The Power and the Gift of Time

Neal Lemery
Dancing Elephants Press
4 min readOct 21, 2023

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Posted on the Tillamook County Pioneer on October 18, 2023

Photo by Jocelyn Morales on Unsplash

By Neal Lemery

Like most Americans, I’m impatient, wanting to get things done, to see the fruits of my labors right now. Let it happen, but now, not later. Waiting, letting things happen when they are ready, well that’s not me, that’s not my “lifestyle”, my method of living and working.

One of my holiday traditions is to make vanilla extract. It is a simple recipe, a simple process. Last winter, I made a large batch, setting it aside in a seldom-used kitchen cabinet to age. Now, after a kitchen remodels and in the process of emptying all the cabinets for the contractor, those bottles have disappeared, hiding somewhere in a “special place”, currently missing in action and becoming part of the mysteries of the house.

I became irritated and edgy, mostly at myself for losing track of that project. Also, I wasn’t ready for the holidays and needed to replenish my supplies of delicious baking ingredients. The extract isn’t something that can be done in a few hours; it takes time and patience, which is always in short supply during the holiday madness.

After a few hours of somewhat frenzied searching for the missing bottles and that “special place”, I decided to start over, and make a new batch. I found my recipe, learning that I had plenty of time to let my project age and ripen. That is, if I started right away, I could get a “reboot” and have plenty of time to let the concoction age. I could choose not to be stressed and anxious, and instead, take charge and find a remedy, a solution to my forgetfulness and anxiety.

I found new supplies online, and when they came the next day, I started anew. It is a simple recipe: vodka, cut-up vanilla beans and pods, and small bottles. And, time of course. Within a half hour, all was well, with the concoction starting its soaking time. It is an infusion process, allowing the alcohol to soak up the vanilla flavors and turn the vodka into an attractive caramel color. I put my collection in the same cupboard where the other extract had been stored and then disappeared, with both me and my wife verbally reminding us where the new project was stored.

All I had to do was shake the new bottles once a week and wait. Oh, and remember to do that and keep its location in my memory banks. I trust myself to engage in those rather simple, easy tasks.

For this project, it is all about time. Allowing time to work its magic seems almost un-American, contrary to the “want it now” attitude of society. Respecting time seems to now be a lesson for me to relearn, and to incorporate into my life.

Other projects seemed to ripen that day, with several ideas and tasks that were awaiting others’ approval or participation, also coming to life. Meetings came to life, ideas ripened into easy tasks, and things moved along. Check boxes were checked and advances were made. There was an air of accomplishment now, apparently contagious, infecting other sleeping ideas into their action stage. What had been a grumpy, unfulfilling day was turning into a most productive experience. Time and patience were bearing fruit.

Other projects came to mind: an overdue letter to a friend, the writing of a sympathy card, updating my to-do list, and adding items to the grocery list that were needed, but hadn’t risen to the status of urgent necessities. Getting some things done, mundane though they may initially seem, was turning into a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and having time to be happy with how I was getting through the day. The idea that I was an idiot for not remembering where the vanilla extract had vanished was fading away, in the bright light of all of this accomplishment.

Patience and the impact of taking time is also woven into our community life. Some really good ideas and actions seem to take an inordinate amount of time. Some problems I want to have addressed immediately, to be solved, so we can move on. Yet, I should be patient, knowing that some community issues are intricately complex and challenging, and all aspects of a solution aren’t yet ready to be assembled. People need time to process and to look at different solutions and methodologies. They aren’t quite yet ready to act or to accept some needed change. For some things, it's not yet time for it to happen.

I’m that way, too, though I’m hesitant to admit it. I can be a stubborn mule, and don’t often like changing my mind, or agreeing that someone else’s idea is better, or more practical. My impatience gets in the way of real progress and success. I need to remember my vanilla extract and let time work its magic. And, when things have ripened and matured, all the waiting will be worthwhile, and delicious.

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Neal Lemery
Dancing Elephants Press

Author of Be the Change: One Random Act of Kindness at a Time; Building Community, Rural Voices for Hope and Change; and others. On Amazon.