I just finished deadheading the petunias around my mailbox. Noticing how much I enjoy doing it. I like to check how the flowers are doing, see whether they have enough water, pause to enjoy their colors and scent. I like to touch them, talk to them, spread their stems so that they have air and space (a little like fluffing pillows). Especially after rain when they are a bit bedraggled it is satisfying to tidy them up a bit.

I do this with my potted geraniums too, pinching off the dead flowers, pulling the yellowed leaves, checking moisture, while I murmur encouraging words and gratitude for their beauty.

Come to think of it, I enjoy weeding too. I don’t show much compassion for the weeds, I guess, but I like how pulling weeds gives the garden plants room to spread and breathe. Ensures there is nothing to steal nutrients from them, or to blur their lovely shape and blooms by crowding them.

I doubt that any of this is necessary–the plants do fine on their own when I am out of town–but they seem a bit forlorn if I ignore them. Or maybe it’s me that’s forlorn– I feel sweetly content each time I connect with my plants this way.

(Actually, it reminds me of the pleasure of changing my kids’ diapers. Though I was glad when they could eventually go to the potty themselves, until then diaper changing was a precious time. A time when I would talk to them, touch them lovingly of course, sing to them—I made up songs, probably to keep us both interested—little operas, often about what we were doing, which made us both laugh. It was a little island of time away from whatever was going on, to spend a few minutes completely absorbed in that child in a very physical way. It strengthened and calmed me amidst the chaos of motherhood to run that love and laughter through my system.)

I guess it’s touching and tending that enlivens me. Expressing tenderness, gentle affection. A simple outpouring of love or gratitude with no expectation of return other than the joy of expressing care and nurturing connection.

Yet there are so many things in my life I do not tend, that I ignore or take for granted.

Why do we care so little about the nonhuman things around us?

Or do we care little because we don’t tend them?

To tend something I have to notice it and have some affection or gratitude for it.

And tending requires I slow down and make space. I have to move from the dictates of my head–always watching the clock–to the enticements of my heart and my senses– unhurried, receptive, willing to feel and flow with the feelings.

My mother told me that early in her marriage her mother often came to help her with her home. Once as they struggled together to hang curtains, my grandmother said to her, “if you would love and tend to these curtains a little more, they would perform better for you.”

If I treat more in my daily life with tenderness, will things perform better for me?

If I tend more things and people in my life will I then treat myself with more tenderness?

If I tend to myself better, will I extend that tenderness more widely to others?