It’s April 15, the 116th day of the year. Yesterday the temperature of Lake Michigan was 46 degrees at the Chicago crib and 49 degrees at the Chicago shore. This is the day many would have filed their tax returns, absent the governmental deferral. The family across the lane is still offering us a joke of the day. To some, the real joke of the day is the snow outside.

This day in history (from

1865, President Abraham Lincoln dies, having been shot the night before by John Wilkes Booth.

1894, Bessie Smith is born in Chattanooga, Tenn.

1912, The Titanic sinks, having struck an iceberg about two-and-one-half hours before.

1947, Twenty-eight-year-old Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American player in Major League Baseball when he steps onto Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to compete for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fifty years later, to the date, MLB retires Mr. Robinson’s number, 42.

The snow and the sunshine, the warmth and the cold, the lightness and the grimness all reflect pieces of society. Some people are working overlong hours, some are wholly out of work; some are cleaning overfull closets, some are staring at nearly bare pantries; some describe the situation with a dose of humor, some with heartfelt wishes.

One thinks momentarily of the song “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today” by Randy Newman: “Human kindness is overflowing …” But fans of Mr. Newman know his songs tend to be a wry blend of the sardonic and the sweet. People have compared this time of shelter-in-place, or stay-at-home, to the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” in which a reporter becomes stuck in a time warp, reliving the same day for 34 years. And that – plus the snow that is still falling as I write this – got me thinking about fractals.

A fractal, as defined by the Fractal Foundation ( “is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.” – leading one to intriguing metaphoric possibilities.

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday (April 14,) former Secretary of State Madeline Albright wrote “When asked my outlook on life and world affairs, I reply that I am an optimist … who worries a lot.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...