Category Archives: Life

A Last Hurrah for the Christmas Tree

By Vladimir Brezina

Christmas tree lit

Yes, we’re late, as usual.

According to Wikipedia,

Both setting up and taking down a Christmas tree are associated with specific dates. Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve (24 December) or, in the traditions celebrating Christmas Eve rather than the first day of Christmas, 23 December, and then removed the day after Twelfth Night (5 January); to have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck.

We did manage to get our Christmas tree decorated in time for Christmas, albeit at the last possible moment. However, we missed the 6th January date for taking it down—but only by a few days, so we hope the bad luck will let us off this year with just a warning. We lit the tree for the last time a couple of days ago—

Click on any photo to start slideshow:

Happy New Year!

By Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson

Happy New Year!

We wish all the best in 2016 to all our readers!

New York City Celebration

By Johna Till Johnson

New York City Celebration

The festival arrives!

People often ask why I live in New York. Yes, it’s crowded. And expensive. And even though the crime rate is way down from the 1980s when I first lived here, it’s still a city—with all the dangers a city brings.

I try to explain, but the truth is, it’s not the cultural richness. Or the wonderful food. Or even the variegated mix of people.

It’s that New York can continue to surprise and amaze me. As it did on a recent overcast autumn day: I’d just finished brunch with a friend and decided on the spur of the moment to walk the three miles home. I made it less than half the way there when I noticed that the density of police officers had picked way up. And then I heard it: Music, and a few green-and-white-clad people dancing in the street.

A few more steps, and I was in the midst of a full-on street festival, with floats, marching bands, music, and dancing. Apparently it was the 55th birthday of Nigeria (who knew?) and celebrants were out in force. (Well, technically, modern Nigeria was founded on October 1, 1960, but close enough…)

I walked the next several blocks with a gigantic grin on my face. The music was infectious, the colors brilliant, and the energy electric. And by the time I got to the end of the festival, my heart was dancing along with the dancers.

(Extra)ordinary

By Vladimir Brezina

A fire? Nothing out of the ordinary.

But a fire in a cozy fireplace in a New York apartment, deep inside a high-rise building? We are already beginning to appreciate how extraordinary that is, as winter is surely coming

Fire 1Fire 2Fire 3Fire 4Fire 5

A contribution to this week’s Photo Challenge, (Extra)ordinary.

A Civilized Way to See New York Harbor

By Vladimir Brezina

Aboard Bateaux New York‘s boat Celestial for a sunset dinner cruise

Sunset

We’ve seen the Celestial cruising around the harbor many times from our kayaks, but this is quite a different experience ;-)

Cruising up the Hudson

Plenty of opportunities for selfies with the Manhattan skyline

Selfies

There go our kayaking buddies!

Kayaking buddies

The Manhattan skyline in the dusk

Manhattan skyline in the dusk

… and round the Battery for more photo-ops in the East River

In the East River

Immortal Beauty

By Johna Till Johnson

Maria Radner

Maria Radner, 1981-Eternity

Among the victims of Germanwings Flight 9525 was Maria Radner, a German opera singer. She was a 33-year old contralto who specialized in Wagner.  I hadn’t heard of her before—no surprise since I’m new to opera, and have yet to warm to Wagner’s music.

But a commentator on one of the news stories posted the video below. Maria Radner sings “Urlicht” (“Primeval Light”) from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, the Resurrection Symphony.

It’s just under five minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite so lovely. Looking into her serene blue-gray eyes and insouciant half smile, and listening to that soaring voice, all I can think of is that although a deranged man was able to take away her life, the beauty she brought into this world is immortal.

The lyrics translate as follows:

I am from God and want to return to God!
The loving God will give me a little of the light,
will illuminate me into the eternal blessed life!

She got that wish.

I only wish that it hadn’t happened quite so soon.

Graceful

By Vladimir Brezina

The photographer was pretty graceful, too…

Graceful(Fort Lauderdale, Florida, February 2015)

A contribution to Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge, Graceful.