December 30, 2011

Ithaca Ice: 2

Here are som'more icy waterfall pictures...taken as I made my way to the bus stop after my morning practice session at Cornell. This is the waterfall that flows over the Bebe Lake Dam and on down Fall Creek Gorge to Ithaca Falls (the waterfall in yesterday's post). And it's the same one that featured so prominently in my summer posts about the local flooding...

I wonder how many more icicles this log will be able to handle...

December 29, 2011

Ithaca Ice

While lately I've found myself cursing the chill of the Ithaca winter (even though up to just a few of days ago our temperatures have been in the high 40s), I was reminded today of one reason to celebrate the months-long deep freeze ahead: amazing ice formations!

Rob and I visited Ithaca Falls this afternoon and were dazzled not only by its usual imposing stature...

...but also by the intricate wintry wonderland it had constructed for itself within the surrounding gorge. The closer we got to the fall's base, the more striking the ice sculptures became. From delicately frosted leaves... fresh dandelion buds--as green as summer on their leeward side...

...but heavily laden with a thick icy armor on the other. Built up from the windy spray of the falls not far away, this dandelion was cemented so firmly that when I reached out and grabbed its base, it was solid and unbending as stone.

Even the rocks underfoot were coated with crystals...

The formations all pointed in a single direction--straight toward the aerosol jets that were still in the process of building them--and had an almost organic look, like a carpet of icy moss thriving among flat beds of broken shale.

I was entranced and got a little carried away with my nose-to-the-ground explorations. Several minutes passed before I realized that Rob, who had suggested the outing in the first place, was about to turn into an ice sculpture himself! So we hurried back to the car to bask in the warmth of its heaters and finish up with our list of errands.

It has been a good day.

December 27, 2011

Lots o' Ink

This afternoon I finished a drawing I'd been working on for the past couple of weeks. It's loosely based around a scene from The Name of the Wind and related in spirit to Des Fischer's Liebesglück--a beautiful song by Franz Schubert I'd heard performed on a couple of recitals this past school year. In sum, I was inspired by the thought of going out over a still body of water on a clear night, seeing the stars reflected on its surface below, and being able to feel for a moment as if I were floating above the universe--suspended between two limitless fields of starlight...

I did it in sharpie and pencil on white paper...yes, that's right...everything that's black I had to painstakingly color in with marker, trying desperately to avoid blotting out the symmetrically reflected stars or cross over any of the other myriad tiny white lines...and it took me FOREVER!

***And for the astronomy buffs who occasionally read my posts: no, I did not try to duplicate the night sky as seen from planet earth. And rather than apologize for my laziness, I'll explain instead that the two characters depicted are from another planet--from a totally different galaxy in fact (an irregular one too judging by the looks of things)--where miraculously another species has evolved to appear and behave in an amazingly humanlike idea that's not really so far fetched coming from someone raised on Star Trek.

December 13, 2011


Today I had a lot to celebrate:

During my morning practice session I was able to play a high concert C# comfortably enough to work on a Sonata by Norwegian composer Wolfgang Plagge. I've been wanting to play it for some time, but have had to put it off because of its high notes. I was also able to reach a high F on the A piccolo...and I'll take every small victory on that temperamental little beast that I can!

Also, NU fall-quarter grades were finally posted, and I was thrilled to see that by some miracle I managed to maintain my cumulative 4.0.


To celebrate--and because it was a surprisingly beautiful day--Rob and I drove over to the Cornell Ornithology Lab's Sapsucker Woods for a relaxing breath of fresh air. While wandering the grounds I took these photos...

All the ponds there were frozen and in some areas were dusted over with flakes of snow...

Photogenic air bubbles...

With all the leaves gone it was easy to pick out bird nests...

Icy silvered leaves...

December 8, 2011

A Scare

Last night, Rob and I had an all night party in the Cayuga Medical Center's emergency room ...complete with heavy drugs and a groggy cab ride home at 5:30 am.

This wild excursion was not in any of our original plans, but arose spontaneously when I suddenly became numb over the entire right side of my body--from the top of my cheek bone down through the tips of my toes--and ordered Rob to call an ambulance. I thought I was having a stroke--not an idle fear considering my mom had a stroke at a very early age--and as we waited for the EMTs to arrive I panicked. What if I'm paralyzed? What if I can never play the trumpet again? What if I fall into a coma and become a vegetable?

The ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later at which point the numbness had actually subsided somewhat. It seemed to strike in waves and I cried out in pure terror when a second surge moved through my limbs. When the numbness again began to lessen I was overtaken instead by involuntary trembles--like the worst nervous shakes I've ever had in my life. The ambulance drivers advised me that it would still be wise to go to the emergency room and get checked out, so in a couple minutes I was strapped into a stretcher and we were off. Rob hitched a ride in the front seat and I laid in the back accompanied by a young female EMT. Whoever she was, she gets 5 stars for her calm and positively reassuring manner. By the time we arrived at the hospital my shakes had subsided and I was almost breathing normally again.

I was wheeled into a little room and immediately hooked up to an EKG machine so they could be sure my symptoms weren't related to any sort of heart problem. I had wires sticking out of me all over and felt a little like I'd just been assimilated into the Borg collective. I joked to Rob "Maybe you should take some pictures of this for my blog," and then promptly vetoed that gowns are decidedly unflattering. Another nurse came and asked me a list of questions--"yeah, I've had a terrible migraine for the past 3 days...definitely the longest lasting headache of my life...Well, I was just lying in bed and all of a sudden my whole right side went numb...I could even feel it in my I'd just been to the dentist and he'd drugged my whole body." Soon after another nurse came in to take some blood and then...we waited.

Long story short: Rob sat patiently (in a horrendously uncomfortable chair I might add) beside me in the emergency room from about 11:00 pm till we finally left in a cab at 5:30. After the third hour or so they had given me a CAT scan and a shot of morphine for my head (when the numbness went away the headache returned with a vengeance), and when the doctor finally arrived hours later with my diagnosis, Rob was sagging in his miserable chair and I was falling in and out of sleep.

I'd been worried all night that nothing would show up in any of my tests and that I'd be sent home embarrassed to have made such a scene over something minor. It is an odd sensation to, on the one hand, hope that an extreme diagnosis will vindicate the terrifying reality of what I'd experienced, and on the other, hope that nothing at all is wrong and get sent home with a relatively clean bill of health. What I got was something in the middle.

All the tests came up clear--so probably no stroke--and the doctor said that the numbness was likely an extreme symptom of a particular kind of migraine--hemiplegic migraine--which in its onset actually mimics the symptoms of stroke. He said it might be wise to follow up with a neurologist and gave me a referral to a local Dr. if I want to look into it while I'm here in Ithaca.

Rob and I slept in till noon today. I still have a headache (Ugh!), and just went to the drug store for some Aleve. I hope the weird numbness doesn't return, but if it does, I'll at least have a name for it.

By the way, Rob gets 10 stars for being nothing short of my night in shining armor. I am a lucky girl!

December 5, 2011

Pool Auditions

Here at NU we have quarterly pool auditions in order to determine placement in excerpt class and--just in general--to practice getting the hang of the audition process. This time they took our excerpts from the audition list for the Chicago Civic Orchestra and threw in a piccolo aria from Bach's Christmas Oratorio for good measure (you know how much I love that...high Fs...yay...) Anyway, I played about an hour ago and feel I did as well as I could've hoped. I had my usual second wave of nervous shakes set in right around the end of the Ballerina Dance from Stravinsky's Petrouchka and stupidly botched some fingerings, but in general I'm thrilled with how the other 91% of the audition went.

What a relief!

I'm sure I'll get a bunch of critical comments from the professors--there's always room to improve after all--but for now I'm just thrilled to be done with it.

So now begins all the holiday madness I guess. I'll be heading out to Ithaca tomorrow and will probably spend my first few days there trying to snag some seasonal work. I'm nervous as all get out about attempting to reenter the job market, but hope that I can find something basic where my honesty and strong work ethic will be valued.

Wish me luck.

December 3, 2011


While cleaning my apartment the other day, I went through one of my old art portfolios and found a rough and unfinished sketch tucked away between two larger works. Huh...I'd somehow forgotten about this one. For whatever reason, it kept nagging at me and I finally decided to pull it out again yesterday and work on it.

I don't remember exactly when I'd done the original sketch, but the mood and predicament of the character portrayed might give some indication. My guess is that I hashed it out about two years ago when the problems I faced at my old job were at their peak, my mind was awash with anger and pain over those problems, and the future I was pushing myself to the limit to achieve was still quite uncertain. I probably sought to illustrate a sensation of mute constriction--a slow, dull, aching torture that held me captive and was slowly strangling the life and sanity out of me. Sorry to be so dramatic about it, but if there's anything I know about myself, it's that as an artist I feel...deeply.

I worked on the drawing for a good portion of the day yesterday, and then finished it up this morning before heading off to practice. Despite the dark emotions it portrays (which, fortunately, aren't a representation of my general state these days...usually), I like it quite a bit. Maybe it's more that I like feeling creative again.

November 10, 2011

Listening Session

Today I listened to:

Barber's Violin Concerto


Mahler's 3rd Symphony

For this impromptu concert I sat in a big fluffy chair on the upper level of the student center. Through the east-facing panoramic windows I watched heavy clouds race through the sky, sending sunlight playing over the lake and creating a patchwork of multi-green hues on the water's milky surface. The wind picked up and it started to snow--a blizzard over hills of still-green grass. The first flakes of the season, like blowing sheets of down, obscured the brilliant yellows of autumn leaves still clinging to branches that swayed in time to the music in my ears.

Forgive me for the sappy run-ons.
It's been a while since I was so swept away by required listening.

November 5, 2011

More Photos

I took a pre-practice-session walk this afternoon and, as usual, had much fun with my camera along the way. Most of the photos didn't end up being all that memorable, but here are a couple that stood out to me...

As the sun set in the west, the moon was also climbing high in the eastern sky. I made about 5000 attempts at photographing it, but with little success. Still, I found that with a little doctoring in iphoto, what starts as a mediocre photograph...

Can sometimes end up being a rather charming artistic improvisation...

November 4, 2011

Jonathan Livingston at Dawn

"You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn't have limits. Perfect being there."

--Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull during my 3rd year at the University of Utah. A friend had recommended it and I remember devouring the inspiring text in about a day. It's a book I should probably take some time to reread and apply to my life now.

Speaking of inspiration...

November 2, 2011

Scenes from a Georgian Bakery

...and that's Georgia the I'm not talking about southern caramel cake or cornbread.

Yesterday afternoon my ethnomusicology class was held at a tiny traditional Georgian bakery on Devon Street--a long thoroughfare a few miles south of Evanston that is home to a dizzying array of international vendors.

A few paces from the bakery you can step into a Russian bookstore, window shop for hijab on the next block, cross the street to fantasize about opulently bejeweled Pakistani wedding saris, and step in for dinner at an Indian restaurant where masala and vindaloo are conspicuously absent from the menu, and instead deliciously spiced traditional dishes are served with cheap plastic spoons onto styrofoam plates, and a dessert case full of bizarre looking sweets beckons from across the room. Devon offers a surprising pastiche of culture and was an intriguing backdrop for our class debates and discussion.

Not wanting to appear too much the shameless tourist, I only took photos at the Georgian Bakery. Here are a few...

Kachapuri (cheese bread) fresh from the oven...

How could I resist...

Georgia is known for its wine which is traditionally served in bull-horn flasks. The bottles are often beautifully hand painted.

Completing all my class/trumpet requirements still has me stressed to the point of exhaustion, and I often push through the final hours of every day feeling like a physical, emotional, or mental breakdown is imminent. This sensation was compounded yesterday when I was informed of the passing of Craig Bumgarner, a good family friend--a message I received shortly before heading down to Devon.

I wish that all of these experiences could have been spread out over about twice the time--that I'd be able to immerse myself completely within each one. Somewhere behind all the stress and frustration I realize I'm being given many opportunities I'd previously only dreamed about, and I hope that when this quarter ends in a few weeks, I'm able to remember more of the good its providing me, instead of the overwhelming difficulty.

Sunrise this morning was awesome. Long before the sun's rays broke the horizon, a pillar of light shot heavenward and set the clouds afire.

Though I never did know him well, I thought about Craig. About life and death. About friendship and change. And about the inexorable passage of time.

October 31, 2011


Two consequences of getting a parking ticket last week:

On one hand, I had to take valuable time out of my busy morning schedule to head over to the Evanston Civic Center, pay the ticket, and buy (at full price, I might add...even though there are only a couple months left in 2011...jeeze!!!) a 2011 city sticker.

On the other, I had to drive to school today (to avoid getting another ticket) which had the happy consequence of allowing me to both sleep in AND make it to the lake shore in time to watch a lovely sunrise...

I really wish I could've avoided shelling out such a meaningless $120, but at least the collateral benefit to all the hassle and expense offered some momentary refreshment.

October 29, 2011

Saturday Sunrise

I went out to my car this morning and discovered a bright orange parking ticket protruding from the driver's-side door.

A neighbor walked by with his dog, "They gave you a parking ticket?" He said.

"Yeah," I replied, puzzled, "It says 'vehicle without Evanston parking permit', but I obviously have a current permit."

"Is it your license plate number? Maybe someone moved it over from another car as a prank."

"'s my number, but it's obviously a mistake...I can't figure out how they could have missed seeing my permit."

I figured out the problem a couple minutes later as I drove to school. When I got my new Illinois plates I didn't update that information with the Evanston parking authority.


I'm going to at least try and beg for mercy.

I have proof of the license plate transition. It's an honest mistake...right?

I hope they think so...sigh...

Well, sunrise was awesome anyway...a reasonable distraction from my embarrassing (and costly) oversight...I guess...

October 28, 2011


For anyone wondering about the prolonged absence of new posts, I want to reassure you that yes, I'm still here, still as swamped as I've ever been in my life, and still somehow managing to make it to most sunrises...

(of course it helps a lot that sunrise is happening later and later every day!)

I'm doing well in my classes--well enough that my ethnomusicology teacher tried to talk me into pursuing a doctorate in the field yesterday--but the amount of work I been having to do in order to keep up at this high level has me nearly at my breaking point. After much thought, I reminded myself last night that though I thrill at every bit of praise given by admired superiors, though I have a broad range of interests and--given the time, opportunity, and desire--could convincingly pursue any number of them at a high level, and though becoming a professional musician continues to be one of the most challenging, competitive, and insecure career goals a person can have, I'm still here at northwestern expressly to become a trumpet player.

I've been letting my selfish (and arguably unnecessary) desire to take the most difficult classes and still maintain a 4.0 GPA interfere with my readiness to work in the practice room, my ability to take soul-healing strolls along the lake, and the freedom to spend some spare time exploring my imagination and creativity. I'm no better off than I was back in SLC--trying to survive a full time job AND stay active as a successful performer. Just as it was then, my attention is currently split...and I came here SPECIFICALLY for the opportunity to focus well on one thing.

I'm going to continue to do the best I can with this demanding schedule through the end of fall quarter, but for next term I plan to be a bit kinder on myself and try to recoup some of the positive vigor I had at the start of the school year. Right now, my time at NU is for the trumpet. If I find down the road than I do in fact want to pursue an advanced degree in musicology, I believe the opportunity to take up that goal will still exist.

October 25, 2011

Thank You!

I want to send a big thank you to all of those who tuned in to my recital on Saturday. In addition to those who attended live, there were a total of 16 discrete connections online--a small number by some standards, but certainly more than I imagined. Your support and encouragement (including many comments I received via email) has been much appreciated. I'll keep you informed about my next show!

October 20, 2011

Troubled Waters

Lake Michigan has been very short tempered this year...

Just a couple weeks ago I was amazed to hear about 15 foot waves out on the water, and then last night, along with 60 mph wind gusts, there was talk of swells up to 25 feet!


I didn't even attempt a "sunrise" photo yesterday because as I walked to school the wind took control of my umbrella, flipped it inside out, and left me with a nasty cut on my pinky and a feeling of relief that both my eyeballs were still safe in their sockets! I hurried the rest of the way to Regenstein anxious to get undercover and out of the driving rain. It was miserable!

Anyway, I've got my recital dress rehearsal coming up in about an hour and I'm trying to keep myself distracted until I have to head back over to the music building. I realized a few days ago that I'd thoughtlessly scheduled the recital on homecoming weekend (which means parking's gonna suck for anyone showing up in person) AND right in the middle of midterms...which means that I (and probably everyone else involved) is feeling a bit overworked at the moment.

Speaking of which...I've got some reading to do out of the Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology. Actually not a bad read. It's a collection of essays and papers that attempt to forge a new area of scholarly research that combines ethnographic and musical data with studies on health. There are articles on music prayer and healing, music therapy for sufferers of dementia, and "The Lakota Hoop Dance as Medicine for Social Healing." It's interesting stuff--relevant and provocative, though I have to admit that some of the ideas presented push ALL of my skeptic buttons. Our class discussion on tuesday should be...stimulating!

October 18, 2011

Symphony Fantastique

I titled this blog after Berlioz's masterpiece because that's what we played this morning in excerpt class, but the title also aptly describes the symphony of colors that played across the sky this morning...

While working on my recital poster on Friday, I opened up my box of colored pencils and began testing out the colors to see which would work best for my autumn-themed design. When I'd encounter a particularly flamboyant shade, I'd crinkle my nose and set it aside. "That color never shows up in nature," I thought.

And then I see a sunrise like this morning...

Man, I'm envious of that guy out on his kayak!

The interesting thing about this sunrise was that all the colorful stuff happened before the sun actually broke the horizon. One minute the sky was aflame, and the next the sun was nothing more than a pale pink apparition of brightness behind a thick layer of gray clouds.

October 17, 2011


This morning I watched the sunrise while on a phone call with my mom...I guess I'm pretty lucky to have a mother who doesn't mind being woken up before the crack of dawn!

As we talked I found myself mesmerized by sheets of water that flowed over the sandy flats and left a thin mirror like sheen in their wake...

October 16, 2011

The Unanswered Question

I'll be the first to admit that since I've been living here in Evanston I haven't visited downtown Chicago nearly as much as I should have. One of the first bits of advice I received as a new grad student was to take full advantage of "our little metropolis" to the south, but always--as the demands of life and school begin to pile up--I find I'm frequently too busy or too exhausted to muster up the wherewithal to devote a full afternoon/evening to experiencing all that Chicago has to offer.

Last night I had to make an exception. The CSO put on a program of Ives and Strauss that I couldn't possibly miss, AND they were featuring one of NU's clarinet faculty performing a bass clarinet concerto. How often does the bass clarinet get a feature? It was a once in a lifetime experience I couldn't pass up.

Though many of my fellow brass geeks might be shocked to hear it, even with a big "warhorse" like Also Sprach Zarathustra on the program, I was still most excited to hear Ive's The Unanswered Question (a personal favorite I'd not seen live in at least 13 years) and Three Places in New England (an iconic work with which I was previously unfamiliar).

Except for an annoyingly disruptive couple one row in front of me who were laughing (mostly) silently but hysterically throughout The Unanswered Question, the performance was transcendent. The piece is performed by three "characters": a string section--representing "the silence of the Druids--who know, see, and hear nothing," a trumpeter who asks "the perennial question of existence," and a quartet of flutists who "seek the invisible answer, but abandon it in frustration, sot that ultimately the question is answered only by the silences." (I'm quoting from Wikipedia there) The strings began their etherial chorale so softly I felt that if I were to close my eyes I would no longer be able to hear them, and each time the invisible offstage trumpeter entered with a new statement of the "question" he used a different horn or mute, creating the impression of a single question being asked from a series of perspectives.

I hate to sound overly mystical here, but I've occasionally felt that there's a quality about Ives' music that seems to well from some eternal state of being in the universe and reach into the core of my soul like a magnet seeking its complimentary pole. I suppose it's not just Ives' music (though his offers an especially poignant example), works from a few composers, artists, dancers, and writers occasionally resonate within me in this manner. And it's the same quasi-religious feeling I get when I watch the sun rise, look out into the radiance of the milky way illuminating a dark sky, watch the form of a drawing take shape out of a blank piece of paper in front of me, or gaze upon the profile of my beloved in a moment of clarity and warmth.

I guess it's primarily a sense of timelessness I'm talking about here. Always was, and always will be. Permanence...

Ok...I guess that's enough gushy babble for one afternoon, and I should be getting back to writing my midterm soon anyway. As a parting gift, here are a couple interesting sights from the last day and a half.

First: the largest orb weaver I've ever seen in person...

And second: a Sunday morning sailing class going on just as beautiful autumn light begins to break through a cloudy morning...