Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tender Questions

A male robin often perches in the ornamental pear tree in our front yard. Since January, he claims this tree as his space. The little bits of some fruit that remained in the tree are long gone although I doubt he could eat all of them. I call him the "guard robin" as he chases all other birds out of the tree. He behaves as if his dominance is paramount and that food and perching space in the neighborhood are scarce. Other robins seem to move among the mature trees lining the street. The cardinal couples shelter in a tall blue spruce or the bushes along the front of the house. If either cardinal dares to perch in the tree, the robin flies at them. So goes the world. Sharing power and territory is not easy.

Honore' invites us to reflect on the one word I chose for 2020. I chose tender. Lately I've been thinking of it in relationship to the earth and climate change. Poet Mary Oliver wrote masterfully about the tender soul of the earth. This poem is a beautiful reflection on the interdependence of all things on the earth.

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?
Or is it tender and breakable, like
the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?
Who has it and who doesn't?
I keep looking around me.
The face of the moose is as sad
as the face of Jesus.
The swan opens her white wings slowly.
In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.
One question leads to another?
Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?
Like the eye of a hummingbird?
Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?
Why should I have it and not the anteater
who loves her children?
Why should I have it and not the camel?
Come to think about it, what about the maple trees?
What about the blue iris?
What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?
What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?
What about the grass?

Mary Oliver, House of Light. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 1990. p.1

So one more time, I resolve to do my best to live tenderly in this world, to focus as much on the reduce and reuse as the recycle side of the triangle, and to voice my opinion to elected officials and those running for office. There are no easy answers. I live in a country that is dependent on fossil fuel consumption and a society driven by consumerism based on scarcity. I have many questions but none as eloquent or as tender as Oliver's.


  1. That is a beautiful poem and a new one to me. Thank you!

  2. I was also not familiar with this poem of Oliver's, but I am glad you shared it. Also, I've always imagined you writing your lovely words at a desk like that!

  3. Beautiful sentiment, Jane! That poem... so soul-stirring and thought-provoking! Excellent questions as well!

  4. This is a beautiful post, Jane, and it's really got me thinking about my approach to the environment. I've always advocated for recycling, reducing, etc., but I've never thought about being tender toward the earth. That's such a great way to think about it!

  5. Such a beautiful post, Jane. I love that poem, and I love your more tender approach to living. XO

  6. Beautiful and powerful post! Thank you. Food for thought for all of us as we contemplate our world, our society and our own time and footprint here. I love the word "tender." Thank you for sharing this poem and your thoughts. Hope your week is going well.

  7. lovely poem! I have been recycling since 1989 and I have always had to drive my recyclables to a center so I love that I am taking the extra effort to help the planet. I hope you have a great week and still praying for your back !!

  8. what tender thoughts, Jane, shared so beautifully, and from such a space. I love thinking that you write from that desk, with that view. and I'd love for you to come look out my window and help me identify the birds that rest on the branches of our butterfly bush!

  9. Oh Lovely sunset you shared!!! I also love the word Tender. It is so sweet

  10. Like you, I try to live "tenderly" with the earth. But, it is HARD! Am I doing enough --- certainly not, but the "rules" are unclear.

    Are electric cars REALLY better than gas fired IF your electricity is produced in a coal-fired plant? The questions are hard and the answers maybe not so cut and dried.

  11. Cool Desk! I'm trying hard to find ways to impact in little ways. Recently I gave up fish for one and all in the house. Including the cats. The seas are at risk if we keep up our fish consumption. We have one truck only between us for 3years now. We have to start using cloth grocery bags we just had this talk Hubby and I