At least once a day someone asks me, “What time DO you get up?”
Good question. The answer is 4:00 a.m.
Okay, maybe it’s more like . . . reach for snooze button . . . 4:05 . . . fumble, reach, off . . . 4:10 . . . you get the idea.
Sometimes I lie in bed dreading the cold morning air. But then I focus on the delights ahead: strong coffee, an easy commute, beautiful music, and above all, a sense of purpose. I usually leave my house around 4:30 and arrive at the station around 5:00 a.m. There’s little traffic at that hour and the only worries (aside from the occasional snowstorm) are the deer grazing on the roadsides.
Lucky me gets to see WXXI’s beautiful and smart Morning Edition host Beth Adams first thing! Then I set my stuff down at my desk (down the hall from the newsroom) and walk into the WXXI Music Library to pull CDs off the shelf.
This hour, from 5:00 to 6:00 a.m., is one of the best parts of the day, a piñata bursting with ideas and associations and discoveries. Most of the music you hear has been selected in advance, but some of it springs in the moment from a poem on the Writer's Almanac, a music anniversary, news event, or random association.
I go on the air after NPR news at 6:00 a.m. and the next four hours fly by as I'm in the happy zone of total engagement Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls flow. After I get off the air, you’ll find me catching up on e-mail, conducting interviews, or preparing various productions such as the RPO broadcasts (or, these days, an upcoming special broadcast of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, recorded in Kodak Hall last spring and scheduled to air on November 22th.) And I'm always thinking about tomorrow.
So the next most frequent question I get asked is, “How do you do it?”
Another good question. Some of my colleagues who get up long before dawn go to bed very early (6:30 or 7:00 p.m.), but that’s not for me. I usually take a long, indulgent nap in the afternoons, triggered by intentional signals -- the heady scent of lavender, drink warm milk spiced with vanilla or nutmeg. I pull down room darkening shades and try to block out the world for a spell.
So one day often feels like two for me -- there’s the joyful work of the morning followed by sleep followed by life’s normal, varied activities: time with family, gardening, exercise, a second, part-time job as a church musician, and singng or playing piano for pleasure.
It's a privilege to present classical music for you in the mornings on WXXI-FM. Historian David McCullough says he would pay to do what he does if he had to, and I concur. Meaningful work is a rare gift, even if it means launching out of bed at 4:00 a.m.
So, what time do you get up?