What I Learned This Summer
- by Neal Lemery
- (Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 8/29/22
The calendar and the changing light in the mornings and evenings tells me that this season is in transition. We are leaving summer and moving into fall. Perhaps it is also the appearance of all the teachers’ cars at the nearby school and the chill in the early morning air.
September always seems to be the real new year for me. School starting back up, vacations ending, the lazy warmth of late summer days, the harvests from the garden, all signal a new beginning. The county fair and all the summer weekend festivals are over. There’s an optimism in the air, a time for something new, different. There’s an expectation of change.
And, there’s nothing like a bout of Covid in the middle of summer to make one appreciate their health, and the power of one’s body to fight off a potentially fatal illness and to be able, once again, to be active, to do the things one loves to do. I’ve had the time to reflect on what I’ve learned this summer.
1. There is power in collective action and organization. The real work comes from the collective actions of a small group of people. I’ve gained new appreciation for the power that small groups of people have for deciding to get something done, and then going about getting it done. This has been a summer of reunion and reorganization, with groups again putting into motion their activities, and moving ahead in their lives. By attending these events, I’ve become reacquainted with friends and neighbors, and celebrated the power of togetherness. From signature gatherers on political issues to re-invigorating social events, things have gotten done. It is grass roots work and it wouldn’t have happened unless people got moving and worked together.
2. Relationships are Essential. Our family gathered for a wedding this summer, resulting in some deep and loving conversations, emotional support, and shedding a lot of the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic. We realized the importance of family, and became reacquainted with what brings us together. I took the time to talk with people at the grocery store and on the street, reaffirming our common ties and interests, re-weaving the frayed fabric of what the media often paints as a divided and angry society. Those brief conversations have taken on a new value, and a new relevance for me. I’m again realizing the importance of good friends, and deep conversation.
3. Connecting with your own creativity brings joy to your heart. I’ve taken time to play my guitar again, to paint, to take photos, to garden with others, to explore and honor my own creative juices. I again feel the joy of what children experience when they free themselves to simply be, to create and bring joy into their lives. I joined an art group, which meets every week to simply paint together, without judgment or criticism, and simply enjoy the communal act of creation.
4. Take time to do the right thing. I sometimes let things go undone, and I neglect to take responsibility for my own mistakes and missed opportunities. Sometimes, I need to apologize, to make amends, and to focus on doing what is right. I sometimes neglect relationships, or let a wondrous act of kindness and service go unrecognized. I’ve humbled myself, and reached out, making connections, sometimes apologizing, and often simply recognizing and appreciating the good works of others. I’ve learned the power of the sincere sympathy card or note of thanks, and how why that may seem insignificant, receiving that acknowledgement moves people to tears. The price of a card and a stamp is incredible, and changes lives. Appreciating others and embracing them, loving them is really what we are here for. I need to do that more often.
5. Experiencing nature is an essential part of self-care. I often forget to take care of myself. Having Covid this summer was a re-set on that value for me. Self-care can keep you alive and upright, and able to get back to your to-do list, and the things that bring you love and joy. The other day, I was at loose ends, and the things I thought I needed to do that day dropped off of the calendar. I took that time, and went outside. I went to the beach, the forest, and sometimes just looked up into the sky. I spent the day enjoying the day for what it was, an incredible gift. I was reminded that life can be beautiful, that we live in a gorgeous place, that I can find peace and contentment anywhere I look. I took photos of flowers, really looking at a single flower, examining and taking in all of its beauty. I need self-care. If I was frank with my doctor about my need for self-care, they’d put it on my medication list, and expect me to follow through. Take time for me. Respect and honor me. And let me take myself outside and into the fresh air and sunshine.