Birthing and Black Swans –

I had to leave art circle earlier than planned this last Saturday morning – I’d left my cell phone at home and was anxious about missing any call from my very ill friend. The very latest news of which is not good –

It was lovely to see the others – it’s a once a month meet, the last one of which in December I missed. Lovely to see works in progress, discuss, engage …

Anita du Toit recently spent some time in Namibia. She was sitting next to me. I spied her photos in an envelope on the table. Knowing that I had to leave sooner rather than later I asked her if I could see them privately.  Her photos were magical, of a magical land – trees, branches, barks, close ups of stones, insect trails – more –

Anita’s words (she emailed me the photo and brief):  ‘A close-up picture is of the bark of a lovely quiver tree just before sunset, when the light is at its most photogenic. Taken at the Quiver Tree Forest close to Keetmanshoop, Namibia’.

I said quietly to Anita (while we were also paying attention to the others) how very beautiful. I said it reminds me of a vagina. I had to leave soon after, so was not there when Anita was going to show her photos to the others …

Driving home, I was thinking about this photo and my response to it and thinking about the birthing pains of ‘Aging & Becoming ~ A Reflective Enquiry‘ by Susan Schwartz and myself. And my own thoughts about the very recent release of it – and so on –

And I wondered what is being birthed in the world and all its severe concomitant labour pains with real anxiety its constant companion –

On Sunday morning my husband & I went on a guided bird walk, meeting at the Country Club at 6.00 a.m. It was lovely to be in nature and walking, taking some photographs – 

Janet Leifeldt who was in our group sent me this photograph at my request that she took of the black swan with a telephoto lens. 

 I’ve occasionally come across the term ‘black swan‘, usually referring to economic markets. I was especially interested in this given what is happening everywhere. All appears to be going along at a favourable and predictable pace when all of a sudden an entirely unpredictable and improbable event occurs that upsets the apple cart – hugely – and has enormous effects in many ways, geopolitically particularly. I couldn’t help but reflect on seeing the black swan – and wondering if we, world wide, are undergoing a ‘black swan‘ moment/s- and whether it will or could lead to a birthing of something else entirely –

The black swan in my cell phone photo is barely discernible – it’s right in the middle. But apt enough; some things are almost impossible to see.

I looked up ‘black swan’ to get more of an understanding of it. There are many links. Insufficient time to do a thorough search. *The importance of the metaphor lies in its analogy to the fragility of any system of thought. A set of conclusions is potentially undone once any of its fundamental postulates is disproved. In this case, the observation of a single black swan would be the undoing of the logic of any system of thought, as well as any reasoning that followed from that underlying logic. (italics mine)

*I excerpted this from Wikipedia. In this particular article mention is also made of the necessity of being robust enough to withstand the fall out.

I took this photo of the reflection of golden clouds on Sunday evening as the sun was setting. I thought of the necessity of honouring the dark, knowing that the dawn will arise, even though the dark is a-quiver with the unknown –

  •  Click HERE to see the book on Amazon. and to see the back cover which gives some more information.

    Thank you for reading. And thank you to Anita and Janet for the use of their photographs. 

    The lotus arises from the mud, it’s habitat until it begins to rise and bloom in all its beauty and grandeur. More than ever we need to be steadfast and firm in the winds that are blowing.

59 comments on “Birthing and Black Swans”

  1. Excellent post, Susan …. My favorite pic is the black swan, of course. Karl Popper used the analogy. I have written a post on this issue (In Spanish, so I am translating an excerpt for you to see how the analogy is used):

    According to Popper in order to find out that a Scientific theory is true is should be able to be refuted by its counterexample. If it is not possible to refute it, this theory is corroborated, and can be accepted provisionally.
    The problem of induction arises from the fact that we can never say anything universal from particular data (which come from experience).
    Even if we find millions of white swans we can never say that “all swans are white”. Instead if we find a single swan that is not white, then we can conclude and say: “Not all swans are white”-
    For that reason (and pointing at the exception somehow: the black swan) Popper introduces falsificationism as a criterion of scientific demarcation and put aside inductivism.

    I hope that you found it useful 😉 Love & best wishes! 😉

    • Thanks Aquileana! Yes, that’s a great example using swans. And can be used in many examples whereby the refutation of it can also point to the possible proof of the original hypothesis.

      I so appreciate your coming by! Love 🙂 and all best wishes to you! Loved your recent post on Artemis et al …

  2. Such a peaceful post. Thank you. I feel very much at home and with other bloggers here. A big sigh on my part. Facebook, where I hung out during the U.S. election, turned ugly. I saw friends and family divide down the middle in ways I never would have guessed. I have since resorted to positive, peaceful news with an occasional exclamation when political news gets the best of me. The Black Swan—Goodness, I’d forgotten this. So apropos today. I read a book with this title after stumbling upon it one day (ooh, an unlikely event 🙂 at the library. Fascinating read. Black Swan scholars must be having a field day in the U.S. but I admit I worry about our country.

    • So lovely to see you here Sharon thank you for coming by! Sorry that you had that awful experience of seeing huge divides among friends and family. An extraordinary phenomenon – giving rise – or fall – to so much.

      Here in SA we’re on tenterhooks too – so many ramifications – if this happens, or that happens … our Finance Minister, a good man who has steered the ship through very rocky waters, is giving his annual speech tomorrow night. We are fearful that the president will fire him (he’s about to re-shuffle the cabinet) and replace him with someone that we have every reason to be alarmed about –
      another sycophant …

      So – amidst all this turbulence – what do we do? I don’t know – definitely to switch off sometimes …

      I haven’t noted anyone having a field day with the Black Swan phenomenon … I will check.

      Thanks again Sharon. All best.

  3. I love the way you share nature with us, including your own nature. Thank you, Susan. A black swan! I love the bark at sunset photo and see what you see in it. I hope we’re birthing something that won’t be as monstrous as feared at this moment. It’s challenging to stay quiet inside and not be frantic by the end of each day. It’s time to meditate, keep more silence, take more walks (in snow here), and read Aging and Becoming which I’m savoring. Thank you so much for letting me/us in on your conversation with Susan. By necessity, the topic is much on my mind.

    • Thank you Elaine for coming by and your lovely comment. I agree, all seems challenging right now yet as you say, or imply, all the more reason to hold the centre by meditating, being silent, walking –

      Thank you also for saying about Susan’s and my book! The topic is daily on my mind …

  4. Susan, I love the idea of a quiver tree. I never heard that name before, but the photo is lovely, and I’m sure the tree is also.

    I believe it’s possible that we are experiencing the birth pangs of a new order in the world. Philosopher Ken Wilber thinks so. It’s hard to hold on to hope in the midst of chaos, just as it’s hard to see the black swan in your photo. And yet, there are signs of hope.

    Here in North Carolina one of those signs is the Moral Mondays movement:

    Since my daughter is in her second trimester of pregnancy right now, the metaphor of birth is very real to all who love her and her baby in these chaotic times.

    • Thank you for coming by Shirley. I took a photo of a praying mantis with my cell phone the other day – yes, I’ve taken photos before of a praying mantis, but this one was a day or 2 ago – it was so tiny it is a miracle that I saw it. On my desk on a pale nail file amidst the papers and other stuff on my desk. Tiny, barely discernible. But what struck me was how these tiny barely discernible ‘things’ can pass by in a blink, yet those things are inspiring in their way. Even just a smile to an unknown other on the street or wherever ..for me it causes a tiny quiver ..

      I had a quick look at your Moral Mondays link – and will read in greater depth soon. Thank you for it. This would have started small yet see how it’s grown and continues birthing…

      I trust and hope all is going very well with your daughter’s pregnancy!

  5. i would like to start this comment once more,
    this has nothing to do with you post,
    i use the wifi @ Starbucks,
    it would seem the big coffee giant can’t afford internet or salt for the sidewalks…

    i personally see this as greed…

    Now to retype the comment i made to you darling,
    the beauty seen in a single black swan,
    Mrs. Nature’s gift to us all..

    You talk about the world going into a black swan moment,
    i would agree!

    i base this on the election of President Trump…

    hugs & kisses chris

  6. Sending kind and gentle thoughts for your friend Susan.

    The photo you shared from Anita is extraordinary. I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees by Cedric Pollet. I fall, mesmerized, down the rabbit hole every time I page through it.

    The term black swan is unfamiliar to me, but the animals themselves are quite magical. Alas, I’m not able to pick out your swan, but somehow I love that. Hidden treasures are so precious.

    I’m so looking forward to reading Aging & Becoming – belated congratulations on its release.

    • Thank you for your kind & gentle thoughts re my friend, Deborah.

      Loved what you say about the bark – Anita’s photo – and one your favourite books on Bark …

      Thank you also for your congratulations about our book – much appreciated!

  7. Susan–somehow the notification of this post got lost in my overwhelmingly full in-box. I’m glad I went back to check. The black swan is beautiful. I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about the meaning of the term–other than opposite of white swan–Swan Lake and the movie, Black Swan. If we are indeed going through a black swan moment (though DT is totally without grace or beauty and seems more like an ogre than a swan), I hope it gives birth to something fine and beautiful.

    Congratulations on the birth of your book!

  8. The term black swan is a new one to me. I can imagine that we’re undergoing a massive black swan attack in the U.S. as all logic and reason seems to be getting tossed out the window. From all accounts it seems that the whole world is starting to go a bit daft. Maybe it’s time for news and information outlets worldwide to just shut down and put us in a sort of dark ages for a period. We could gather in small groups of friends and look and pictures and discuss life and such. I guess that sounds a bit tribalistic, but maybe we could all use some more peace, contemplation, and caring about those who are close to us.

    I just don’t know what the real solution could be, but I’m getting wearied over all of the clamor and clashing of opinions even though I often engage in exactly that with my blog topics. That’s my little tribe of friends I suppose.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    • Hello Arlee and thank you for coming by. I can sense your despondency over all that is happening – and it is pretty worrying. Us and them inter alia. Maybe now is the time to draw friends and loved ones close. Peace contemplation and caring as you say. And to always keep the dialogue open and flowing as you do. Thank you again.

  9. Hello My Dear,
    First, Congratulations on your book release. I am proud of you and happy for you. All the best and I hope it reach many.
    I look through the pictures and the one of the bark of the tree taken in sunlight had me thinking how beautiful the tree is and it reminded me of legs padded with leaves.
    All of the pictures tell a story but that picture struck me because it is so different.
    I also wish your friend good health and hope she overcomes.
    Take care. Now I must hop over to Amazon Germany to see if I can get a copy of your book.
    Shalom aleichem,

    • Hello dear Pat thank you so much for coming by. How lovely you saw the golden bark that way – it’s lovely for me to now see it that way too!

      Thank you for your congratulatory wishes re the book and for trying to get it from Germany! And for your good wishes for my friend – where I am tonight.

      Shalom to you Pat.

  10. congratulations Susan for the book; also for your friend writer Susan. I am so happy to read this post, and every picture is brilliant. I can just get lost looking at the lovely pictures you posted; whoever has clicked, has done a great job. I love the way you are inspiring and the post is deep and reflective. I am looking forward to read your book susan. Thanks for the beautiful post and the powerful images and your meaningful interpretations 🙂 Love you!!

    • Thank you Genevieve for your lovely comment – so glad you liked the images – the others were mine. Mmmm interpretations of the images? Hadn’t thought of it like that but yes, that was my response to them! Thank you also for the congratulations – 😊 And love to you.

  11. Well done re: book mom! Got it in my Amazon cart, just finding out about another book to add to the order and then I’ll have my own copy! Nice.

    • Thanks so much Mike – I wish I’d gifted it to you, just because, but also especially I doubt Susan and I would have managed without your help and you putting it all together for us. We are both very willingly indebted. Love mum

  12. So well done Susan (and Susan) on the arrival of the much anticipated book! I know the stork was not involved – it was a real birthing with all the attendant pains, angst and relief when over? My kindle and I look forward to the journey of becoming….aging is already on the move.
    Thank you for the reminder that we need to honour the dark as much as the light, and hold the “trunk” firm. Best love Didi

    • Thanks dear Didi for coming by. The relief is still to come I hope! Thank you for accompanying us on the journey – I so appreciate this. Best love to you dear friend –

  13. First of all, the bird you saw is a beauty. Swans always seem so graceful. Anyway, I’d vaguely heard the expression “black swan” before, but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. Having read a little more about it, it does seem to apply to Donald Trump’s case. I just hope that whatever lies ahead is better and not worse. I don’t have any real faith in him as a leader or a person, but perhaps he might at least prompt a helpful reaction that could end up doing some good for the world.

    • Thanks Bun for coming by. I hope very much that out of this morass something ‘better’ will come – as you say, ‘prompt a helpful reaction’ … people power maybe who’s voices canNOT be denied ..

  14. First of all, congratulations on getting that book published. Birthing a book is such hard work, but you did it. Kudos to both Susans. 🙂

    I love the commentary and bird images. As it happens, my post this week regards birds too – Canada geese and mallard ducks rather than swans. Synchronicity at work again!

    • Thanks Marian! And good luck to you too – I know that you’re in the midst of your memoirs!

      Good on synchronicity appearing. There’s always something so renewing when that happens. Who wrote so beautifully about Canadian Geese? Was it Mary Oliver? David Whyte? I await to see what Marian Beaman writes – in mind’s eye I can see those wondrous formations –

  15. A lovely, thoughtful, thought-provoking post. Thanks, Susan for sharing your images and the reflections that are inspired by them. I love the way you see and think and combine the two to transcend dualism and find meaning.

    Congratulations on the birth of your new book. Wonderful news! I wish you and your sister writer the very best with it! I have no doubt it will be every bit as refreshing and inspiring as your blog is.

    Blessings, Jeanie

  16. My goodness, dear Susan, you are so wise. This piece touched my doubts in an important way. What is the planet giving birth to? We are all siblings, after all.

    I see us going through that “black swan” effect in today’s Geo-political experience. Hopefully my thoughts are real. Perhaps all of the horror we are observing, even living through, may be in order to provide for positive change. With all of the darkness, is the fact that so many of us are actually demanding a kinder world. Love is the source of our very being. For those who believe in a positive higher power, God, Creator, it is understood that this is an entity of unconditional love. The opposite is a view made by ego. The “black swan effect” may cause us to see the brotherhood of all humanity.

    • Thank you Marsha I’m glad the meaning of birthing touched you. It does seem as if there is more awareness of our sister and brotherhood, and the need for a kinder world. We’re all shocked, which is what the black swan effect causes. Events are unfolding lickety split – our task is to hold constant to connection, let the branches and leaves sway as they must in the high winds, but for the trunk of the tree to remain rooted. Thank you for thinking of me as ‘wise’ .. I wish I held the same belief. 🙂

  17. Dear Susan;
    Always the tenderness of your words and images ring through. Thank you for mentioning and showing our book which I also have put on my website. The book speaks to everything you give words and pictures to–life, illness, women, men…

  18. Hi Susan – I too hadn’t realised ‘black swan’ had such a dark meaning.Trump is a pain in the proverbial to put it mildly … and so rat-baggish and selfish … and I quote “this billionaire who was born in Queens, NY, the grandson of German immigrants and whose Scottish mother was born on the Isle of Lewis’. When he tells angry white Americans that foreigners are out to take their jobs, he leaves out the bit that his empire was built on the backs of migrant labour…. The gentleman suffers from halitosis of the intellect – there’s none …! the country can’t be run by twittering … and with only one result – his – brooking no disagreement with his ideas”

    Enough of that … Namibia brought back happy memories with my Ma and our trip to the Skeleton Coast … loved it … now I have a vagina floating around too!

    I deleted the rest! Trump bits …

    We are living through extraordinary times … but Spring is springing … even though I can’t see the sea and I live 100 yards away … thick mist! Worse than Cornwall and that’s saying something – still got to laugh. I have a bunch of daffodils – bought I’m afraid as no garden …

    The Country Club is a lovely part of town … the guided tour sounds so interesting …

    Black Swans are ‘indigenous’ to Western Australia and are the emblem and bird for that part of the world …

    I hadn’t realised that black swans were actually all around the world now – introduced species … we live in hope less than 4 years now … hopefully even less.

    Cheers Hilary

    • Hi Hilary, I’m glad that Namibia brought back good memories!

      Thanks for the reminder of DJT’s immigrant history – I wonder if he remembers that his wife is an immigrant?

      The mist seems appropriate somehow – even if it is just knowing that it WILL lift. Here’s to hope and its implied good tidings – tho who’s to know ..

      Thank you for coming by – I hope this finds you well.

  19. Boy, Susan, I totally agree with Deborah’s wise words about nature providing deep healing. Amazing and beautiful plants grow out in the wild and deep forests. So out of night and the black in the world beautiful things grow. I have to keep this in mind as Trump’s actions will cast darkness on our world. I truly hope something good arises from the bleakness I see.

    In psychology they mention that often people have to hit bottom before they can change. Maybe this is our black swan moment, so that eventually people will realize that we can all work together. We need multiple voices and opinions to create beauty. Maybe we are birthing a new world.

    Congratulations on publishing your book. I look forward to reading it. Thanks for your lovely words.

    • And we see the moon shining when visible in the darkness – that’s my hope too when we realise that we’re better working together and creating beauty. It does seem that we have to hit rock bottom but to trust that the upward movement can then begin if we acknowledge it, fully.

      Thank you Gwynn for your congratulations! I appreciate this!

  20. I’ve never heard of the term “black swan.” Fascinating how appropriate it is in the context of today’s world. I’m working and praying that we all can be robust enough to withstand the fall out. Congrats on your book. Always pleased to learn that there’s a little more goodness in the world!

    • Thanks Ally Bean – it’s an apt term isn’t it. Sort of gives world events a frame – I think you’d enjoy a google search on it and the philosophy and history behind it etc ..

      Thanks for the congrats too!

    • Thanks Jacqui! I hope the bark picture didn’t appear upside down which it does on my smart phone … yes, Nature is clever indeed.

      Thank you re congratulations! I hadn’t thought of a blog hop – that is a lovely offer. More thanks! Noted in ‘book’ notebook!

  21. Now that is a coincidence! I just finished writing a blog post about Spirituality Quotes, and one is about art: “Art is the indispensable psychical container as well as the inexhaustible vessel of spiritual nourishment” H.G. Baynes, and while I am writing it, your new blog arrives in my inbox, telling about your art class.
    I am reading and enjoying the wisdom in your new book. It got me thinking about aging, beauty, feeling visible and invisible. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thank you Susanne for coming by! Its always lovely when there’s a touch of synchronicity about! I love HG Baynes’ quote and I look forward to checking out your post on spiritual quotes.

      Thank you for saying about the book 🙂

  22. Dear Susan, Alongside the sinking of the Titanic, Trump’s recent inauguration, for me, is another of the world’s terrible ‘black swan’ moments. I’m still in shock, reeling from the news (daily at times!) as we enter yet another ‘collective’ dark night of the soul. Huge congrats on your latest book, written with your friend, the other Susan, can’t wait to read it! I’ve retweeted it, but having left and re-joined twitter, I think you would need to ‘follow’ me again (sorry I lost all my followers when I left!) to see the post.

    Thank you for including all your photos, the one taken during the day’s ‘golden hour’ is stunning! Being out in nature is deeply healing, a place to take our sorrows, stresses and find healing, health and joy. As I remind my clients, nature got there long before psychology! The UK weather is bleak, cold, and mostly rainy but on a walk yesterday I noticed tiny buds everywhere and small crocuses pushing their heads up. Trying to hold onto this moment of beauty, in contrast to Trump’s shit-storm! Blessings always, Deborah.

    • Rather extraordinary times – now and ahead. I think you’re right Deborah, a dark night of the collective soul. A time for serious soul-searching and seeking the ever elusive way forward, which may mean going backwards and reflecting on the past, if only to see where we went wrong.

      But, how lovely to see buds peeking here and there – always a lovely sign to see the bloom among the gloom 🙂 A true reminder of the magnificence of Mother Nature who bestows her blessings for those who choose to see –

      Thank you for coming by Deborah, always appreciated! Blessings to you too!

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