Piercing the Clouds of Unknowing: Ciona Rouse’s “Red-Shouldered Hawk”

The spiritually inclined 20th century psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of “synchronicity” is in the driver’s seat with this post. After I began assembling another selection for this blog’s “Brilliant Songs” series, I thought the better of ignoring the long-deceased Dr. Jung’s clear message to me across space and time to veer over into the poetry realm instead.

Perhaps I should explain.

My blogging friend over at Loren Webster.net is a longtime birder whose post the other day featured, among other winged creatures, the gorgeous portrait of the red-shouldered hawk that you see below. After admiring its fierce, self-possessed bearing before retiring for the night, I awoke the next morning to my customary and most welcome “Poem-a-Day” from the American Academy of Poets gracing my email in-box.

And what do I find there? The heading, “Red-Shouldered Hawk by Ciona Rouse.”


Jung developed his concept of “sync...

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Photojournalist James Nachtwey: Pictures Worth All the Views a Heart Can Bear

So much suffering. Catastrophe upon catastrophe, really, the long chronicle of humanity’s vast inhumanity and indifference to our fellow humans a kind of psychosis draped in the flags of country, religion, revolution, and perhaps the most fundamental, reptilian attachment of all: greed.

We want to look away, of course, the poet having long ago told us we “cannot bear very much reality.”

In truth, it is natural, and human, and necessary, to carry on so the world’s accumulated misery does not plunder our own capacity for the joy and love and yes, frivolity and ease that should also be everyone’s birthright, at least in some blessed moments out from under suffering’s dark, stifling cloak.

Yet how are we to know what befalls those in distant, denuded and warring lands absent those who consent to bearing witness, to staring the fullness of reality in its face and conveying what they have seen?

Few have stared a...

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Alexei Navalny Yields Not to Temptation…Can It Inspire the World?

It was with a mixture of respect, awe, and incomprehension that I met the news of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s decision to return home in January 2021 to face near certain arrest and imprisonment at the hands of his nemesis, the dictator Vladimir Putin.

Navalny had been in Berlin, where he had endured a long hospital recovery after all evidence pointed to Putin’s security force having poisoned him the previous August with a chemical nerve agent.

Such attacks have been almost standard operating procedure for Putin, used repeatedly to eliminate or at the very least severely debilitate any antagonists whom he decides have drawn enough support from the Russian people to pose a threat to his rule.

If we applied (Jesus’s example) to Navalny’s martyrdom, we’d liken him to ‘paying’ for our own sins of indifference, ignorance, and cowardice in failing to work as hard and risk as much as he did...

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State Marries Church At the Alabama Supreme Court

The mid-February decision by the Alabama Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling and allow a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed against a hospital that left an in vitro fertilization facility unsecured, leading to the breakage of frozen human embryos conceived and stored in the laboratory, hit like another howitzer in the long-running war over abortion rights.

There were two stunning aspects to the case that set the commentariat wires buzzing.

One was the court’s determination that embryos, conceived in a petri dish meetup of sperm and eggs, gestated for 5-7 days and then frozen for later implantation into a womb, meet all the criteria of human children while in that frozen state.

Plenty to talk about there—including the fact that such an embryo, called a “blastocyst,” is comprised of between 100 to 120 cells, totaling one-tenth of a millimeter. (A millimeter is ...

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Brilliant Songs #45: Josh Ritter’s “The Temptation of Adam”

I knew virtually nothing about Josh Ritter when I walked into the wonderfully named “Haw River Ballroom” earlier this month in the just-as-wonderfullly named city of Saxapahaw (2021 population: 1,671). I’d bought the tickets on a lark, because the blurb sounded interesting and I had a vague memory that Ritter is one of those artists with an intense following who had stayed under my radar over the decades for all the usual reasons (time, proximity, basic inattention) but who probably merited a listen.

It required maybe three or four guitar pickings and a few words out of his mouth on concert night for Mary and I to turn to each other with an unspoken, pursued-lip, “Whoa!”

And then it was off to the proverbial races for a two-hour concert set that ranks as one of a handful of “Best Concert Ever” nominees in my personal honor roll...

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