Reteaching a thing its loveliness

In the last few weeks I’ve come across the same quote in three very different books:

…sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing…

The 1st time I appreciated the quote for it’s beauty and timeliness, and I shared it with my husband.

The 2nd time I thought again? how odd! and I shared it in yoga class.

The 3rd time I shivered with chills, looked it up in its entirety, and I share it with you, below.

My virgin encounter with the poem was on a plane. Boarding, I was contemplating the timing of my weekend away; I wouldn’t be home to intervene in the power struggle going on between my husband and my eldest. I was hopeful that maybe without my cushioning presence, they’d make some strides, but I was also fearful that shit would hit the fan. I buckled my seatbelt and breathed deeply, reminding myself that their relationship wasn’t mine to control. I reached into my bag and located the mother’s memoir I was reading, The Gift of an Ordinary Day. The upcoming chapter, Transformation, opened with the passage from above. I read, tears streaming down my face, as Katrina Kenison described how her idyllic relationship with her thirteen year old had morphed into something scary and awful upon his adolescent descent. Hormones had transformed her curious and adventurous child into a goth-like character who sulked in his room and hid inside an oversized black hoody day after day. She described panic and fear as she tried to cajole, discipline and scream her child back to who he used to be. In poetic and beautiful words she described my own angst.

Have I failed my child?
How can I shake him back to himself?
What if this metamorphic sullenness is the end result?

She went on to describe her rediscovery of trust. Trust that allowed her to let go of who she thought he should be and trust that assured her he was okay. Trust that building a self-protective cocoon built of black hoody is part of the process. She began to search actively for the good– the things he did and said that were small remnants of the boy he used to be and foreshadowings of the thoughtful man he would become. She allowed herself to fill with compassion and began to understand that he too was fearful of the changes happening to his body and mind.She reminded herself often that

…sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness, …
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing…

The second time this sweet little poem rocked my world was was in Geneen Roth’s Women, food and God. The premise of this book is that our relationship with food is a window to our spirituality. Roth claims that the way we abuse, seek comfort from and control our intake of food informs our self-worth, trust in the universe and connection to ourselves. She used the same bit of poem not to talk about reteaching someone else their loveliness, but rather to communicate the necessity of reteaching ourselves, remembering the selves we were as small children before learning from society how imperfect and unworthy we are.

The third time I stumbled upon this bit of poem was in Regina Thomashauer’s recent best seller, Pussy. This book, via its attention-grabbing title, examines woman’s disconnect with her inner power, intuition and biological propensity toward pleasure. Her premise is that a woman needs to reteach her body

in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing…

Mama Gena claims that once a women connects with and harnesses the feminine power of pleasure and intuition, she can navigate the world from the guidance of her inner wisdom as opposed to looking outward to the patriarchal world culture for direction and fulfillment.

When the universe knocks three times, I listen. And as I attend to the message of self-blessing, compassion and active sensorial attention, I share with you the complete poem, rife with imagery of sacred body knowledge, divine guidance and carnal mothering. Perfect loveliness.

Saint Francis and the Sow
BY GALWAY KINNELL

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

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