About this time of year, I begin to notice the weather. I watch pictures of snowdrifts and freezing rain play across my television screen and am reminded again how lucky I am to live in Northern California in December. I remember all of my years spent in “lake affect” weather back East, and I think about how I will not have to put on gloves, boots, and a hat and go scrape off the ice on my windshield today in order to go out for milk and coffee. Even though there is “frost” in California (hey, it got down in to the 30s this week) and sometimes I look desperately through my drawers for all those sweaters I parted with years ago, I still bless my lucky stars that I live in the land of sunshine. Sure, it’s also the land of wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, and numerous other natural disasters, but I can count on practically perfect weather, most of the time. One could almost become complacent. Really, why worry? It’s time (again) to go outside for a walk, or a hike, or a bike ride. Maybe today I should try rock climbing? Or surfing? Or hang-gliding? Work can wait. I really don’t need to be practicing.
Sometimes I wonder if all those past years of snow and dreariness simply provided a good excuse to stay inside and practice? Perhaps all that gray weather made me a better pianist? Probably it honed my work ethic, and it definitely refined my neuroses. I often wonder how California has changed me? I do find it hard to play Rachmaninov any more in the face of so much sunshine.
And so I ask the question: Is there a different musical ethos between the West Coast and the East Coast that has to do with the natural environment? Are people really getting more work done in New York or Ohio because they are forced to stay inside? Do your surroundings affect your music and/or your performance? Perhaps you work harder in more adverse climates? Work less in more temperate climates? (Is anyone really getting any work done in Hawaii?). From my perspective, I think it might be true, but I’m not sure it’s important.
As we used to say in Rochester: There’s winter-and there’s the 4th of July. You haven’t seen the color gray until you’ve lived in western New York. As we say in California: Dude, surf’s up! Get out there!