Creativity and Bay Area Innovation, Part III: The Weather Factor


When I first moved out to the Bay Area from Denver, Colorado, one of the first things I noticed was the vegetation.  Whereas Colorado, especially around Denver, supported a limited number of plants that could one 1) survive the snowy winters, 2) the semi-arid summer 3) the high altitude, the Bay Area flora seemed overwhelming to me.   During my two block walk from my apartment to the bus stop beneath the Rockridge BART, I must admit, I felt overwhelmed by all the plants I saw:  palm trees co-mingling with pine trees, redwoods, coastal live oaks, succulents and cacti, British Ivy and Bay Laurel, and flowers everywhere.  I must admit as an 18 year-old raised near High Plains Cotton Woods, it appeared to me as a seething mass of chaos, slightly offensive, even threatening.

Now, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.   I love not only the plants, but all the creativity supported by Bay Area weather.

Pertaining to Bay Area weather, Mark Twain once wrote, “The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco.”   Such are the words of one of the greatest satirists of all time, and, of course greatly exaggerated.   What is evident about the Bay Area is that it has some of the mildest weather anywhere, staying around 60 to 70 degrees throughout the year.

This is not insignificant.  While folks in Alabama are contemplating if it’s OK to have their first mint julep before 10 am to combat the oppressive heat and humidity and others in North Dakota have special remote control car starters installed so they need not risk freezing to death while their car warms up, Bay Area weather is predictably pleasant during most of the year.   And though the unusually cold summers may leave Bay Area residents  jealous of folks in other parts of the country, I assure you, people are much more inclined to forward their creative projects when the weather is pleasant than they are when it is raging hot or howling cold.

Getting back to the plants, the weather in and around the Bay allows all sorts of fruits and vegetables to be grown.  The abundance and availability of such foods has made the Bay Area the epicenter for California cuisine and the Local Foods Movement.   Spearheaded by foodies such as Alice Waters and her world famous restaurant Chez Panisse in North Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto and local authors such as Michael Pollan and his now famous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the Bay Area has been a creative and innovative leader in what we eat and where and when we eat it.   No small thing either:  damn good wine is produced in the northern regions of the Bay, mainly in Napa Valley and Sonoma County.

If you are living in a region that allows you to mingle with others in the streets (instead of huddling around your AC unit during a heatwave) and are moved again and again by the beauty and diversity of the plant life (all of which give us non conceptual clues to the innate creativity underlying the universe), and if you are able to sit down at a restaurant with your friends and loved ones, order seasonal foods reverently prepared and sip, perhaps, a few lovely, mind-lubricating wines, if you are able to do all that, you may be unable to control yourself; you may be absolutely and completely unable to keep your creative juices from pouring forth into the world.

Today is July 2nd, 2012, it’s 57 degrees outside, the sky is grey, the light is soft, and I couldn’t be happier and ready to keep finish my forthcoming book, The Shoreline of Wonder: On Being Creative.   I’ll be skipping the mint julep in favor of the joy of forwarding my creative projects.

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