Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

My teenage years were filled with Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, etc. I heard this song yesterday and it resonated with me. Take a read.

Oh let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on Wall Street and Vegas
Place your bets
Shine on the fishermen
With nothing in their nets
Shine on rising oceans and evaporating seas
Shine on our Frankenstein technologies
Shine on science
With its tunnel vision
Shine on fertile farmland
Buried under subdivisions

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on the dazzling darkness
That restores us in deep sleep
Shine on what we throw away
And what we keep

Shine on Reverend Pearson
Who threw away
The vain old God
kept Dickens and Rembrandt and Beethoven
And fresh plowed sod
Shine on good earth, good air, good water
And a safe place
For kids to play
Shine on bombs exploding
Half a mile away

Let your little light shine
Let your little light shine
Shine on world-wide traffic jams
Honking day and night
Shine on another asshole
Passing on the right!
Shine on the red light runners
Busy talking on their cell phones
Shine on the Catholic Church
And the prisons that it owns
Shine on all the Churches
They all love less and less
Shine on a hopeful girl
In a dreamy dress


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Anna Mae Aquash (also Anna Mae Pictou Aquash or Anna Mae Pictou; first name also spelled Annie Mae; Mi’kmaq name Naguset Eask) (March 27, 1945 – mid-December 1975) was a Mi’kmaq activist from Nova Scotia who became a prominent member of the American Indian Movement (AIM) during the early 1970s. She was found murdered in 1976 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and is sometimes seen as a martyr of the Red Power and indigenous peoples resistance movement. She was born in Indian Brook 14, Hants County, Nova Scotia, Canada and was thirty years old at the time of her death.

In Bar Harbor, Maine, Aquash became involved in the Teaching and Research in Bicultural Education School Project (TRIBES), a program designed to teach young Indians about their history. She soon moved to Boston where she met members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) who were protesting against the Mayflower II celebration at Boston Harbor by boarding and seizing the ship on Thanksgiving Day, 1970. Aquash was active in creating the Boston Indian Council (now the North American Indian Center of Boston).



It was also at that time that she met Nogeeshik Aquash, from Walpole Island, Canada. They traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation together in 1973 to join AIM in the 71-day armed re-occupation of Wounded Knee, where they were married by Wallace Black Elk. Nogeeshik Aquash was her second husband. She was also involved in the 1972 Trail of Broken Treaties march on Washington, D.C. that led to the occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters, and armed occupations by AIM and other indigenous warriors at Anicinabe Park in Kenora, Ontario in 1974 and the Alexian Brothers Novitiate at Gresham, Wisconsin, in 1975.

By the spring of 1975, Anna Mae was, according to her biographer Johanna Brand, “recognized and respected as an organizer in her own right and was taking an increasing role in the decision-making of AIM policies and programs.”
She was personally close to AIM leaders Leonard Peltier and Dennis Banks. She worked until her death for the Elders and Lakota People of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Anna Mae AquashThree years after Wounded Knee, and less than a year after the Shootout at Jumping Bull Ranch, on February 24, 1976, Aquash was found dead by the side of State Road 73 on the far northeast corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, about 10 miles from Wanblee, South Dakota, close to Kadoka. Her body was found during an unusually warm spell in late February, 1976 by a rancher named Roger Amiotte. An autopsy was conducted by medical practitioner, W. O. Brown who wrote: “it appears she had been dead for about 10 days.” Failing to notice a bullet wound in her skull, Brown concluded that “she had died of exposure.” Although federal agents who had met Aquash were present at her autopsy she was not identified. Subsequently, her hands were cut off and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Washington, D.C. for fingerprinting. Her body was later buried as a Jane Doe.

On March 10, 1976, eight days after Anna Mae’s burial, her body was exhumed as the result of separate requests made by her family and AIM supporters, and the FBI. A second autopsy was conducted the following day by an independent pathologist from Minneapolis, Dr. Garry Peterson. This autopsy revealed that she had been shot by a .32 caliber bullet in the back of the head, execution style. [Wikipedia]

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an English poet of the Romantic Movement. The oldest of twelve children, Elizabeth was the first in her family born in England in over two hundred years. For centuries, the Barrett family, who were part Creole, had lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labor. Elizabeth’s father, Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica. Educated at home, Elizabeth apparently had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of ten. By her twelfth year, she had written her first “epic” poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.

In 1826, Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Two years later, her mother passed away. The slow abolition of slavery in England and mismanagement of the plantations depleted the Barretts’s income, and in 1832, Elizabeth’s father sold his rural estate at a public auction. He moved his family to a coastal town and rented cottages for the next three years, before settling permanently in London. While living on the sea coast, Elizabeth published her translation of Prometheus Bound (1833), by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus.

Gaining attention for her work in the 1830s, Elizabeth continued to live in her father’s London house under his tyrannical rule. He began sending Elizabeth’s younger siblings to Jamaica to help with the family’s estates. Elizabeth bitterly opposed slavery and did not want her siblings sent away. During this time, she wrote The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838), expressing Christian sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy. Due to her weakening disposition, she was forced to spend a year at the sea of Torquay accompanied by her brother Edward, whom she referred to as “Bro.” He drowned later that year while sailing at Torquay, and Browning returned home emotionally broken, becoming an invalid and a recluse. She spent the next five years in her bedroom at her father’s home. She continued writing, however, and in 1844 produced a collection entitled simply Poems. This volume gained the attention of poet Robert Browning, whose work Elizabeth had praised in one of her poems, and he wrote her a letter.

fado-guitarsElizabeth and Robert, who was six years her junior, exchanged 574 letters over the next twenty months. Immortalized in 1930 in the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier (1878-1942), their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry. In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth’s health improved and she bore a son, Robert Wideman Browning. Her father never spoke to her again. Elizabeth’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, dedicated to her husband and written in secret before her marriage, was published in 1850. Critics generally consider the Sonnets—one of the most widely known collections of love lyrics in English—to be her best work. Admirers have compared her imagery to Shakespeare and her use of the Italian form to Petrarch.

Political and social themes embody Elizabeth’s later work. She expressed her intense sympathy for the struggle for the unification of Italy in Casa Guidi Windows (1848-1851) and Poems Before Congress (1860). In 1857 Browning published her verse novel Aurora Leigh, which portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry she also addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians, the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity, Elizabeth was heard and recognized around Europe.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861.

Selected Bibliography


    The Battle of Marathon: A Poem (1820)
    An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems (1826)
    Miscellaneous Poems (1833)
    The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838)
    Poems (1844)
    A Drama of Exile: and other Poems (1845)
    Poems: New Edition (1850)
    The Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1850)
    Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850)
    Casa Guidi Windows: A Poem (1851)
    Poems: Third Edition (1853)
    Two Poems (1854)
    Poems: Fourth Edition (1856)
    Aurora Leigh (1857)
    Napoleon III in Italy, and Other Poems (1860)
    Poems before Congress (1860)
    Last Poems (1862)
    The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1900)
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Hitherto Unpublished Poems and Stories (1914)
    New Poems by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1914)


    “Queen Annelida and False Arcite;” “The Complaint of Annelida to False Arcite,” (1841)
    A New Spirit of the Age (1844)
    “The Daughters of Pandarus” from the Odyssey (1846)
    The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets (1863)
    Psyche Apocalyptè: A Lyrical Drama (1876)
    Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning Addressed to Richard Hengist Horne (1877)
    The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1897)
    The Poet’s Enchiridion (1914)
    Letters to Robert Browning and Other Correspondents by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1916)
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846-1859 (1929)
    Letters from Elizabeth Barrett to B. R. Haydon (1939)
    Twenty Unpublished Letters of Elizabeth Barrett to Hugh Stuart Boyd (1950)
    New Letters from Mrs. Browning to Isa Blagden (1951)
    The Unpublished Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford (1954)
    Unpublished Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Hugh Stuart Boyd (1955)
    Letters of the Brownings to George Barrett (1958)
    Diary by E. B. B.: The Unpublished Diary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1831-1832 (1969)
    The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1845-1846 (1969)
    Invisible Friends (1972)
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Letters to Mrs. David Ogilvy, 1849-1861 (1973)


    Prometheus Bound (1833)
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Solar physicist acclaimed for her work on sunspots and magnetic fields
Kay Williams, The Guardian

Madge Gertrude Adam, solar astronomer, born March 6 1912; died August 25, 2001.

Photo Credit: DiaboloDeus via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: DiaboloDeus via Compfight cc

In 1935, Madge Adam, who has died aged 89, became the first of a long line of postgraduate research students in solar physics at the University of Oxford Observatory. The new director of the observatory, Professor HH Plaskett, was about to establish solar physics as its chief research object, and the Sun was Adam’s particular interest. Having just found herself in possession of a first, she heard that Plaskett was asking for research students. “So I knocked on his door and said, ‘How about me?’.”

The woman who became a dedicated researcher, internationally known for her work on the nature of sunspots and on their magnetic fields, was to be a key figure at the observatory for the rest of her life.

The youngest of three children, Adam was born near Highbury, north London, where her father taught at Drayton Park School. In 1915, he volunteered, and after his death in action three years later, his widow and children moved to Yorkshire to live with their maternal grandparents. It was a “very Christian” environment that would greatly influence the children’s lives.

Later, Adam and her brother, a canon of Blackburn Cathedral, professed as Franciscan tertiaries – members of an Anglican order requiring them to follow a threefold rule of simplicity, chastity and obedience. Their sister became the wife of a canon and the mother of yet another. Thus, surrounded by family clerics, Adam was inspired to adapt Tennyson: “Canon to right of them, canon to left of them . . .”

At the age of nine, she was diagnosed with rickets and skeletal tuberculosis in an elbow, and spent a year in the Liverpool Open-Air Hospital for children with TB. Returning to her Yorkshire elementary school, she was awarded a scholarship to Doncaster High School, where her burgeoning interest in science and mathematics was fostered. In 1931, she went up to St Hugh’s College to become the only female Oxford undergraduate in that physics year.

The beginning of her research studentship in 1935 coincided with the installation of the Oxford University Observatory’s first solar telescope. Two years later, she was appointed research assistant there, and an assistant tutor at St Hugh’s. When Plaskett was drafted early in the war to a research post with the ministry of aircraft production, Adam was made acting director of the observatory. She also taught astronomy courses, with an emphasis on astronavigation, to Royal Navy and RAF cadets. Appointed a university demonstrator in 1947, she later also took over the observatory’s financial accounts.

When DWN Stibbs arrived at the observatory as Radcliffe fellow in 1952, he had a high regard for Adam’s research: “It was Plaskett’s meticulous work on motions in the Sun at the photospheric level, and Miss Adam’s work on the Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum, supported by her work on solar and stellar magnetic fields, that kept the Oxford work in the forefront of spectroscopic astrophysics research in the United Kingdom.”

Adam was also influential in enhancing the productivity of mathematicians, by directing their attention to some of the key problems in theoretical astrophysics. As an external examiner in astronomy for the University of St Andrews, she also contributed greatly to the scope of the courses and quality of the examinations.

Photo Credit: Sergei Golyshev via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Sergei Golyshev via Compfight cc

Gentle and self-effacing, Adam applied the same scrupulous care to people as she did to science. Though not herself ready to experiment with the “newfangled” electronic computer installed by the university in 1958, she always encouraged her students to use it. Her generosity to postgraduate research students was legendary. One former student recalled the absence of comment even mildly critical of her: “In the academic environment, with its traditional sniping, that was quite an achievement and spoke volumes as to her character. It was, simply, quite impossible not to like her.”

By now living on Oxford’s Woodstock Road, Madge still ate in college – she “couldn’t be bothered” to cook. She was a familiar sight perched atop her very large bicycle, vigorously pedalling to and from the observatory. In the mid-1960s, she spent a sabbatical year in Australia, studying magnetic stars at Mt Stromlo. While there, she learned to drive, and on her return, replaced the bicycle with an elderly small car that became equally well known locally.

Adam loved hymns, Bach and Gilbert & Sullivan, the religious writings of William Johnstone and crosswords. She read no modern literature, but had an encyclopaedic knowledge of virtually every minor character in the novels of Anthony Trollope, who ranked equal in her estimation with Jane Austen. There was no television set in her retirement apartment; she visited her sister’s flat nearby to watch University Challenge and snooker, which fascinated her. “I think,” she said of her fascination for the game, “that it might be the mathematics of it.”

Despite the onset of rheumatoid arthritis and the loss of hearing in her later years, she remained great fun, too.

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