A Time for Patience


 

 

 

 

 

By Neal Lemery

 

 

 

There is a time for everything, and everything has its time.  Life is like that. There is a rhythm, a pattern in life, where things that are to be done have their own time for being expressed, for getting done.

 

There are many metaphors for me in sorting all this out, and figuring out time in my life, and the “right time” and the “best time”. One is the rhythm of music.  Music is the learning of patterns, of repetitions, of putting things in order, and of honoring the rhythms that the expression should take, so that it becomes an act of beauty and pleasing form. Music teaches patience and a “right time for everything”.

 

Old Testament poets talked about time and patience with these familiar words:

 

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

“ A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

“ A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

“ A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

“ A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

“ A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

“ A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3)

 

I like this scripture in Ecclesiastes in the King James version because it is poetic; it has a cadence and a rhythm that is pleasing to my ear and to my heart.  I am a poet, and the work of the poet is often to find the beat, the cadence, the rhyme in the ideas that I want to express.  And, doing that work and finding the right words in the right order takes time and patience.  Often, my poetry first finds its expression in scraps of paper and scribbled words and phrases. The work often sits on a tablet of paper for a while, letting time age it, season it.  One day, the work becomes rewritten, reorganized, and re-formed, reshaped, re-spoken.  It is a work in progress.

 

Such is my life, always being reshaped, reformed, reworked.  I am different today than I was yesterday, and so my work today will be different today, because the me of today is the work of a man who is different today than yesterday.

 

Like any work, it is often transformed and reworked by the passage of time.  Relationships with others change over time, partly because I change, I am reworked, and I look at the world with different eyes, and with a longer, hopefully richer and more insightful perspective.

 

Thus, I try to be gentle with myself in difficult times, and in working difficult problems and being in difficult situations.  They say that Time Heals. Healing is one aspect of this perspective, and I want to recognize that time is an ally, a friend, something to be seen as a tool, a process that helps me be a better student of my life, and to increase my ability to learn.

 

I am finishing reading a book on the history of calculus (which is intellectually exciting and certainly challenging). The lesson in the book for me is that all the great minds that wrestled with calculus and its development for humanity utilized time, that much of the work was spent in contemplation, and deep thought, over time.

 

There’s a saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day.  A great city, a great work of humanity needs some space over time to come into its own.  The pouring of concrete, the mixing of mortar and the setting of stone needs time in which to age, to strengthen, to come into its own as its own identity and its own form.  Cement is liquid, then sets, then ages into strength and final form.

 

I learn those lessons not just on my guitar and my banjo, but in my garden, and certainly throughout my life. In each day, I become a different man, a product of growth and also of weeding and pruning, of adding the necessary fertilizer, the length of the sunshine in the day, and the temperature and moisture in the soil.

 

An aspect of appreciating time in my life is the virtue of patience.  Yet, life is finite, and there is no pre-established limit to the length of my life.  Life is a gift with an uncertain span of time, and I think I should see it as a gift, an opportunity, something precious, and fragile. The current pandemic is teaching me a lesson on the fragility and preciousness of life. What will I make of it? Who am I becoming?

 

Who indeed am I becoming? I am the master of all that. I am the captain of my ship, and I am the one who plots the course, who charts the path of my ship.  Yes, there are storms and tides, and often I am pushed and blown into treacherous and uncharted waters, yet the hand on the tiller of my ship is mine, and I am the one who trims the sails.

 

I look at life from the eyes of the poet, the musician, the gardener, looking for patterns, looking for putting my house in order, and making sense of the path I am on.  So it goes with anything difficult that we take on, and try to work through, to manage, and to bring to fruition.

 

Respecting time and practicing patience are vital tools in this life and in these times. These are the gifts we have now to use wisely and bring about the changes we want to see in this world. I speak not only of relationships between people, but also within myself. Learning to love and honor ourselves is the most challenging work in life.  Honoring myself, nurturing, tending to and caring about who I am and how I am equipped to deal with life is my most important work. Part of that work is to be easy with myself, to not beat myself up, to be kind and respectful to myself, to honor myself.  I do good work.  I really do.

 

Time gives me the chance to see that in myself, and to enjoy the fruits of my labor, to find the rhythm of my life and all of the poems, the songs, and the flowers that are within me.

 

4/9/2020

Small Miracles


 

 

 

 

 

 

by Neal Lemery

 

I often forget about the small miracles in my life until the world of nature gently reminds me with a new discovery, or a new awareness of something rather ordinary in my world.

The other day, we were walking on the familiar trails of the Kilchis Point Reserve, next to Tillamook Bay, taking in the late summer peace and beauty of land that a century ago was a busy mill site and heavily logged over. Today, large spruce and young cedars, and a rich understory of plants filled with birdlife and native plants offers a welcome respite to the hectic summer traffic of the Oregon Coast in the height of tourist season.

It was all familiar to me, the plants, the birds, the smells of the dry summer in the woods as I walked along, unaware, not really living in the moment.  That is, until something new and strange appeared at my feet, an unusual fungi at the edge of the path, frothy and lacy. My hiking companions spotted it first, calling out for me to pay attention to this new addition to the area’s botanical richness.  Its beige tones and intricate structure almost didn’t catch my eye, yet it is an amazing and wondrous delight, stopping me midstride.

Coral fungi was its name, according to a friend with great botanical expertise and one of the stewards of the Reserve. Apparently it has emerged in mid August the last several years in these parts of the woods.  It is native to the coast, but obviously still quite rare. But, fungi emerging in the middle of the dry season? I think it is a miracle.

 

 

My awakening to the miracles around me continued, as I found myself at a Master Gardeners workshop on propagation.  Our small group gathered around our fellow gardeners, who happily shared their wisdom in the creation of new plants.  Buckets of cuttings from their gardens, a bucket of a light soil mix, pots and containers, and magic powder in the form of rooting hormone gained our attention.

With a few snips of our pruning shears and scissors, a dusting of rooting hormone powder, and a gentle insertion into the dirt, we started the process.  A little mist from a spray bottle, a plastic bag, and the gift of time promised to provide us with a wide range of new plants to grace our gardens and add to the plants for next spring’s Master Gardener plant sale.

The rooting hormone is magic personified.  In essence, it is powdered willow bark, the plain and generally uninspiring scrubby willow becoming the catalyst that creates new life and allows us to turn a twig into a new plant.

I need to pay attention to these new creations in the next few months, but we’ve taken the steps needed to bring new life and new beauty to the world.  Again, a miracle right in front of our eyes, requiring but a small effort to enrich our lives and the world around us, allowing us to be the bringers of life into the world.

Small miracles are all around us, in the bees enjoying the flowers grown from a seed packet that I’d haphazardly strewn in an untended corner of the yard, in the swallows soaring above the deck, and the turkey vultures, hawks, and the occasional eagle, flying their air patrols over the neighborhood, inspiring us to take flight and travel the world, to see things from a new perspective.

Another miracle comes when the latest descendant of Grandma’s lilac bush blooms, after just barely hanging on for five years.  We thought it was a goner, until one year, it decides to take off, producing a riot of vibrant purple and putting on a growth spurt. Now it is the centerpiece of that flowerbed’s spring show. Snippets of lilac twigs made it into my propagation project, with my hope of continuing the legacy.

Just when I think I’ve reached my quota of miracles for the week, the rather ordinary sky of a summer’s day suddenly turns into a carnival of brilliant oranges, reds, and yellows fading to magenta and vermillion as evening comes, nature’s way of telling me that the real shows in life don’t come from civilization.

“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.”    Leo Buscaglia

All I have to do is open my eyes and take notice, taking the time from all the human busyness of modern life and pay attention.  Miracles are all around me.

 

 

Letter to a Graduate


May 22, 2018

 

It is almost that time, so Congratulations on Graduation!!!!

 

Earning a bachelor’s degree is a very big deal and a huge accomplishment.  There is a great deal of work involved, and persistence and determination.

 

I believe that you have truly applied yourself and gained much from this experience.  I hope that you have learned how to learn, and how to think analytically, and that you have been exposed to a great amount of ideas, viewpoints, and opinions, and have had to develop your own thinking and analysis to issues and situations.

 

I also hope that you are an avid “lifelong learner” and this is only a step in your continuing education and development.

 

In my experience, college and being devoted to learning and education and development of the mind is one of the most worthwhile activities in one’s life.

 

Which leads me to the topic of “patience”, and change making.  I have had a lifetime of struggle with being patient.  My mentors continually counseled me about being patient.  My grandmother and mother taught me a lot about gardening, with the ever present message of being patient.  Time can be on my side and can be an asset, very useful tool.

 

And, over time, one can observe and see patterns and trends that otherwise would not be observable or discernable.

 

I see the benefit of patience in my art and music, too.  Time is actually a very good teacher, and it takes the passage of time for the body and brain to fully learn and develop.  And, probably why I am attracted to Zen Buddhism, as a spiritual practice and source of wisdom, letting time move and being in the moment.

 

Yet, the tension for me is that I know I am often ready to move on, that I have learned my life lessons in a place and the experience, and enough is enough.  Let’s get it on! I’m really a “get it done, now, already” kind of guy.  I don’t suffer fools well, and when the lessons are learned, why wait around?

 

Yet, when I have to wait, I observe more, and I think more, and I probably learn the lessons of the experience better, and then able to teach those lessons better to others. And, to remember and “do” something with the experience in a better way.  My “product” is better because it has more time to ripen, to come into its true form.  And, I guess, to confirm my hypotheses and conclusions.  A period of testing, refining, perfecting.

 

Intellectually, I have come to peace about that waiting process.  I’m not sure if I have come to peace about that spiritually, though.  I’ve concluded that karma is real and comes about over time, sometimes a really long time.  But, if I can wait it out, then karma is sweet and is to be savored.  I try not to be a revengeful person, but there is a proverb that says that revenge is a dish best served cold.

 

Perhaps the better, more Zenlike approach, is to be the actor for positive action and change, going around the roadblock and the evil, and building a better road for others.  And, if good actions are stymied, then being satisfied with being the example, the exception that proves the rule, and thereby the force for change and new thinking.

 

There’s another saying about good people doing what others are saying can’t be done. I’ll look that up, because that is probably a good motto for my life.  Over time, I’ve noticed that what I thought has been revolutionary is seen by others new to the scene as an existing, functioning phenomenon that is accepted as “always being there”.  Truly a successful revolution.

 

Often, what I’ve found, is that real change occurs in seemingly random, spontaneous conversations. The grocery store, at a gathering, maybe lunch with a friend.  Those little conversations are really the gems, the gold to be mined, to engage and enliven people and give them permission to have the good, the deep conversations and searches.  Other tools, other works, such as writing and music and art, are more the examples, the stimulators of those conversations and experiences.  They provide the metaphors, so one can talk about scary things in a safe way.

 

Can I suggest that this time is gold for you?  You have climbed the mountaintop, and you see things now for what they really are.  And, in not too long of a time, you will leave the undergraduate world and not have the current struggle, the current experience. That impending end can be liberating in its own way.  You see the truth and know it.  Others may find the truth to be too scary, too real, and thus avoid it.

 

Thus, a teaching moment for you, space and time to plant some seeds of thought and ideas, and of encouragement to others in their work.

 

The revolution for you has already begun, and you are planting those seeds of change right now, where you are at.  Not flashy or noisy.   Education takes many forms. Others find that scary, something that needs to be limited, constrained, and yes, imprisoned.

 

It will be exciting to see how your journey unfolds.  I hope you are open to what will come your way, and that you will take risks, and opportunities, and plunge into the unknown and uncertain.  And, anything you attempt in good faith will not be a dead end or a “wasted” opportunity.  Gold is where you find it.

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Neal C. Lemery

 

Sharpening Our Tools


There’s always a lesson for me in the garden, especially when I’m the teacher.

The young men gathered around the table, looking at me, leery about the day’s agenda. The pile of our trusty and well-used pruning shears, weeding forks, and trowels, and my odd assortment of files, oil cans, rags and steel wool was raising some puzzled looks.

“We’re going to sharpen our tools,” I said. “And that will make us better gardeners.”

I talked about dirt and grit, and how dull, rusty tools slow us down, and make our work harder. I talked about rain and damp, and getting rid of rust with a bit of oil wiped on a newly cleaned surface.

“If you take care of your tools, they will last a lifetime,” I said. “It’s a great gift to yourself.”

I talked about how pruners work, whether anvil or bypass, and why the blades are different. I picked up a file, showing them how to hone a blade, bringing out the edge. Doing a good job was all in how you finished it, by gently taking off the burrs on the edge, bringing out the best of the blade, and ourselves.

The metaphors were not lost on these young men, struggling to remake their lives, and move on to managing their lives in a decent, productive way.

I showed them how to do the work, and then urged them to pick a tool, and do their magic.

“The right tool for the right job,” I said, echoing my grandfather’s wisdom I’d heard when I was a young man.

Curious, eager minds asked dozens of questions, and, again, I showed them how to hone the blades, taking their eager hands into mine, helping them grip the file and set to work.

They found their way, getting a sense of that feel, of file meeting blade, steel against steel, until the newly bright edges met their standards of completion and excellence. Rust and dirt were buffed away, and a new coat of oil made hinges and springs smooth and silent. Grime and dirt were banished, the young hands feeling how they brought back the life and beauty of the tools they’d used this past year.

One young man kept doing it differently, missing what I was trying to teach. I was gentle with him, explaining everything again and again. I felt my patient grandfather in me, as I took his hand and the file, and began the lesson again.

Uncertain frowns gave way to smiles and shared accomplishments, the pleasure of making something as good as new. I saw young men restoring something to its original good purpose, gaining pride in who they were, and knowing what they could do.

We sharpened all of our tools today, and we sharpened some lives, too. I sensed my grandfather’s arm around me, holding me tight, whispering how proud he was of how I sharpened my tools.

–Neal Lemery 1/23/2016