Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer



By Neal Lemery



When I was a kid, Nat King Cole made this a popular song, and the lyrics still seem to sum up summertime on the Oregon coast, with an increasingly strong emphasis on the “crazy”.  My good intentions this year were lots of reading on the deck, working in my flowers and vegetables, and plenty of time for friends, taking it easy.

Summertime is paved with good intentions, yet the calendar has filled up with friends and relatives who live in other states “just dropping by”, numerous parades, festivals, concerts and fairs, and a steady pace of casual get togethers. The idle hours of reading on the deck by my flowers has become a rare hour here and there between all of the scheduled and unplanned activities. The dread of being caught in bumper to bumper traffic on the highway and too many people at my favorite haunts has cut into my summer plans, motivating me to cross off a number of calendared “fun” to dos. Instead, my reading chair on the deck is my refuge, my hiding place from the mob.

We paid the price for a visit to a friend’s open garden tour with an hour and a half of stop and go traffic on a Saturday afternoon.  What were we thinking? We even skipped our customary treat at a local dessert shop as that would have required making a left turn. This is, after all, “No Left Turn Season” and tourists are definitely in their “bubble of oblivion”.

My classic example of no thinking this summer occurred in front of me on the Wilson River Highway, with both lanes completely crammed full and traveling at 25 mph.  The out of state car ahead of me suddenly skidded to a stop and pulled a U-turn, forcing the oncoming car and me to burn rubber.  In their frenzy, they had to back up in order to fully turn around and head in the other direction, oblivious to the chorus of our collective repertoire of swear words.

I fantasized about a robotic State Trooper flying a drone, forcing them over with tractor beams and issuing a multitude of traffic tickets. Can I apply for a “tourist tax” grant to supply that needed addition to local law enforcement?

A friend calls the syndrome “tourist brain” and swears there is scientific evidence in support of that psychological condition. I know the local anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.

I wonder what all the emergency responders call it, but I probably couldn’t repeat their phrases here.

A long overdue class reunion challenged me to deal with a restaurant on full tourist overload, and spurred me to politely discourage a gaggle of out of town visitors intent on their ice cream cones at the Creamery.  I’m not up for dealing with 10,000 people clamoring for sugar on a summer day, preferring a quiet conversation on the deck with some iced tea, no parking lots and lines. After all, I’ve planned ahead and have a nice stash of ice cream in my freezer.

It’s time I take a deep breath, and look at the calendar.  Time is on my side. It’s only a few weeks until Labor Day. That Tuesday is our traditional visit to our favorite beach, as we celebrate “Take Back the Beach” day, my favorite summer holiday. We might even be bold and make a left turn.



Putting Away Summer



The pile of cushions grows outside of the shop, summer dust and fall leaves swept off, and the heavy dew of this fall morning now drying in the afternoon sun.  The chairs, too, and the lounge under the tree, where I spent some afternoons this summer reading, and looking up through the leaves at all the blue, losing myself in a daydream.


The little charcoal barbecue goes inside, too, after I clean out the ashes left over from that last steak and zucchini cooked on the grill, the smoke wafting around, in a fall evening stolen from the summer gods.


The umbrella and chairs around the table on the deck go, too.  Its best time this summer was an impromptu dinner with young people, tired and sunburned after an afternoon at the beach.


“Can I invite some friends over?” our son asked.  And, the evening was filled with laughter, new stories, and a second helping of corn on the cob, and big slabs of peach pie, vanilla ice cream melting in the evening warmth.  The peaches had come from a roadside stand, along with the corn, yesterday’s trip to the valley, where the wheat threshers kicked up clouds of straw and dust into the August sky.


I put away the little red cafe table and chairs in the flower garden outside the bedroom, where we sipped coffee one perfect morning, and then, a bit of wine before dinner, the evening we watched the full moon rise above the mountains, the silence reminding me of my insignificance in the universe ruled by astronomical math formulae, and the laws of physics.


In the garden, I reap the first real harvest of the tomatoes I planted back in May, when nights were cold, and I was gambling on the date of the last frost.  The pole beans, too, their pods now shriveled, the seeds destined for a pot of soup on a cold January night, my farmer’s tan long since faded away.


Tonight, we will eat the next to last feed of corn on the cob out of the garden, with fresh sliced tomatoes, and talk about the coming storm.


The cat surprises me by the onions, coming up for a chat, and a long pet.  Usually, he’s stalking mice in the corn, or napping under the fennel, too busy to pay me any attention.  Here, he is the mighty hunter, the lion on the Serengeti.  But, today, he crouches at my feet, needing his ears scratched, needing a long pet.  He feels the rain coming, too, not willing to say goodbye to summer.


Tomorrow, a big storm comes, promising close to a foot of rain, and three days of wet.  I still need to find my serious raincoat, the one with the hood, long enough to reach to my knees.  And, maybe my Alaska pants, the rainproof ones that slide over my jeans, for those treks into town, or maybe the beach, when the wind pushes the sheets of rain sideways, and maybe even up a bit, until that bit of uncovered cloth gets soaked, sodden against bare skin.


But, today, the sun is out, warm against my skin, still ripening the tomatoes I’ve found to put in my bucket, still warm for the yellow jackets feasting on an old apple I dropped in the grass a few weeks ago, when I’d found enough apples to make a pie.


The chairs in the garden come in, too, no longer needed for me to rest, and let the sweat dry, after digging or hoeing or planting in the garden, my fingers black with ground in dirt, my eye admiring the row of seedlings, or the patch of now weed free salad coming on.


And the wind chimes, their pipes making one last horrendous clatter, as they argue against me putting them in the garage for the winter. A vine has snaked its way around the hook, so I tug hard, ending another summer friendship.


“One last song,” they beg. “We will make it pretty, just catching the breeze, as you play your guitar in the evening, on the deck, the late evening light lighting up the pink on the roses.”


No, it is time to go now.  That storm is moving in fast, and soon everything will be wet, the evenings even now so much earlier.  We are past the Equinox now, moving fast towards Halloween and the first frost.  Summer has lingered, but now its gone.


One last slow sunset now, the sky still empty of clouds, the horizon’s blue turning darker by the minute, until I finally realize that it is night.  I can smell the coming rain, a bit of wet, a bit of damp leaf, with a hint of toadstool.


In the shop now, the stacks of chairs and cushions, and fun little garden ornaments, and the old dresser mirror we painted red and hung on a tree, sit there in silence, put away.


The metal windmill sulks in the corner by the wood stove, its blades still now, no longer catching the wind in the garden, telling me if we might get a summer shower, or that tomorrow, the breeze off the bay will make the corn stalks whisper, as they aim for the sky.


I shut the door and head in now, my shoulders aching from the day’s work.  It is time, now, for all of us to rest a bit, even the metal heron that guarded the roses, even the chair by the redwood tree, where I read my books, and played my new summer song on my guitar, not so long ago.



Neal Lemery, 9/27/13

Come September

Come September, and it is the start of a new year. School is starting, vacations are ending, the garden is in full harvest mode.

The long season of lawn mowing has slowed, nearly stopped, and one has time to wander around the yard, taking in the flowers, and the now unmistakeable presence of the start of Fall. Summer is still here in the heat of the afternoon, but the early morning crispness and heavy dew is a sign of transition in the calendar, in the cycle of the seasons.

The last few months have been their usual blur of activities: chores and projects, sandwiched between work, and the summertime events.

We still haven’t made it to the local farmers’ market this year, and have only had a few walks on the beach. I took a long anticipated hike a few weeks ago, realizing it had been a while since I hit the trail, what with trying to find where I’d last laid down my hiking boots and my binoculars.

A family reunion was fun, with great food, singing, and visiting folks I hadn’t seen for a year. And, we had an unplanned one later one, gathering for a funeral, and remembering the wonderful stories and laughter of a favorite uncle. Another reminder of how important it is to find the time for the fun and adventure of happy times, and good memories, and the strength of families.

One evening, we had the joy of listening to a favorite due sing and work their magic with their guitars and mandolin. They played a concert at the youth prison we go to every week, visiting and mentoring young men. There was a special joy in our hearts, watching young men enjoy themselves, becoming one with the music, and pondering their own talents and dreams. Again, I was reminded of the power and gift of music in our lives.

Every week, I take my guitar there, through the prison gate, and play and sing with one of my buddies. His musical talents are amazing, and an occasional tear runs down my face, as I share his joy and gifts, and watch him grow and find himself. My guitar teacher is now part of his life, and his skills seem to grow exponentially.

Their Pow Wow last week was a celebration of Spirit, of their many rich heritages, their creativity, and, above all, of their rich and fruitful community. I was humbled and honored to be asked to come, and sit with them, and dance with them, in all their splendid and welcoming community.

I go there as a mentor, but I really am the receiver, the mentee, the beneficiary of so many gifts from those amazing young men.

As with every summer, there never seems to be enough evenings sitting outside, just enjoying the end of the day and the solitude of the yard. Yet, we have had those wonderful evenings, and an hour here or there just enjoying the place and the day.

Last week, my chore list got sidelined, and I rediscovered my canvasses and paints, and brushes, and spent a few hours lost in art. My soul was happy, and the frustration inside of me that I’d hadn’t really had all the fun I’ve wanted this summer floated away. Later on, I played my guitar and sang a few songs outside, building up good memories of time well spent.

I held myself to one weekend wedding this summer, and savored the experience of love energy, a beautiful woman walking down the aisle, and the smile on her husband’s face. There was much laughter and happiness, on a sunny evening, where barbecue smoke and good music lingered into twilight.

I’ve also found some riches in getting rid of things, and cleaning up a bit. My golf clubs, which had accumulated dust, are now in the hands of a high school student who is passionate about his golf team. My childhood .22 rifle is now in the hands of a firearms instructor, and my mother’s deer rifle will soon be in the hands of a young man passionate about the sport and time out in the woods with his family.

My baby picture is now hung on a wall, rather than sitting in a box gathering dust, and there is a large pile of old papers waiting for the end of fire season and a new burn barrel. Other treasures await my rediscovery of them, and the crossroad questions of “toss or save”. At 59 years old, the “toss” answer is becoming more popular.

The real treasures now are time with family and friends, and in simply being present amidst the natural beauty that surrounds us. And, I keep learning to pay attention to that, and to be present in all of that.

Come September, I hope to simply be grateful for all that is, in my life.

Neal Lemery 9/1/12