Brilliant and resilient

By Steven Boyd Saum

 Hope is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson wrote. And there, on the cover, captured by the lens of Susan Middleton ’70, behold: What feathers! There’s a story behind them, of course. It’s a story about a male trying to impress a female, and wouldn’t you know it—this dazzling multicolored beauty is what turns her head, perpetuates the species. In this case, the (threatened) species is Gallus varius—a Green Junglefowl, from Indonesia. And that butterfly on the left? The White Morpho.

But it’s a bigger story than that. Hope is a hefty part of it. Let’s go back to that cover, the picture—the looking by human, not bird, and what that act of gazing summons. Start with the joy of discovery—that feeling of joy and wonder and startling newness, enraptured with the sheer beauty of the tiny detail as well as the realization that this is part of the whole of creation: our world, and this dazzling critter is our distant kin.

And then turn to the images within—the spineless sea-swimmers and crawlers, scavengers and slitherers. Every one of these space aliens comes from the salty depths right here within the confines of these great United States. There’s something astounding in that fact itself—which is a point that Middleton has made with her work on display in her photo essay: It’s all American. Though one suspects the invertebrates couldn’t care less. We should.

Tragedy is part of the story, too—as it is in any cycle of life, with the sadness of death part of the picture. It might be beautiful and natural and inevitable; or, as concerns the conservationists with whom Middleton has spent so many years working—and whose profound admiration she has earned—it might be an unprecedented and irrevocable erasure of species from the planet.

Speaking of erasure: Along with these images from our digital age, in our big feature you’ll find a writer taking measure of what fate lies in store for journalism and newspapers as we undergo this next epic shift in how we package what we know about the world. The age of print has been quite a ride, and while we’re not yet ready to relegate ink and paper to the fate of horse and buggy—anachronistic luxury, perhaps?—whether newspapers and the work they do can survive this turn of the page is an open question. But Pulitzer Prize-winner Jeff Brazil ’85 has found a few answers. Hope has something to do with them, too.

And hope has heaps to do with thousands of lives that were profoundly touched by a Jesuit who passed from the Santa Clara family on New Year’s Eve. Richard Coz, S.J., so inspired generations of Santa Clara students that they created a scholarship in his name in 2007. Hundreds of folks have given gifts big and small to pay tribute to a resilient man who cheered for them on the playing fields and counseled them and wed them and baptized their kids, who traveled the world and brought back pictures to share, and to say: Look! Isn’t it wonderful?

Keep the faith,
Steven Boyd Saum signature
Steven Boyd Saum

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