Black Swans

April 16, 2024

"Rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno.” 

                                                –Juvenal, 2nd century AD

(Translation: “A bird as rare upon the earth as a black swan.")

Ah, Juvenal! Our esteemed Roman writer friend was certain that black swans did not exist, mostly because no one in Europe had ever seen one. This belief continued unchallenged for centuries-until 1697, when a Dutch explorer in Australia encountered—wait for it—a black swan.

Nowadays, a “black swan” refers to a significant world event that happens without warning, but which in hindsight should have been predictable. Prime examples include World War One, 9/11, and the economic crash of 2008. All of these happenings caught the world flat-footed. All of these have since been picked apart and deemed “inevitable.”

To recap the criteria: rare occurrences, with immense impacts, that in retrospect are thought to have been predictable.

With those qualities in mind, here’s a selection from my personal bevy of black swans! 


If my Dad hadn’t taken a job in Atlanta, bringing the fam down South before my junior year of high school, Steve and I could not possibly have met, much less gotten quickly engaged (I was 17!) and married. The odds of Stevo bumping into me in Duxbury, MA otherwise were just about zero. Major impact on the world? Of course: Sheridan, Evan, Rose, Patrick and Julie! Should have been expected? Yes, if I had been aware of my incipient bipolar disorder, a hallmark symptom of which is “impulsive behavior.”


Those who know me recognize the rarity of this situation. I was doing a service project with my church youth group, and some misguided soul gave me a shovel and asked me to help make a dirt pile. The idea was to dig, then fling the gathered soil upwards as the dirt pile grew ever taller. My usual volunteer role was “sidelines cheerleader,” but that fateful day I attempted the dig/fling, only to feel immediate, searing pain. This “sports injury” had a huge impact on my world for many, many months, especially whenever I tried to put on a sweater—and the impact continues (I haven’t shoveled anything since, and never will). Rare? Life-changing? Inevitable? Yup!


During the past few months, I noticed that the star of my daily breakfast, Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt (vanilla) was getting harder to locate. At this writing, the only store where I can reliably still find it is Walmart, a place I RARELY frequent. I now travel there every few weeks to stock up. What is happening?? This is without question the best tasting yogurt ever created!!! How will I ever find something as delicious and artificially-sweetened as my magical elixir? Looking back, though, I notice that Dannon GREEK Yogurt has been making inroads for quite some time. It was bound to happen, I guess, but I wasn’t ready. “All Greek to me” is, sadly, my future.

I have other black swans I could share (NOT including that creepy Natalie Portman movie), but I’m at my 500 word limit, so I’ll leave you with this final thought:



    I am an author (of five books, numerous plays, poetry and freelance articles,) a retired director (of Spiritual Formation at a Lutheran church,) and a producer (of five kids).

    I write about my hectic, funny, perfectly imperfect life.

    Please visit my website: or email me at



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