February 20, 2011

The Necessity of Sleep

Alright. I'll admit it. I've missed some sunrises this week. Now that the days are getting longer and longer and the sun is rising earlier and earlier, I've started losing more and more sleep in order to keep posting these day by day sunrise blogs. I've reached a point where the sleep I'm losing is beginning to interfere with my mental and physical wellness. It might surprise some of you to hear that playing a brass instrument is not only mentally demanding, but also highly physical. To perform effectively and avoid injury, (to which trumpet players here seem especially prone), the body must be kept limber and hydrated and muscles must be allowed to fully recuperate in between days of heavy playing.

Most of the body's rest and repair happens during an ideal eight hours of nightly sleep, and there are consequences when that time is shortened or disrupted. My spirit is fueled each time I'm able to witness a beautiful sunrise, but though a regularly rejuvenated spirit is important too wellness too, when the rest of me is struggling with the consequences of sleep deprivation--lack of energy, difficulty focusing, moodiness, etc.--even a spectacular sunrise can fall flat.

So--I've decided that rather than a daily sunrise, I'll return to my habit of posting occasional sunrises (whenever I'm lucky enough to be up and about when they occur) along with whatever other moments of loveliness I encounter throughout the day. Now that spring is approaching, there are sure to be lots of other things I can share with you!

Getting up every day to watch the sun brighten the world turned out to be the best thing I could have done to get me through the worst winter months. I've never enjoyed winter, and before moving to Evanston dreaded having to stand up to the notoriously blustery Chicago cold. I worried I'd be in danger of losing my mind and asked everyone I could about how to survive the harshness of the season. Thinking back over the last couple months, I now feel I've triumphed--I actually enjoyed myself this winter--I don't even think I would've minded too much if the below-zero temps had stuck around another few weeks--just think of all the crazy ice formations I'd continue to run into!

No, winter is not yet over, but signs of an impending spring are increasing every day. The lake is almost entirely free of floating ice chunks, and rain is more common in the forecast than snow. Brilliant red cardinals have begun belting out mating calls from the tops of medium-sized trees (it's funny--I never see them in enormous oaks or willows, but always perched atop the very highest branches of varieties that top out at 15-20 feet), and mid-day sunlight has taken on a decidedly golden caste--as opposed to the cold silvery hue it exhibits in the dead of winter.

As a sort of "sunrise" today, I want to share a poem my dad sent me in a recent email. It's from a song by 60's folk singer Melanie Safka:

Why sleep when the day has been called out by the sun
From the night 'cause the light's gonna shine on everyone?
Why sleep when the sleep only closes up our eyes?
Why sleep when we can watch the sun arise?

We were meant to see the beginning of the day,
I believe it was planned to lift us this way.
Take you an apple and take you a song
And watch a baby day be born...

Thanks Dad

February 18, 2011

February 17, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Sorry I haven't posted in a while

I have two words for you: GRAD SCHOOL!

February 14, 2011

How Romantic

Today's sunrise was warm and drippy...

For the last couple of days temperatures have soared into the 40s melting the still-enormous piles of snow left over from the blizzard and turning everything into a slushy, sludgy, mucky mess. My walk to school was spent hopping over or tiptoeing through giant puddles ubiquitously pooled all over the sidewalks.

While practicing before class, I noticed that a quartet of swans had landed in a protected ice-rimmed pool near the lake shore. I caught this picture of the group after the clouds broke later in the day. Two pairs of committed avian lovers languidly paddling the afternoon away...how appropriate for Valentine's day.

Love to all...

February 12, 2011

Unexpected Wonder

Today I got to school about 5 minutes before the sun was to peek above an uncharacteristically cloud-free horizon and ran up the hill East of Regenstein to get a better view of what was undoubtedly going to be a spectacular rise. I was shocked to see that about a dozen people had beat me to the lake shore: a band of rowdy coeds, a pair of lovers cuddled together on a bench, and a quiet loner standing further back among the trees. Though my first reaction was disappointment that I'd be unable to enjoy the break of day in peaceful solitude, I quickly remembered that I'd often thought it a shame that so few people took the time to watch something as unforgettable as the sunrise over Lake Michigan. For a brief moment, the ridiculously cocky side of me thought..."Maybe all these people found my blog and decided to see for themselves what I've been raving about all winter." Well, ok...probably not.

As I neared the top of the rise, the group of coeds started leaving. "What?" I thought "Why in the world would they be taking off when the best is about to start?" Obliviously puffing their smokes, they continued walking and I figured they'd probably just been up partying all night and had only ended up at the lake shore on some random lark.

Oh well. Their loss.

As the sun crept slowly above the water, I heard a drunken shout coming from the direction of the music building: "Oh my GOD! It's BEAUUUUTIFULLL!" I turned and saw the party group stopped dead in their tracks and leaning back over the railing of a footbridge gawking in amazement at the sunrise they almost missed...

In less than a minute they had stumbled back to the viewpoint led by a girl only half dressed in an easter bunny costume hanging loosely off her bare shoulders. One of the guys began relieving himself on a rock and another said "Dude, there's someone taking pictures behind you"...guilty snickering all around. "I can't believe you can just look at it," a girl said, and someone replied "I think it's ok, just as long as it's by the horizon." I was surprised when I recognized a guy from my music and memory class among them...and hoped he hadn't recognized me back.

At this point the lover's bench had been vacated (maybe the public urination spoiled their mood) and the quiet loner had come out of the trees to stand along the shore with the rest of the crowd--though still keeping a marked distance from the party group's chemical-fueled silliness. It was an unlikely assemblage to be sure, but I couldn't help but feel gratitude for the naturally shared sense of wonder that had startled us all out of our various realities and drawn our eyes in unison to witness the simple glory of the beginning of day.

February 10, 2011

Steaming Ice

There have been a few occasions when I've seen the lake behaving like a sauna--the outside air so cold that the turbulent water below billows with clouds of steam. This morning a similar effect occurred, but this time it was the ice that was steaming!

I think this morning's low of minus 7 (wind chill minus 15) is the coldest baseline temp I've ever experienced. There was one morning a couple weeks ago where the base was minus 2 and the wind chill minus 25, but I'm betting the occasional big gust of wind pushed today's low well below the reported minus 15. During my walk to school I spent a lot of time with my gloved hands cupped around my face to prevent every inhale from freezing the insides of my nostrils.

Well, I'm now on my way to excerpt class. We're playing through Stravinsky's Fireworks...should be fun!

February 8, 2011

Frozen Saucers






"The other night I had to practice late and when I looked out the window, there were all these weird green lights out on the lake...it sorta looked like a bunch of weird little campfires...it was like...real weird."


(p.s. happy birthday Jules Verne:)

February 7, 2011

City of the Big (snowy) Shoulders

So might Evanston house the brains atop those shoulders?

Today's sunrise is sort of a hodge-podge of a bunch of unrelated images. I could go into more detail about each one, but frankly don't have time. I've got to come up with three pages of analysis based on a very technical psychology article--and I still only barely understand it.

Somehow I can never get enough of nifty ice pictures...

A later version of sunrise taken from inside my practice room...

This stained-glass inset decorates the window above me as I sit in the music library getting ready to study...

...and now to that article.

February 6, 2011

A True Artist

I got a blog comment from Jason DuMars today! After my October 2010 entry entitled Finely Decorated Copper Weights he said, "Nice work Kelly! Keep up the art. There are so few of us left in the world."


This is shocking and cool because Jason DuMars is legendary in the world of instrument engraving (to see his website, click on his name in the first paragraph). While I was bungling through the first few stages of learning the craft at Cannonball, I looked at the quality and beauty of his work as as a distant ideal for what is possible in the medium. I can't tell you how many times Cannonball dealers or people at trade shows would ask me "Have you seen Jason DuMars' engravings?" One day, a repair tech at Summerhays music brought by a silver alto sax that had been decorated by DuMars so I could see his work up close. It was gorgeously detailed and every line was executed with easy perfection...absolutely luscious. It is a fine compliment indeed to be noticed by such an artist. I'm even more bummed now that my current situation hasn't allowed much continuation in my own work. Maybe this little boost of morale will get the creative ball rolling for me again.

We've got more snow today. Not a blizzard really, just a lot of big fluffy snow-globe-esque flakes dancing through the air. It sure is pretty, but I hope it doesn't further complicate the already bothersome parking conditions.

Here's your "sunrise" picture...

The SWE recording yesterday went quite well. It was a long and, at times, frustratingly tedious process, but I am really excited to hear the final product--which I think will be spectacular! (especially if they're able to edit out the spot where I accidentally sent my mute crashing to the floor right in the middle of a delicate flute/clarinet soli...ugh!) Schwantner's And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (on which I don't play) is being recorded today, and then our next concert's worth of music will make up the rest of what goes on the CD. When the process is complete the recordings will be released on Summit records--I'll certainly keep you posted with final details when I know them.

February 5, 2011

Tired of Numbers

Technically, this picture would constitute sunrise #23, but I'm getting a little tired of numbering them. It feels unnecessarily rigid and certainly doesn't contribute to meaning. Something this lovely doesn't need a catalogue number...

The SWE concert last night went alright. Things got a little tense now and then--didn't flow as well as they had in rehearsal, but now that we've worked those nervous kinks out in performance, the recording sessions today and tomorrow should be all the more secure.

I'm currently sitting in the lounge passing time until our 9:00 breakfast call. We're being provided with a big hot spread of classic breakfast fare in order to set us up well for a long and intense day of recording. I ate an apple when I left my apartment earlier, but it's no longer doing a very good job of filling my stomach. I guess I must have burned a lot of calories walking around in the cold this morning!

I should be getting into the practice room soon. Though I'm not particularly looking forward to warming up my chops while running on empty, that minor discomfort is relatively manageable when compared to the thought of slogging through hours of recording without having had a proper warm up.

February 4, 2011

Slept In

The sun is shining gloriously this morning...but I didn't know that until I woke up at 9:00!

Last night we had an "emergency" wind ensemble (SWE) rehearsal from 9:30 to just before midnight to make up for the time we lost on snow day. When I got home, my street had been blocked off by cop cars, and a bunch of bulldozers were working to remove enormous piles of heavy snow from the road. Forget all the scraping and banging, the really bad part was that whenever these big machines back up...BEEP BEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEEEP!!!! Right outside my window! Ugh! How could they do this to me!

With that I reconfirmed a decision I'd made earlier to skip sunrise the next day and allow myself a few extra hours of rest. SWE has it's concert tonight and then 2 full days of recording on Saturday and Sunday. It would be unprofessional to show up for these engagements wasted and groggy.

For all those who wait in intense anticipation for every sunrise pic...I'm very sorry...I'll make every effort to continue the thread soon.

February 3, 2011

#22 Love

While on my way to sunrise this morning I passed this oddly decorated tree in the middle of the park. I guess someone must have heard that today is the anniversary of the momentous day three years ago that Rob and I officially declared our feelings for each other and kissed for the first time in front of the baggage claim at JFK.

For the last 30 minutes I've been sitting here trying to write the full story of how our relationship evolved, but am simply not succeeding. Maybe someday I'll find an opportunity to do it justice. It's as romantic a story as you're ever going to hear and deserves to be told properly.

Rob, I'm a lucky lady...and I love you.

It was especially nice to see the sun today...wish it were actually warming things up.

February 2, 2011

#21 Blizzard

Some of you might be surprised that I'll be posting a "sunrise" pic today. The weather here is almost unbelieveably bad. I made the mistake of trying to get to the music building this morning despite the fact that classes had been cancelled. I was sure my key card would allow me access and that I'd be one among many other intrepid instrumentalists who had braved the storm to make it to a practice room. Alas...when I swiped my card the door remained locked...and though a pause in the weather had made my walk to school bearable--almost fun--the storm was starting to pick up again...and now I would have to walk home.

I battled my way to Chicago Ave., the main thoroughfare, and walked in the middle of the street to avoid having to trudge through a 1 1/2 foot snowpack and the occasional waist-high drift piled up on the sidewalk. Visibility was frighteningly poor and I kept my eyes open against the gale and stinging snow to watch for any lights emerging out of the whiteness that would signal an oncoming giant snowplow in my lane.

On my way in, I'd noticed that Peet's coffee shop was one of the few businesses that had managed to open for the snow day and decided that, high-priced froofy beverages aside, for my own safety I'd better make a pit stop. I stumbled in, brushed off, and asked a guy behind the counter to make me something warm. So here I sit sipping a white-chocolate caramel latte and talking to you.

Earlier this morning things were much more fun. I woke to a 6:11 alarm and looked outside. My heart sank when I realized the logical error I made when I put off moving my car to the legal side of the street last night. Now I'd have to shovel through feet of drift to move my car and avoid getting towed. Ugh!

I don't own a shovel so I looked around my studio for anything that might help me expedite the unpleasant task that lay ahead. I grabbed a little stew pot, suited up in my layers and boots, and headed out into the continuing gale. The drifts piled up around the door were thigh high--an entertaining situation at first and I bounded out to my snow covered car with a grin on my face to size up the situation.

I was basically screwed. Even if I could shovel out my car, the middle of the street was unplowed and it was clear that if I tried to drive anywhere my cute little yaris would promptly get stuck. I noticed I wasn't the only car left on the wrong side of the road and figured there might be some safety in numbers. I trudged back inside and searched out the Evanston snow hotline (something I should have done right off the bat) to see if I could get any helpful information.

To my surprise and delight a man picked up after the first ring. There had been numerous stories on the news about stranded drivers abandoning their cars all over the city and being taken by emergency personnel to warming shelters. This poor hotline operator awake and in the office at 6:30 am was likely sitting at the ready expecting desperate calls from people in trouble. He assured me that my car would be fine. It's such a mess, the plows aren't even going to start plowing the side streets until tomorrow. This was excellent news! My car is parked on the side of the street designated for odd numbered days: Monday was the 31st, Tuesday was the 1st, today nobody cares, and tomorrow (when the plows will likely get going in my neighborhood) is going to be...da, da, da, DAAAA...the 3rd! I wish I could say this stroke of parking genius was conscious on my part.

I looked at my watch and realized I'd still have time to make it to the lake shore for sunrise if I just walked down Main, so I suited up once more, grabbed my camera and headed out.

This is the alley on the south side of my building...

This next scene may have been my favorite part of the whole morning. Just before reaching lake shore park, I stopped to watch an AAA tow-truck operator transform his flat-bed truck into a snow plow. He lowered the bed as though to upload a vehicle and backed down the street pushing a great pile of white stuff behind him. As he rounded the corner and passed me he rolled down his window and yelled "Hey! I'm a snowplow!" and then laughed this big wonderful belly laugh as though he was a 10 year old pushing piles of sand around with a toy dump truck.

When I reached the park and emerged from the comparative shelter of house-lined streets I was immediately hit by a terrific gale coming straight off the lake. I met another intrepid photographer who said as he passed, "Not as bad as I thought it would be!" Hmmm...I don't know what he had been expecting.

And here ya go...somewhere out there the sun is shining.

At this point it wasn't snowing that much, but as I walked home the wind continually whipped up giant tornadoes of dry snow and sent them whirling down side streets like angry genies let out of their lamps. All this ferocious drifting action created some great photo opportunities...

And here's a shot of my street. My car is the third one on the left.

Well, I'm still stranded at the coffee shop. The weather outside hasn't let up one bit. I'm trying not to freak out about my forced day off from the horn...especially 'cause I supposedly have a lesson tomorrow, a concert on Friday, and two full days of recording this weekend. Maybe I should have brought my horn home last night...oh well...I'll bet all my neighbors are infinitely grateful I didn't!

February 1, 2011

The Blizzard

It's a Doooooozy!

It's NASTY out there.

Classes for the remainder of the day are cancelled.
It's likely tomorrow will be a snow day...which means our Wednesday afternoon wind ensemble rehearsal will be rescheduled for Thursday night from 9:00-11:30...ugh!

I'm holed up in the student center getting ready to do some homework and the view just keeps getting worse and worse.

Now I'm wishing I'd have restocked my supply of groceries yesterday...

Live and learn.

#20 Bracing for a Storm

Weather forecasters have predicted the biggest blizzard since the 60's will hit Chicago sometime this afternoon. In preparation for the 2 feet of snow that's expected to fall overnight I spent $150 on a nice pair of knee-high water-proof boots. I tested them out this morning in the 2 inches that have fallen so far and am generally pleased with my purchase. My walk to school was hampered by howling winds and an occasional thin flurry, but fortunately temperatures haven't yet fallen below 20 degrees so on the whole the experience wasn't bad...in fact, I overheated a little along the way.

In addition to the blizzard warning, a Lake Michigan flood warning has been issued and waves could begin to reach 10 to 15 feet in height (man I'd love to see that!). Out by the music building the main mass of water has been kept at bay by an ice buffer a few hundred feet wide, but when I arrived at my usual sunrise post this morning, I could see and hear an angry swell surging away in the distance...

Northwestern News sent an email around this morning that linked to a bunch of archival photos taken after some of the biggest snowfalls at NU. This was my personal favorite...

If snow like this falls, I guess my fancy new knee-highs aren't gonna do one bit of good!