published in the Tillamook County Pioneer

                                                By Neal Lemery

A rainy Sunday has turned into a time of recharging.  The cat is in her usual place, snoozing through the afternoon, replenishing herself for the evening forays and gearing up to remind us of her dinner time. She is, perhaps, our resident chaplain, leading us by example to recharge and renew ourselves.   

Batteries for several of my electronic devices sit in their chargers.  Tomorrow, the electric weedwhacker will be put to use, bringing order to my sister in law’s yard.  And, the camera battery will be tasked in photographing this fall’s amazing display of foliage. 

            The earth itself is recharging, after a hectic summer.  The lawn is slowly turning green from the welcome rain. Mushrooms are emerging where only a few weeks ago, the dead grass crunched and the ground was more like oven-fired clay. Even the raspberries have put out a new, unexpected crop, adding yet another layer of winter delights to the freezer. The final round of crops from the garden finish their ripening, spread around the house, as we all prepare for winter.  

            The garden cycle continues, as I add leaves, grass clippings and the kitchen compost bucket offerings to the compost maker. Its resident earthworms are happily overwhelmed with new-found abundance. 

I plant new garlic cloves, knowing that next summer will bring abundant fresh garlic to summer vegetable stir fries and pickles.  I enjoy the garlic growing to not only satisfy my love of garlic, but also because garlic is a rebel, wanting to be planted in fall and harvested in early summer, out of kilter with the other crops. A new crop in the garden, filling the spaces left open by harvest, is my celebration of hope for the future, and sparks the making of my new wish list for next year’s garden. 

            The neighboring farmers are recharging, too. They’ve finished their corn harvests, followed quickly by new harrowing and the planting of their winter grass crops.  What was once an experiment in planting has now turned into part of a year-round planting and harvesting cycle.  I’m told this variety of grass adds nitrogen, protects the soil from the pounding of the winter rains, and is another food source for cows.  I celebrate my neighbors’ curiosity and willingness to be innovative.  That spirit of curiosity, boldness, and scientific curiosity serves the community well, and inspires me to live more like a farmer. 

            The quiet morning stillness, and the first sounds of raindrops from the incoming front, offer me renewal, and space in my life for some gratitude and peace.  The natural cycles of this place call us out to pay attention, to take a breath and pause. As the earth recharges, as I recharge, I seek to follow that example, readying myself for new ideas, and new perspectives in this time of challenge and change.  





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


I Watch the Son, Sleeping

Like the others before him, this son sleeps deep, snoring, heavy into his night thoughts, his weekend away. He comes here tired, worn out from life. We feed his belly, he finds the hot tub and the beach, even the stars at night, a cat to pet and love. All the food and time in our quiet starts unwinding his shoulders, lifting worry from his eyes.

We talk at dinner, or on the deck, or on the road to the beach, catching up on his life, and his adventures. I listen, and rarely advise, though this journey of his is a familiar story, told by the sons who have come before, and the sons who will come later.

I practice patience, waiting for a pause, or a question.

“I might be lost.”

“What should I do?”

I do not know, but I can offer praise, and understanding, and tell my own story a bit.

“You are not the first on this path,” I try to say, knowing that he must take his own steps, and find his own road.

“You have the tools you need. Just look inside of you,” I offer, sometimes out loud.

And, he must fall and skin his knee sometimes, that bit of blood marking his own journey. I can offer the bandage, but I cannot always prevent the fall.

I look down on his sleeping face, seeing how he has grown, knowing, deep inside of me, that he has all he needs inside of him to be the man he wants to be. I can only help him find his patience, and his stamina, and his courage, and then he will walk his path with strong legs and a loving heart.

I can only be behind him, offering a few words of encouragement, and unlimited love, knowing that will be enough, and he will blossom and come into his own.

Our time now at an end, we have one last meal, he, again, eating as if we’ve starved him all weekend long. Bottomless, in many ways, he thinks he might, finally, be full.

I drop him off at work, his week just beginning. We hug, one final time, and he whispers “thanks”.

Any more words and we would have both cried.

Shoulders back, the old smile again, he is on his way again, renewed.

Neal Lemery, July 8, 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.