Renewal


 

 

Before me stood only a few–

Second step up, paint can and brush,

High above the entry way, up where no one would look,

Except we few painters, every generation or two.

 

I am a chosen one, honored to stand in this place, the air still, dusty with time —

adding a new color to the layers of time.

Those who came here before me  —

Their paint splattered fingers on mine, gripping the brush,

whisper bits of history to me in the hot afternoon air.

 

Some sixty years ago, the painter before me dreamed with turquoise,

Covering up the brown of the Depression, and the

Burnt orange of origin, back in 1912.

My turn now, renewal, out of new dreams, an old building.

 

He, too, thought of this place, its stories, as he dipped his brush.

How it came to be, out of the dreams of farmers and loggers.

A place to dance on a Saturday night,

Seeing friends, and sharing a meal,

Simply being together, maybe falling in love,

Building lives.

 

Since then, only spiders and a few flies, and dust,

The still air and silence of the old hall, broken by the rumbling of log trucks,

Milk trucks, and cars on the road nearby —

Daily lives, generations lived, driving by the Grange.

 

The first one, a carpenter, and his helpers —

Farmers, loggers, maybe a store clerk  —

Built this place with calloused hands.

Then the painters, each standing where I am, brush in hand.

Their voices now, in the stillness:

My turn now, to be its steward.

 

Standing on the second step, history in the layers,

I am number five,

Each one writing the same poem,

Hoping I’d show up

With fresh paint.

 

—Neal Lemery, August 6, 2018

 

Suicide: Getting to Resilient


Suicide: Getting to Resilient

 

Five percent. One out of twenty. That’s the reality of our community, our country. Within the last year, one out of twenty adults seriously considered ending their life.

Suicide. It is an epidemic, and we don’t talk about it much. Suicide talk is taboo. Don’t go there. But, we must.

Every person needs to be connected to at least one other person, and to be able to reach out, talk about depression, sadness, and hopelessness. We all need hope, an expectation that there is a tomorrow, there is opportunity for change, that our lives make a difference, and that life is worth living. Life’s problems can’t be only on our own shoulders.

Last week, I was part of a workshop, getting trained with skills to take on this intensely personal problem, to be a first responder in addressing suicide in our culture. Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a national movement to develop a first response model in our communities. Evidence based models and techniques gave us the tools and the confidence to reach out and connect with someone who is possibly contemplating ending their life.

Invite a conversation, and plunge into the “perfect storm” that is roaring through their lives, and make connection. When the signs are there, find the courage to “ask the question” and begin talking about suicide, and options for change, connecting them with you and connecting them with resources to be able to move ahead with their lives, and regain hope.

Suicidal thoughts have stormed through my own life, sometimes ending lives far too early, or paralyzing people with deep depression and isolation. Surviving family and friends are wracked with uncertainly and chaos, leaving profound questions unanswered and lives thrown off track.

Making connections is what changes lives and saves lives. What I’ve learned in life, and relearned at the ASIST training, is that you do connect. You do reach out, engage people, and show your genuine concern for them and their well-being. You connect with your own humanity and your fellows, and make that vital one to one connection.

Showing concern and empathy, and making that connection often saves lives and gives people a new sense of hope and possibility in their lives.

Help make them safe now, and help them develop their plan to be safe now.

When you have that conversation, make those connections, one to one. And, help them connect with others; not only with friends and family, but professional care givers and health care providers. Be the gatekeeper for them and help them find their way.

The National Suicide Prevention Hot Line, 1-800-243-8255(TALK) is a valuable resource. I’ve added it to my phone contacts. Other resources: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org, Youthline (1-877-YOUTH-911) and their text: TEEN2TEEN@839863.

Connect with your local mental health services provider. In my hometown, Tillamook, their crisis line is 800-962-2851.

All of these services operate 24 hours a day, because suicide is a 24 hour a day issue of community wide concern.

Help build a resilient, safe community.

—-Neal Lemery 9/1/2016

Friendship


Friendship is a wonderful gift. Being present, listening, truly listening to another person, is part of that gift. I focus on my intention to suspend judgment, and just accept my friend for who they are, where they are at, and where they are headed.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” –Albert Camus.
I try to just be present with my friends. Show up, and connect. Nothing more is required of me, and I don’t ask anything more of my friends.

The rules of friendship aren’t complicated. Having a real friend is one of the simple joys of life, and I don’t take it for granted. We may not have each other for long, so every moment is precious, a treasure.

When I am with a friend, my task is to connect, to open my heart, hear what they are saying, and also speak my truth, and share what is troubling me. Oh, we talk about our joys, but we also talk about our sorrows. And, in the telling, we are able to see the beauty and wonder that life offers us, and celebrate our friendship and our lives.
–Neal Lemery, November 5, 2015

Lost and Found


I can be so lost and alone, in a crowd of people.

I plug into my electronic devices, suddenly accessing the immediacy of “news”, social commentary, so many thoughts of others. Yet, I can be, at the same time, in a dark cave of despair, my isolation and sense of unworthiness becoming the ghosts in the dark.

Friends are searching for their own meaning in life, their purpose, their place in this hectic, yes frantic world of immediate deadlines and obligations.

We heed the call of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, “hurry, hurry.”

But, we can be lost, easily pushed to the side of the freeway, as the world goes rushing on by.

What we have sensed that we have lost is being connected with each other. We used to tell stories around the fire at night, and during the day, work together, laughing and singing, always connected. We shared the good and the bad.

We were close to the land, and the stars, the birds, and, through our hands, we were connected to the earth. Our work was something we could see, touch, hold onto.

How we lived our day impacted our village. If we didn’t hunt, or plant, or work together, we did not eat. We truly connected with each other, and with the universe. Spirituality was not abstract, it was real. And, we had accountability around the fire at night, and around the shared meal.

Social media is popular, as we are back around the fire, telling stories, catching up, sharing our lives. It has its drawbacks, and we can easily be alone in a crowd, ignoring the person next to us. But, social media life is a form of village life, of community.

Today, friends write about the power of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Friends of Bill W. Why does that message, that simple act of gathering together and sharing, why does that work for so many people? Why does that change lives?

AA works because it is communal, it brings spirituality to the forefront of our lives, it has a belief that our spirituality and our uniqueness as a person is truly valuable, and we benefit from the spiritual energy of others.

All religions, all prophets have the core message: be connected, love one another, find peace and meaning in being in communion with each other and with the universe. Avoid separateness, don’t be alone. We are all one brotherhood and sisterhood. The person next to us matters to us, simple because they are our brother, our sister.

Yesterday, I reconnected. The sun was out, it was a perfect day, almost hot, and still, with the colors of Autumn around me. I had plants to plant in my yard, and it felt good to my soul to push a shovel into the rich, dark soil, and make a new home for shrubs, trees, and daffodils.

In sixty or seventy years, the trees I planted will reach their prime, and will send their seeds throughout the valley, and stand tall and proud, objects of beauty for those who come after me. I will be long gone, but what my feet, back and hands did for those trees yesterday will be remembered by the trees, on the day they moved here and took up residence.

It felt good to feel the dirt under my feet, and between my fingers. I held the plants, and their roots, tenderly settling them into the ground, settling the dirt next to their roots, and watering them in. One tree needed staking, to hold it up in the coming winter storms. Yet, all too soon, it will be growing tall and sturdy, its roots firmly reaching downward, connecting with and becoming part of this land.

Being the tree planter connected me with the earth, and with the universe. I am part of this place, as is the tree, and the hawk that circled above me, and the wind that blew in off the ocean, bringing the smell of last night’s rain.

Today, I am far away, meeting one of my buddies, making more connections with him, as he is planting his own trees, and setting down his own roots. He, too, will grow straight and tall, his soul firmly planted in good soil, taking in the water and sunlight of knowledge and stability, making his life rich and productive.

I’ve been teaching him about tree planting, and farming his soul. He’s a good student, and what I’ve been saying about what we do in the village, how we are part of our tribe, is stuff he’s taken into his heart.

“What are you doing today?” people ask.

Making connections, planting trees, tending my soul, taking care of the brothers and sisters in this world. That’s what I’m doing.

10/7/2013