Pruning Time

The days are growing a little longer, and I contemplate the coming of spring, with its promise of new growth, new beginnings, and, with work, an abundant harvest.

A few days ago, the sun was out and it was time to prune my little apple orchard. With newly sharpened and oiled pruners, I ventured out, soon shedding my sweatshirt and enjoying the physical work and the satisfaction of making the foundation for this year’s apple harvest.

I pruned out the dead branches, the branches that crossed each other and rubbed in the wind, and the few limbs that were diseased. Then I topped the scraggly branches that won’t produce fruit. I didn’t hold back, pruning and cutting with vigor, as I shaped the orchard into tidiness, preparing the trees for a healthy summer of apple production.

Where there was chaos, I brought order, and cleaned things up, making for a bountiful year in this corner of our land.
A nice pile of trimmings grew, bound for my friend, the fisherman, who welcomes my annual gift of apple wood for his smoker. One man’s discards are another man’s treasure.

As I went about my work, I felt my shoulders twinge from this new work of muscles and joints, gone soft from an idle winter in the house watching the cold rain fall. The sun felt warm on my pale skin, and I contemplated the smile of my friend as he thought of all the salmon he could smoke with my gift.

There will be many gifts from all the pruning: healthier apple trees, more apple pie filling, apple butter, and cider for next winter, a springtime of trees loaded with pink blossoms, and a summer of vigorous, healthy trees growing a new crop of fruit.

My friend will do his own magic with the prunings, and create mouth-watering smoked fish, putting smiles on more faces.

There were other lessons in the pruning; how cutting back, taking out our dead and dying wood, and opening our branches to the bright sunshine will bring bigger, juicier fruit to our lives.

Old thoughts, and old ways of doing things need to be looked at, with newly sharpened pruners in my hand. If I want a vigorous tree to grow, or a bountiful harvest, I need to think of the pruning that would move my life in the right direction.

The young men in my life are pruning their orchards now, with newly sharpened tools and a fresh determination to transform their lives. They are looking at their past, and their dreams, and finding the directions they want to go. Dead wood and dis-ease are being cut away, and their trees are being reshaped and thinned. Only the vigorous branches remain, with the promise of abundant and fertile blossoms to emerge in the springtime of their youth.

Old ways of thinking are being evaluated. New paths and fresh thinking are being explored, and they are moving ahead; their minds always challenging and testing. Boys are turning into healthy, thoughtful young men; the best type of crop to raise.

They are learning about their emotions, finding names for feelings and thoughts, figuring out how to live with themselves and with others as healthy young men, with clear, focused minds.
I prune my apples every year. I expect my young friends to find their pruners and tree saws, too, and also tend to their orchards. My task is to show them the way, teaching them to be good orchardists for their own lives.

It is a lifelong challenge, this living with one’s emotions and feelings. Like good farmers, they tend their fields and pay attention to their crops, and weathering the storms that roll in, bringing new challenges and opportunities.

They say they learn from me, but I also learn from them. Their courage and determination reinvigorates me, in my journey through this life. They make me a better farmer, a better caretaker of my own orchard. Because of them, my harvest is more abundant and sweeter.

–Neal Lemery 1/29/2016



Growing up, older, maybe wiser, they part ways with me. On their own, finding their path, going their own way, I see them fly.

Perhaps they stumble, perhaps they fall. Sometimes, I pick them up and hug them, offering words of encouragement, maybe direction. They wobble, then stand again on their own, and move forward, leaving me, once again behind them, watching them go.

They are on their own, even though I want to pick them up and save them from their scrapes and tumbles.

I am not their rescuer, though that is what I want to do. I am not their protector, though that is the job I willingly seek.

I am that old number on their phone, that place where there will be a cheerful voice, full of encouragement and support. I am the voice that will say “I believe in you” whenever they want to hear it.

Time moves on. They are no longer my babies. At least, that is what I say when I’m asked about them. Deep inside, they still are my kids, my little ones, needing me to hold their hands, and kiss their boo boos, and give them the love that they need. Yet, I must let them fly, go out into the world and be who they are becoming, and find their own wings.

I am, now, their believer.

A Letter to My Son

Dear Son:

It was a good visit yesterday!

I’d like to give a bit of fatherly advice.

You are now of an age and in a place where you can truly be your own man, your own boss.

Write down your short term goals and your long term goals and dreams.

Then, each day, make a list of tasks you want to accomplish today. One of those tasks should be something that advances one of your long term goals. Several of those tasks should be something that advances some of your short term goals.

If you work ten minutes a day towards a long term goal, then you will ensure that you achieve that goal.

Check off your accomplishments. At the end of the day, update your list, mark off your accomplishments. Even doing something that is part of a task is an accomplishment. Be proud of moving forward. Be proud of the direction you are moving in.

You are a man now. You get to decide who your friends are and who is your family. You get to decide what kind of relationship you have with family. You define who is family.

Just because someone is biologically related to you doesn’t mean you need to keep them in your family. Family is how you define it.

You will always have some sort of relationship with your mother. But, you are the guy who decides what that looks like and how that works. That is pretty much what you do about your relationship with your dad. You have decided how that is, and you make sure you protect yourself and work through all those feelings about your dad.

Same with your mom. Your job is to protect yourself and to make sure you have a healthy relationship with your mom, whatever that is. You decide. You set the boundaries. Don’t let yourself get hurt, or let her run your life. You are in charge of running your life. You are the boss, the manager.

Figuring out our relationships with our parents is tough stuff. I am still doing that, and both my parents are dead. Yet, I hear the old voices, the old ways. But, I am the one who decides what I listen to, and how I respond. I am the boss. I have the power.

You are smart about relationships and about feelings. You have the power, and you have the brains about all that. Put your learning to work. Do what is best for you. Only you get to decide what is in your best interest.

You are the only one who really knows what is best for you. Practice self love and self care. Protect yourself from giving other people permission to hurt you and to make you feel bad.

You have done very well as you have grown up. You have new skills and new power. You have self confidence, and self esteem. Keep up that good work. Move ahead, and go in the direction you want to go in. Be proud.

No one else gets to run your life. You are in charge. Do what is good for you. Go live your dreams.

Take those hard steps, and move in the direction you want to go. Don’t try to please other people. But, please yourself. Do what is good for you.

You are surrounded by people who care about you and who support you in all of this. Use that energy and that support.

Believe in yourself.

You are finding your power in what you are writing. Be proud of what you know and what you are feeling, and what you are dreaming. Go where you need to go.

My job is to be a cheerleader, and to believe in your dreams, and to support you in the direction you want to go. I don’t get to run your life, and no one else does, either. Don’t worry about what I think. What really matters is what you think, and where you want to go. What really matters is what is best for you.

If you need a tool, ask for it. You live in a place where there are lots of tools. You live in a place where people believe in you and support you.

Anything is possible.

All my love,




is a number, prime,
the times you’ve flown around the sun,
becoming your own private history,
the foundation of your house,
the footprints on the beach,
telling you where you’ve been,
the direction you took to get here,
preparing you for your next step,
your next place you’re headed to.

From here, all things are possible,
all dreams can be yours to hold in your hand,
all can be what you make of it.

What lies behind you is only behind you,
what matters is what lies ahead,
the footsteps on your beach are
yours to make,
fresh, clean,

Adding to 23, a day at a time,
soon, another year, two, five,
the beach walk longer,
richer in every sunrise,
Every new breath.

23 doubled, tripled, even times four, or more,
your life just now beginning to see what you plant,
what you are even now harvesting,
what you plant for the generations to come,
for them to see who you were,
what you dreamed.

23, a number,
23, only a bit of infinity,
of your possibilities.

Neal Lemery, 1/29/2014