Saturday, February 24, 2018

Living with my hopes for spring

The snow is melting after a week of cold rain, inches receding in days. Stubborn patches remaining where piles were shovelled. Is this a fast forward or a rewind? What does a sunny day look like? Feel like?

I'm not sure whether we have seen the last snowfall this season, but these past few days I've been looking for signs of crocus emerging from the frozen earth. Grass is greening in the brown. For my fix of a full spring palette I visited Allan Gardens last week.

Feb 24
Feb 11

Also saw a beautiful film called Flicker and Pulse, which used time lapse and real time photography to portray the life of an English garden over the course of the year, poignantly beginning and ending on the same shot - a bare branch with snow crystals.

Living with my hopes for spring. Canada Blooms will be here soon enough.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

How did you sleep?

I picked up a FitBit in late December. It's been useful to track my steps, my blood pressure and sleep patterns, but not very informative in other areas - it doesn't have pre-sets for yoga or meditation, for example.

Wearing the fitbit to check out my sleeping patterns has been revealing. When I check in the morning I can see data on how many hours of deep sleep, light sleep, REM, and awake time was spent in the different sleep stages.

Previously I would feel short-changed if I only got 6 hours sleep, but then I noticed on those nights I often got the same hours - or even more - time spent in deep sleep. Recovering from sickness I allowed myself a good ten hour sleep one night, and then realized oversleeping may have yielded 'good' numbers but left me feeling groggy.

It was also reassuring to see how my numbers compared to others of the same age and sex.

On the negative side, the fitbit would flash a light and I thought it might actually be waking me up throughout the night. A couple of nights the data wasn't captured because battery life was low, and I felt a bit cheated. Even more of an issue was that syncing my device to answer the question, "How did you sleep?" became a morning ritual. Shouldn't I be relying on my body to answer the question?

So this weekend I took the device off entirely. I had  fabulous sleep - one of the best ever. I was a tad regretful I didn't have the data of my best sleep ever in a long time to compare with previous nights, but then I just had to laugh.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Music in the Air

I've been well-acquainted with seats at Roy Thomson Hall in the Centre Balcony, as these are more affordable. New Year's Eve I splurged on seats in the Centre Mezzanine and thought the upgrade well worth the additional dollars. Then TSO had a seat sale in January - 3 concerts for $33. A fantastic price! I took advantage and signed up.

The first concert choice I picked our normal seating, and then luckily realized the sale was to sit anywhere in the hall. My next two picks were as close to the front as I could manage. In fact, one concert was literally front row, centre (AA, seats 26 and 27). Wow!

Sitting right up front was an entirely different experience. It was the first time I could complain about the conductor cutting off my view of the orchestra. From that vantage we couldn't see the brass or percussion sections and missed cymbals, and timpani. But what a view of first violin! While we couldn't see the pianist, we had quite the view of the piano.

What was amazing was the difference in sound. Cellos and violins distinct. The tones of the piano just above. Sound is vibration and I could literally feel the music in the air around me. What an incredible experience to literally feel the music of romantic composers.

For What Makes It Great, we weren't quite up front, but we were close enough to see the spit in the air when the conductor and host made his pronouncements. Being able to watch the clarinetist so closely, emptying his instrument and changing reeds, was fascinating.

For the Mozart Double Concerto with TSO’s Concertmaster and Principal Viola as soloists, we were back in the cheap seats. I pulled out the binoculars in my purse so I could see their faces. The sound was beautiful, but definitely blended and mixed by the time it reached the balconies.

I will definitely be watching for more seat sales!

postscript February 17

Reading the book, This is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel Levitan, gave me a bit more insight into why I was experiencing the sound so differently right up front. While I could sometimes feel the vibration of the sounds (especially the piano as it was almost overtop of us), it was the difference in spatial location and reverberation that was having such a profound effect on my experience. Because I was close to the stage I could hear the instruments more individually (spatial location = where the sound is coming from).

"Reverberation refers to the perception of how distant the source is from us in combination with how large a room or hall the music is in; often referred to as "echo" by laypeople, it is the quality that distinguishes the spaciousness of singing in a large concert hall from the sound of sining in your shower. It has an underappreciated role in communicating emotion and creating an overall pleasing sound." (p. 16)