Tuesday, July 25, 2006


A rare heat wave in the Puget Sound area is finally over. Clearly I wasn’t made for a hot climate. Growing up in pre-global-warming Finland meant that I was more at ease biking to school at 20° below zero than sweating in an uncomfortable, almost 100° city. Yes, we Finns like our saunas and when inside, one can tolerate much higher temperatures, feeling great, but we always know it will come to a sudden end, plunging into a cold lake or even rolling in the snow in winter. Last night a cool breeze overtook Seattle rather suddenly and I fell asleep early, in relief. My dreams were even more fantastic than usual, but included some scary elements such as human sacrifice, no doubt a product of following the bloody television footage from conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel. I just read on the Independent that the Iraqis are seriously thinking of dividing the country into two, east and west. The Sunnis would have control of the west, and the eastern Shi’a part would become in a sense an extension of Iran, although formally a separate entity. This discussion left the Kurds out: surely there are many who would finally like to see an independent Kurdistan as well. Whatever it takes to calm that corner of the world down, let it be. Iraq as a nation was an artificial creation to start with. Forcing totally different ethnic groups to live under one flag is complicated at best. Just look at the former Yugoslavia: without Tito's iron fist the union crumbled in no time at all.

I have previously written about how little factual knowledge Americans in general have of the situation in today’s world. A few days ago I spoke with a well educated family member who was praising the White House for encouraging the Israelis to ‘squash’ Lebanon and Muslims in general. This Jewish person’s thoughts were based on raw emotions; she had no more knowledge of the real issues than the fanatic Muslims on the streets of many countries. Hamas and Hezbollah were one and the same, the Gaza Strip had magically moved from the Egyptian border into Lebanon, and mentioning the differences between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims drew a blank. Once again, I frankly believe that schools are not allowed or at least encouraged to teach geography. The more ignorant people are, the easier their opinions (=votes) are to manipulate, all in the name of democracy. Yet people live under the illusion that they know a lot about important issues. Yes, some do, but they are a minority, and often a thorn on the side of whoever is in power.

Why the heat felt so uncomfortable was also because it brought back so many unpleasant memories, of life in Southern California and so many wasted summers on the East Coast. The latter was work I felt obligated to do, and it was quite unsatisfying musically; mediocre at best. It was truly 'instant art' (just add water and mix!): three rehearsals bang-bang-bang and then two concerts. Some visiting artists were able to inspire the group to outdo themselves occasionally, though. The opposite was true as well: I particularly remember a big name conductor who hadn’t bothered to learn the opening work, a practically unknown composition, and got completely lost and in the first concert took the orchestra with him, at least those who mistakenly looked up. As nice and great as the musicians were as individuals, as a group the Mostly Mozart orchestra was suffering and miserable, for reasons I well knew but was unable to do anything about. I’m pleased that they are much happier now and able to enjoy music making, even in the heat. The music camp I was part of earlier didn’t fare much better in the satisfaction department, although I liked the teaching element of it. It was billed as the Waterloo Music Festival, but in truth was a student orchestra, fortified with faculty musicians and ringers from New York. Needless to say, it ceased to exist many years ago. Playing under boiling lights in an already-hot and humid tent made good use of my Finnish sisu. Sometimes it was fun watching some of the huge insects fly around during concerts, attracted by the bright lights, and wonder where they would land next. On at least one occasion the rain got so bad that nobody could hear the violin soloist, and the concert came to a halt. We certainly don’t get weather like that in this neck of the woods.

Had I known better and seen the future, I certainly would have turned all that work down and instead enjoyed a vacation every year, something I really never got to do. For over twenty years I managed to squeeze in a trip to the family’s summer home in Finland, but the time there was always limited, and with aging parents, and under the primitive although wonderful surroundings, filled with hard work. True, while living in Finland in my twenties, raising my first family, long paid vacations were guaranteed by law, but being young I was eager to do music camps and festivals, always traveling with the violin and playing. It is high time for me to learn the art of relaxing and enjoying what life has to offer.

As it was too hot to do anything else, I decided to use my logic skills and fixed the networking problem on my own, without having to make any more annoying calls to tech support. So, even the heat wave turned out to be a blessing in disguise.