Tag Archives: Sea

All men shall be sailors…

Sailing and freedom

By Johna Till Johnson
Photo by Vladimir Brezina

“All men shall be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them…” — Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne”

I’ve been listening to a lot of the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen lately. I’m not alone in this; he’s experiencing an (in my mind deserved) groundswell of popularity in the 14 months since he died.

His themes are universal and serious: the inevitability of loss, imperfectability of human nature, the ephemeral transcendence of love.

His fundamental stance is religious, but while it’s rooted in his native Jewish tradition (he remained devout all his life), it draws from a broad set of perspectives, with a pragmatic bent. He once told the New Yorker:  “Anything, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism, LSD, I’m for anything that works.”

He wasn’t joking. Over the years, he studied Scientology, became an ordained Buddhist monk, and studied at an Indian ashram—along with pursuing various intoxicants (from acid to alcohol) and ascetic practices (particularly fasting). His goal was less the abstract pursuit of enlightenment than to ameliorate the bouts of depression that struck him throughout much of his life.

Sylvie Simmons wrote a wonderful biography of Cohen in 2012, “I’m Your Man,” One of the interesting paradoxes of Cohen’s life is that although he was deeply embedded in the contemporary cultural matrix  to a degree that’s almost Zelig-like, his essential formality was fundamentally out of step with the “anything goes” ethos of the times.

The Jewish magazine Forward has an insightful obituary that highlights this: “The “absence of the casual” may well be one of the singular characteristics setting Cohen’s work apart from his so-called contemporaries,” writes Seth Rogovoy.

And it paid off in the long run—Cohen is one of the rare artists who pursued his craft with intensity and diligence all his life, and  peaked as a performer in his 70s.

In a surprising twist that serves as a hopeful beacon to us late bloomers, after his business manager embezzled his money and left him broke early in the 2000s, he decided to go on tour to support his ex-wife and children. Although he had previously hated performing, he put together a stellar backup band and collaborated with them to develop innovative arrangements of his work.

The result was almost a decade of some of the best live performances in popular music history (you can find many of them in YouTube). Cohen not only accomplished his goal of earning back a fortune, he left a shining legacy that touches millions.

That “absence of the casual” is perhaps the most appropriate response to the inevitable tragedies of life, which may be one of the reasons Cohen’s work is experiencing a renaissance.

The lines above (“until the sea shall free them”) particularly resonated with me because the sea has always been associated in my mind with freedom. Towards the end of his life, my father (who was a naval officer)  turned to me and said, “The open ocean is closer than they led us to believe.”

He was referring, of course, to his imminent death, but what struck me was that he associated it with the open ocean—and freedom.

 

 

Travel Theme: Shine

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Shine.

Moonshine, inside and out—

DSC_0262

Travel Theme: Silver

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge this week is Silver.

The silver sea…

IMGP3539 cropped smallDSC_0136 cropped smallIMGP3585 cropped smallDSC_0143Everglades National Park, Florida

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Grand.

To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood. You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over.

— Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World

Even in our little kayaks, in a passing little storm, we occasionally glimpse something of what Slocum meant.

IMGP5647 cropped smallIMGP5713 cropped smallIMGP5667 cropped smallIMGP5700 cropped smallIMGP5717 cropped smallIMGP5730 cropped smallIMGP5753 cropped smallIMGP5757 cropped smallIMGP5777 cropped smallIMGP5787 cropped smallIMGP5793 cropped smallIMGP5788 cropped small

From our 2012 kayak circumnavigation of Long Island, NY. The story of that storm is here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea, Take Two

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Sea.

Where the sea meets the land is where it’s at. But you never know what you’ll get. It can be

too wimpy—

DCP_0725 croppedDCP_0736 croppedDCP_0740 cropped

too scary—

DSC_0077 croppedDSC_0044 croppedDSC_0063 cropped 2

or just right!

IMGP4882 cropped small 2IMGP4910 cropped smallDSC_0549 cropped smallDSC_0565 cropped small

The first Sea post was here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Sea.

On the broad windswept beaches of England’s North Sea coast, the presence of the sea really forces itself upon your attention…

DCP_0205 cropped smallDCP_0230 cropped smallDCP_0214 cropped smallDCP_0232 cropped smallDCP_0220 cropped smallDCP_0236 cropped small

(Norfolk, England, August 2001)

A second Sea post is here.

Travel Theme: Soft, Take Two

By Vladimir Brezina

Here’s a second response to Ailsa’s travel-themed photo challenge, Soft. (The first response was here.)

The soft light of evening on the water—