Imagine a machine that measures tenderness towards the earth.
Perhaps it is a satellite sent from a distant planet, measuring oil wells against gardening, carbon in the atmosphere, minerals left in the ground, dinosaur bones still buried.
To measure tenderness may be spreadsheets and adding machines, the legal tender to which we owe our existence. Green visored men tapping out calculations in dim casino backrooms, balancing protests and policies, ticker tape numbers of slot machines and black-jack games left unplayed.
Or perhaps it is the way trees bend down, weeping willows leaves sweeping towards water. The communication between roots, the bacteria living in our guts, the gasp of wonder at flowers and forests, the number of love letters written to trees in a day, in a month, in a year.
Maybe it is an EKG monitor in a hospital, measuring our heart beats, every thump, thump, thump a love song to all our relations. In a climate emergency, is a spike in anxiety a sign of tenderness or a symptom that can only be remedied by lying down on moss and breathing in?
Perhaps it is that most ancient of technologies, standing against a wall, ruler and pencil, each mark of height progress towards the infinity that is death. From dust we come and from dust we shall return. To measure tenderness is to remember that growth can only bring us back to the earth.
Tenderness towards the earth is, of course, tenderness towards one another. This is an algorithm, calculating swipes on dating sites, smiles exchanged on the sidewalk, the kindness of a stranger giving welcome after a storm. Each click, each mention, draws us closer.
To measure tenderness may be the way we poke our fingers into marinated steak to test resistance. We are meat, pounded with a mallet. So tender our hearts are broken open. We devour each other, blood dripping from our chins. Taste and see that the earth is good. Feel it as every fiber in your being softens, softens, melts, dissolves.
Oikoternurometro. We measure tenderness with each paused step, our footprints of carbon stopping to hear the gentle whisper of the earth: hush my darlings, let me hold you tight.
This post was inspired by an organization in Bolivia, Fundacion Comunidad y Axion, that includes project monitoring around levels of tenderness towards the earth, what they are calling oikoternurometro. I know nothing about it beyond that statement, but it was enough to push me to write this.