September 25, 2010

the loveliness of sows

Much as I enjoy using words myself, I am more often than not blown away at the ways in which other people put thoughts together. To me, the putting together of words into sentences that I couldn't have thought up in a million years borders on magical. I think it is why I have always loved to read; because other people's thoughts, their joys and their pains, look much like my own. That I can feel something, acutely, and another person can describe it perfectly, eloquently, better than I ever could have - is just so freaking awesome. Even if (situationally speaking) our lives look strikingly different, on paper, we connect, intersect, relate to one another. While in real life reading another person can be not only scary but horrifically difficult, reading another person allows you more insight into their thoughts, their feelings, who they are. And as I get older, I find that more and more, I get to be in relationships with people who are honest enough, comfortable enough, to let me into those places (the "me too" places, if you will) that reading becomes less of a necessity to feel connected.

But I don't love it less. Because I firmly believe that words make art, and although art is not perhaps necessary to our basic survival, we don't thrive quite as much without it. At least I don't.

All that to say, I really, really, really love poetry.
And I really, really, really love this poem, 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 the 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 flops 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 the sow.

So. For those of you I have not lost into a fit of giggles because now the word "teat" is now forever immortalized on my blog, do you not love that? When I read that line - "though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness," I had to stop and catch my breath. And as I kept reading, I imagined St. Francis stooping to the earth to remind a sow that it was lovely. St. Francis. A Saint for goodness' sake. And a sow. The very picture of filth. The very last thing I think of as lovely. Are you starting to see what I'm seeing?

I've given a lot of thought recently about forgetting who you are. I wrote a few months ago: "I wonder how often we become something we're not simply because we've forgotten who we are." And to take it one step further now, I wonder if we haven't forgotten who we are simply because we've forgotten who God is.

I want, sort of desperately, to be retaught my loveliness. And I want to reteach others their loveliness too.  Would that every interaction we had with one another - every touch, every word - pointed to just that: loveliness. That we could flower, and in so doing could be fully alive. That we could remember. And in so remembering, would remember too that our loveliness, our worth, comes from the God that created us that way. In his image.


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