Category Archives: Culture

Cling

By Johna Till Johnson
Photo by Vladimir Brezina

Squirrels 8

Squirrel clings… with an expectant look!

Vlad and I have always been fascinated by squirrels: The acrobatic way they catapault through the leaves. How quickly they can scamper up trees. The brazen way they beg for food (at least in Central Park). And most of all, the way they’re able to cling like Velcro to the trees….

In response to the daily prompt, “Cling”.

Festive

By Johna Till Johnson
Photo by Vladimir Brezina

The city is always magical at night…

Illuminations

Midtown Illuminations

A contribution to today’s daily post word: Festive.

Windfall

By Johna Till Johnson

windfall-three-birds-crop-1-effects

Three Birds Enjoy a Windfall on a Summer’s Day

Every so often, something wonderful comes into your life unexpectedly. You didn’t wish for it, or ask for it–it just appeared, providing you with great and wholly unanticipated joy.

For these three birds, the sudden appearance of breadcrumbs (perhaps a loaf from the grocery store across the street) must have represented the purest sort of windfall. Who knows who left the bounty, and why?  But there was no mistaking their happiness as the birds pecked away with great animation.

It’s a happiness I felt, too, when my greatest windfall appeared. Knowing Vlad was so unexpected, so out of the ordinary run of my life, that I couldn’t have conceived of it before it happened. Now that he is gone, there is indeed a “before” and “after” in my life–but not the usual kind. For most who have suffered a loss, the boundary between “before” and “after” is the loss.

My “before” and “after” is marked by meeting Vlad, not by losing him.

Before I met him, I looked at life in a prosaic and utilitarian way. Yes, twinklings and inklings of beauty crept in–sometimes I would pause on a summer’s morning, overtaken by feel of the balmy air and the rustling of bright leaves.

But I harbored the sneaking suspicion that appreciating beauty was something you grew out of. Proper adults didn’t forget their responsibilities and concerns just to gasp in wonder at the V of migrating geese across a brilliant blue sky. And they certainly didn’t go off for days or weeks in a kayak just to lose themselves in the briny air and expanse of ocean. Kayaking was something you fit into your days, not something you built your days (let alone life) around.

Vlad changed all that. Although his passion was science, his life was poetry. He sought–and found–the beauty in all things. And he was happiest spending days and nights in that marathon pursuit. Whether it was hunting down an elusive signal in the lab, or following a waterway to see where it led, his life was a full-throated, unabashed pursuit of beauty.

His legacy to me, and to all who knew him, was showing by example how to upend the usual conventions. Instead of fitting science, art, and poetry into neat boxes in your life, you spent your life exploring them, and following where they led. (And yes, love as well. He loved as he did all things: wholeheartedly and with great generosity.)

That legacy–of love, beauty, poetry, and the willingness to lose oneself in them–that legacy is my windfall. The lines from Tosca recurred to me in the hours and days after his death:

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,
non feci mai male ad anima viva!

I lived for art, I lived for love
I never harmed a living soul!

Before I met Vlad, those lines made no sense to me. Afterwards…ah, afterwards was entirely different. Meeting Vlad was my windfall.

Park Bench Sentiments

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Central Park benchesMany benches in NYC’s Central Park bear engraved metal plaques. For a donation, one can endow a bench as part of the Park’s “Adopt-a-Bench” program.

As you might imagine, the engravings are sometimes sentimental, and often heartbreaking. Too often, they memorialize a loved one who’s clearly still missed by grieving friends and relatives: “To my beloved…”, “In memory of my dear…”

.

And then there’s this one:

"So far so good"

It made us laugh. And agree that it’s something to be grateful for!

I Used to Hate Spring…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

April puddle

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I’ll admit it: I used to hate Spring.

Why “admit”? Because from what I can tell, most people are thrilled by lengthening days, soft fragrant breezes, and the sight of new flowers pushing up through the fresh grass.

In New York, Springtime is especially noteworthy. Everyone takes to the parks. Lovers canoodle. Pets frolic. And we walk around with goofy smiles and say unexpected things to each other, like “Please,” and “Thank you” and “After you!”

So what’s not to love?

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More Fun with Easter Eggs

By Vladimir Brezina

The solid colors of the PAAS Easter-egg coloring kit, while very suitable for serious scientific investigation, were really just a little too plain by themselves. Fortunately the kit also included four paint-on colors and a couple of brushes. So I had a go.

Now, I can draw a stork carrying a baby as well as anyone… on a piece of dry, flat paper. But it wasn’t quite so easy on the wet, slippery egg. The paint was taking forever to dry, and guests were coming in an hour…

This is what I ended up with:

Painted Easter eggs 1 Painted Easter eggs 2 Painted Easter eggs 3

As you can see, I somehow gravitated toward fertility symbols—funny how that happens at Easter with the onset of Spring. I did think of including a few goats and maybe the great god Pan—or just naked female figures—but there wasn’t time. Maybe next year!

But I Saw It on the Internet…

By Vladimir Brezina

The Internet instantaneously connects many millions of people in all parts of the world into a vast network. And just like a natural ecosystem, it can serve up unexpected storms at any moment.

Recently we experienced a minor storm.

One day, Wind Against Current began to get thousands of hits on this old picture:

Two suns over New Jersey

Over a day and a half, there were over 10,000 hits.

And they all came from a country where until then we hadn’t had many readers: Malaysia.

Johna said, “It’s an attack!” But closer inspection (for which WordPress has quite good tools) showed that all the hits came from a number of websites (such as this one) that published and republished a post that included our picture (and linked back to our blog, which was very nice of them!).

Things became clearer when we saw that many other Malaysian visitors came after searching for “2 suns” or something similar. And I had just happened to title this picture “Two suns over New Jersey”…

Some time later we received the following message from a stranger: “Your pic is making round on FB [Facebook] with Following details – “TWO SUNS AT A TIME in USA——The Miracle Has Happened Today USA And CANADA Saw Two Suns. This Is Called As Hunters Moon. Due To Change Of Orbit The Sun Sets And Moon Rises At the Same Time With Both Being Opposite To Each Other At A Particular Angle Or Degree Moon Reflects The Sun So Bright That It Almost Feel Like Another Sun…. Effects Stay For Couple Of Days…”

The stranger who sent us this message added: “LOL”. LOL indeed. Needless to say, this makes no sense whatever, and our picture just shows the sun’s rays reflected off the glass wall of a building…

But now we have some small insight into how the sausages of the Internet are made!