What do you think of this quote?

Genius is nothing more or less than childhood recaptured at will.
Charles Beaudelaire

Makes you smile, doesn't it? What I like is that it hints at the uncluttered nature of how open a child’s thought can be. Not to imply that kids are automatic geniuses but rather the quote recalls a time when our reasoning was oblivious to rules of expected behavior or culture. By not needing to fit ideas into a preconceived box it just feels like the door toward creativity is opened wider.

In my marketing profession we’d call this “think outside the box.” Stretch to think beyond a typical answer or routine. Over the years I’ve participated in lots of different brainstorming exercises (word associations, visual imagination, random questions, etc.) with varying results. Yet, I hadn’t ever tried an approach suggested by the quote -- recapture childhood -- until this summer. 

In July the email arrives from my sister-in-law Ulrike while she and my brother and kids are on holiday in Europe. Addressed to the women in the family (eight of us) it proposes an idea. She is thinking of a celebration for their 10-1/2-year-old daughter toward the end of the summer.

Based on the idea of acknowledging the rite of passage of a girl into womanhood, it would draw from many cultural influences, such as Native American and African. In many of these ceremonies the women in the tribe gather to conduct a service to reinforce cultural identity and passage into adulthood. Ulrike asks if we could participate.  Would we share our own traditions regarding passage into womanhood? 

I stare at the email. Hmmm. My niece’s smiling, light-hearted face bounces into thought. At first glance the request seems foreign, even incompatible with family history. There are no Bat Mitzvahs for 12-year-olds or Sweet Sixteen parties or debutante introductions into white-gloved high society among our traditions. At first thought my preteen “rite of passage” was mostly avoiding my brothers’ annoying teasing. 

But then ideas begin to form. You know what? We did have a rite of passage.

I will need more time to write about this in an upcoming blog, but in the meantime here is an invitation our “tribe” of eight women shared at the ceremony.  Though inspired by a girl, ultimately it’s a message that feels relevant to adult and child alike. If you’re up to it, try replacing your own name in the following and see if a little childhood is recaptured. And the “we” is me and others who love you.

Weekly Snippet
You are encircled, Cosi, you have always been encircled by Love.

As you grow and your stride lengthens and your leaps soar higher and your laugh shouts louder we delight in you! We see how you are stronger and even more graceful and buoyant, leaning in to the precious unique individual you are. That you are thinking about what you are drawn to and what you’d rather avoid, how you are the same and yet different from others. 

This is important for you are discovering a secret:  who you are and what gift you are, Cosi, to the world.

In some small ways we know what’s ahead…which makes us really excited…

Because we want to know about you:  what you will ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. We want to know if you will risk being a fool for love, for your dream, for your adventure of being alive. If you can dance with wildness and abandon and let the joy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without listening to the voices cautioning you, “Be careful!”, “Be realistic!” or “Remember your limits!”

What limits?

We know, too, that ahead are some of life’s betrayals that may tempt you to shrivel and close for fear of further pain. We wish we could shelter you so that you would never, ever experience sorrow but on the other side of disappointment, on the other side of a tough journey, if you’ll continue to move forward…is love, sweet Cosi. And this is worth the journey, however painful.

Will you see beauty, even when it’s not pretty every day? Will you live with failure, yours and those closest to you, and still stand on the edge of the ocean and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”?  Will you get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to step forward again?

We think so. We know so. To prove it in these pages are ideas and stories and messages for the weeks and years ahead written just for you.  We may not always be with you in person, but the love that inspired this book is always with you. 

Even when you are alone Love is always above, below, behind, beside and before you.

Cosi, encircled by love.

Inspired by the poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Amazing, isn’t it? How the leaning in to what’s next, how we can contribute, what our purpose is, turns out not to be the property of youth alone, but a lifelong quest:  To discover and polish the genius you are to an ever brighter luster.

Thinking about you, and grateful for you!