The Tenderness of Mortals





How joyful to be together, alone
as when we first were joined
in our little house by the river
long ago, except that now we know

each other, as we did not then;
and now instead of two stories fumbling
to meet, we belong to one story
that the two, joining, made. And now

we touch each other with the tenderness
of mortals, who know themselves:
how joyful to feel the heart quake

at the sight of a grandmother,
old friend in the morning light,
beautiful in her blue robe!
~Wendell Berry “The Blue Robe” from  New Collected Poems




We have been grandparents for over 17 months, mostly from a great distance of thousands of miles, but today I get to actually hold this growing and precious grandchild in my arms on my 64th birthday.

During these many years, to love and be loved as a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a wife, a mother, and now a grandmother with whitening hair, is the greatest privilege and blessing of my life.

And to think, this tenderness these two new grandparents feel in our nearly four decades together,  this loving as a grandmother in a blue robe, is the most wonderful gift of all.




Not long ago on winter mornings
Waking dark to part
From your warm side,
Leaving behind my soft imprint,
I wrap up in my blue robe
To walk the gravel drive
For the newspaper

Our hilltop farm
Lies silent amid fallow fields
Moon shadows
Broad across my path
Star sparks overhead
Tree lined yard shields
The house from road.

In ink of early morning
I walk noiseless;
Step out to the mailbox
Then turn~ startled~
A flashlight
Approaching on the road-
An early walker and his dog
Illuminate me in dawn disarray
Like a deer in headlights:
My ruffled hair,  my sleep lined face
Vulnerability suddenly
Uncovered in the darkness;

Now this birthday summer morning
Wakes me early to streaming light
Poured out on quilt and blankets.
I part from your warmth again
Readied for ritual walk.
Dew sparkling below
Rich foliage above
Road stretches empty
For miles east and west

Crossing to the mailbox
I reach for the paper
Suddenly surrounded by
A bovine audience
Appreciative and nodding
Riveted by my bold approach
In broad daylight.
Yet abruptly scatter, tails in the air
When in rumpled robe and woolen slippers
I dance and twirl
In a hilltop celebration
Of ordinary life and extraordinary love





11 thoughts on “The Tenderness of Mortals

  1. Emily–a wonderful, blessed birthday to you, with all the joy your heart can hold! Your words sound like your day has started out just that way!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wishing you a very happy birthday!!! And loving your writing and poem selections. This is such a sweet part of my morning, loved this in particular. My husband & I married 10 years ago, we met when our kids met and got married, we were married 8 months later. We are now 63 and 65 and oh, it gets sweeter every day. Thank you for this and for sharing. Again, Happy Birthday!! 🎉🎈😁🎂🎁🎉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Birthday Emily and thank you for the gifts you give us daily, a peek into life under the blue bathrobe that is so rich in gratitude that you pass onto us helping us be a little more aware of the blade of grass, the rock, our beautiful NW, and more important each other. Love, NJK

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Briefly tracing the past 63 years, holding the second Polis-Gibson generation’s newest addition, your beautiful 17-month old grand-daughter, Emma Sophia, is a lovely way to pause and to take stock of a life filled with love, purpose and achievement as you now begin your 64th year.
    Your heartfelt words, Emily, reflect an acknowledgment that your journey is a sacred one. We never expect in this human life to have perfection. That was never promised us. Nor was Jesus’ 33 years on earth perfection because He came among us as the Incarnate God to share our humanity, to show us how to live, how to love, as His father loves us. For that, He paid the ultimate price.
    As a farm woman – a caretaker of His gift to us, you are acutely aware that there are always briars and stones – even boulders and other impediments – at times during our Journey. It is in meeting and overcoming those obstacles that we come closest to Him, as your life attests. As a result, beautiful 64-year old woman, you have been endowed, gifted, with such wisdom, love, and understanding of human nature that has spread like pebbles tossed upon a stream. You unselfishly share your gifts to all those with whom you come in contact ( and those whom you have never seen) — your most precious gift — your faith in our Creator-God.

    A BIRTHDAY BLESSING (excerpt ) by John O’Donohue:

    “Blessed be the mind that dreamed the day
    the blueprint of your life would begin to glow on earth,
    Illuminating all the faces and voices
    that would arrive to invite your soul to growth.

    Praised be your father and mother,
    who loved you before you were,
    and trusted to call you here
    with no idea who you would be.

    Blessed be those who have loved you
    into becoming who you were meant to be….

    Blessed be… your gifts…
    your health, eyes to behold the world,
    thoughts to countenance the unknown,
    memory to harvest vanished days,
    your heart to feel the world’s waves,
    your breath to breathe the nourishment
    of distance made intimate by earth.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! i will be 65 on saturday. i am so glad you can enjoy a grandchild, even across the miles. they give such new meaning and blessing to our lives.
    your unfailing wisdom shared here is much needed, and i hope you continue for many more years!

    Liked by 1 person

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