Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

The Poet’s Corner – Optimism – by Robert McDowell

by Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the
same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true
but out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs—all this
resinous, unretractable earth.


This is such a wise and comforting poem. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found myself feeling the same way. What once I overlooked and undervalued I now respect and bow to.
I revere the way the gardeners show up every year, the way the conscious loggers take to the woods, how people in offices show up every day to represent their companies with the best they have to offer. I celebrate the undervalued teacher of children and adolescents, who as far as I’m concerned should be pulling down the annual salaries that currently go to celebrities and athletes, and I praise the doctors and nurses who are beyond insurance and drug companies yet deeply immersed in people. I adore the keepers of horses and cattle, the foresters and stewards of wind and solar power.
Theirs is not “the simple resistance of a pillow,” but “the sinuous tenacity of a tree.” Resilience and tenacity. Neither one is the same as resistance, the poet reminds me, and I’m grateful for her mentoring. Being awake is not about saying no. It’s not about being stubborn. It’s about having faith in honest repetition. It’s about putting in the ten thousand hours Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, Outliers.
Blind intelligence? Perhaps. But it’s intelligence all the same, and from it comes the persistence that brought forth “turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs,” all precious life that makes up this “resinous, unretractable earth.” Resinous—as in getting a good grip, and unretractable—a made up word meaning, I believe, impossible to take back, to give away. What marvelous adjectives for our imperiled, sweet old world.