While working on the Main Salmon River one summer I had the pleasure of working with a creative, intelligent and hilarious man named Mikey. He is an expert guide, loquacious conversationalist and top notch chef.
One of the gifts Mikey gave me was the concept of "the tender vittle".
It started in a frying pan one river morning.
In order to make delectable potatoes the guide/chef in charge must first sauté some onions and garlic.
Mikey speak for this: "Chop those ohneys (onions) and fresh gar and get them sizzlin'".
Once the bits of garlic and onion begin to turn translucent and caramelize slightly they have been transformed into "tender vittles".
When Mikeys pan was at this stage, he would capture the attention of the nearest person and say, "Check out those tendies! Uh! Tender vittles!", which he would follow with a song that might go like this.
"I hope you like tendies. I hope you like tendies.", pointing into the pan with his spatula, executing subtle dance moves.
Now, what does this story have to do with nature connection, ecopsychology and things RTE? Plenty.
If I am going to connect and receive the gifts of nature I have to acknowledge that I am a soft and fleshy being, maybe even translucent like those bits of onion and garlic.
In an earlier post I mention the idea of being a "warm grape" - a bag of warm water in a vast and sometimes harsh environment. In order to both stay safe out there and to deeply connect to nature, I have to acknowledge my softness - my tenderness. I am a soft and tender being covered with hair-like nerve endings and sense organs that allow myriad sensational natural phenomena to come into my system.
Our tender vittles in Western, Industrial Growth Society are under constant pressure to cover and armor up. Houses, vehicles, clothing, shoes, sunglasses —coverings of all kinds are the norm.
Taking off ones shoes, walking instead of driving, sleeping on the ground - these are all behaviors of poor, homeless, or crazy people.
It is "better" according to the popular societal conversation to live in a large house, in a gated community, driving large cars, and coating your body and skin with cosmetics and clothing.
And this is how many of us see each other - how we pretend to know each other as we meet armor to armor. Advertisers and retailers make a fortune selling the latest and greatest protections and coverings to us.
Many people have no idea they are tender vittles. They have not given themselves the time, space, and permission to truly sit with and feel this basic, skin-level, embodied truth.
Some coverings are important obviously. But I think it is a question of degree. How much do we need to insulate ourselves from nature and from each other?
I am not advocating running naked into the woods with only a pocket knife for hunting rodents and rabbits. I am encouraging you to take your shoes off and go stand in the grass and breathe with the slower respiratory rate of the Earth.
And I also encourage you to take stock of your coverings and armorings. Are they necessary? Could you shed a few of them?
How available is your tenderness to the world?
And the next time you're sautéing some garlic, reflect on tenderness and maybe sing a song about it.