, and he began to heal. Life without pain and self loathing was still new, but he began to know what a minute, then an hour, and then a day could be without that darkness hanging over him that life could be more than breathing the fetid, dank air of despair and worthlessness.

And, he began to grow, and to hold his shoulders back, taking in the fresh air, finding strength in the act of loving others, and of being loved. The anxiety, the ever-present cloud of worthlessness began to leave him, then, and he saw life in a new way, in a way of hope and joy, and real purpose. He had something to offer the world, something more than being the sack of rotting garbage, getting in the way of others, no longer being the putrid, worthless trash that the rest of world simply had to tolerate, until he finally died of terminal worthlessness and self-pity.

Yet, the old ways were still there, still living in his basement, still whispering their hateful message to him in the darkest moments of the night.

Today, he opened the lock, pushing open the door, letting the rusty hinges creak and moan as the door swung open, the old spiderwebs and dust of those old years now lit up in the bright sunlight of his new life, his healthy, vibrant life, a life filled with purpose, and meaning, and the intention of doing good works, being a part of the real world.

His friends came behind him, their hands filled with brooms and mops, and fiery torches, following him down the steps into the darkness, into the basement of all of his fears and doubts, and the old voices that still called to him in the dark times in his life.

They set to work, sweeping and cleaning, and sacking up the filth and the grunge of the old times, the old voices. The dumpster outside was soon filled with old, stinking trash. They ordered another dumpster, and then, another, filling them up with all the old memories, and the old ways, and the old, poisonous litanies that had filled his childhood with all of its anger, and rage, and degradation and loathing that they could find.

As he and his friends worked, they sang, their voices filling the rapidly changing darkness with hope and love and community, songs of love and happiness filling their hearts with the satisfaction of getting a dirty job finished, of cleaning out the cesspools of one’s old ways, and bringing into his life a basement filled with purpose, with joy, and with the love that a good life has, a place of contentment and vibrancy, a place where good things are nurtured, and allowed to grow into their full potential.

Soon, the dark, moldy basement of his house, once filled with those old ways of looking at life, the nightmares of despair and hopelessness, was transformed into that last room in his house to know the sunlight, the music, and the warmth of love and satisfaction of a happy, productive life.

Their work done, they climbed the stairs, ready for their feast, their celebration of a great day of cleaning, of the purging of the old ideas, the old ways, the old voices of disapproval and bitterness.

Surrounded by his friends, his heart now filled with love and happiness, he said goodbye to all that, all that darkness and voices in the past.

“Begone,” he yelled. “You no longer run my life. You are released, and I now let you go.”

He took the old lock, rusty and seldom used, no longer needed, and threw it in the last of the dumpsters containing all of the trash, all of the bitterness of the old life, knowing he didn’t need to lock the basement anymore. All of the monsters, and all of that evil was gone. Instead, his basement now was truly part of his home, filled with all of the love in the world, and all of the happiness in his heart.

6/23/2014
Neal Lemery

Possibility


No limit, no dead end road
all things, one dreams, all ideas
could happen–
depending
on me, if I think I can
if I move beyond the limits
the old voices and me put in the way;
if I believe in all that I am
and all that I am
becoming.

Listening to that voice
deep inside, whispering at the dawn
what is possible, what could be—
if I move away from the limits,
the fences I thought were there—
if I move, instead, into my dreams,
into what my heart knows is
possible.

Yet, first, I must listen to that deepness inside,
I must
hear
and decide, in my soul,
to change

–Neal Lemery, 4/25/2014.