Up, Up and Inside Out!

Kage Baker adored Pixar.

It’s not at all too strong a word. Animation in general was one of her most emotional passions, and Pixar was like a new Messiah vaulting across the heavens of animated films. She had rejoiced when the New Age of Disney started (with The Little Mermaid) and then watched in horror as Eisner methodically dismantled the animation department  – when he actually closed it, Kage joined the group working to oust him, determined to get him tossed out on his nasty corporate ass. (Which worked, BTW.)

Kage felt Pixar could be the saviour of animation, especially of Disney animation. And as it turned out, she was absolutely correct about that.

She never saw a Pixar film she didn’t like. The last one she saw was Up; not in the theatres, because she was too ill, but at home. When it was released on DVD in November 2009, she was post-operative and feeling pretty good; so I felt safe taking a weekend to go up and get our part of the Dickens Fair started in rehearsals. She stayed home with the new movie. When I came home, she told me how good it was, and advised me to watch it as soon as I could.

“It has really good things to say about dealing with loss,” she said. I remember I was helping her down the hall to her room (she’d stayed up until 1 AM waiting for me to get home that Sunday night) and she gave me a sharp stare over her shoulder as she said that. That meant it was An Important Moment, and I was supposed to heed her.

But I didn’t, of course, because it was definitely not something I wanted to hear. Believe it or not, Dear Readers, I didn’t figure out until 3 days ago what that statement meant:  Kage knew she was dying, long before I figured it out.

I did, of course, eventually see Up. Once. It was beautiful and funny, and I never intend to see it again. I don’t need to; I remember every scene as clearly as sunlight in an empty room. I could feel things breaking open and bleeding inside me, and I cried and cried. It was not cathartic, it was just wet and painful. I think it might have been a comfort, if Kage herself had not told me it would be – if she had not known I would need comfort – and if she then had not died. But she did. And so the film is intolerable.

Tuesday, I went out with my family to see Inside Out. No spoilers, I promise – but I must tell you, if anyone is waiting to see Pixar trip and fall on their face, this is not the film that will do it. It’s GOOD. Pixar has done it again. It too is beautiful and funny, and contains the best explanation for cats I have ever seen.

But as it rolled and the heroine faced the inevitable disassociation between her memories and her life (okay, slight spoiler there, but don’t worry) – the pain in my heart grew worse and worse. I’m not talking about a heart attack. It’s just grief; no one dies of grief, but it hurts, and it never goes away. You just learn coping techniques. Sometimes they work for long periods of time, and you can rebuild things that have broken. But sometimes they don’t work, for months and months, and you move in a constant fog of pain that never stops; and you get so tired …

By the time midnight rose amid the stars of June 30th, I had achieved a realization: I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t go forward with Kage’s work, I’d never sell my own, I had wasted the last 5 years and all the goodwill of my family and friends. I felt like an enormous rock had fallen out of the sky and flattened me under it. However, as despair often does, it felt sort of comforting to lay down all the burdens and just consent to be flat, so at least I got to sleep.

And when I woke up … the Italian publisher was confirming the failed sale, and the Virginia Kidd Agency was delighted to take me on as a client, and there were 147 affectionate emails on my computer, and it was still my birthday. The best birthday in years, Dear Readers, I do assure you: the best birthday in at least 5 years.

So why am I going on at gloomy length about this? Things are better, and right now I do feel as if things may work out after all.  But I think that I need to admit the pain and difficulty a little more often – at least to myself – so there are fewer moments when I am overwhelmed by despair and loss. I don’t want to trouble anyone else, and I’m not fishing for comfort or compliments – everyone I know is free and honest with both, and I don’t lack for them. But I need to stop running around with my eyes shut, pretending I can see. I need to stop running into the walls, and falling down in surprise.

The road thus far runs between that moment in our hall, with Kage giving me a sharp, meaning look that I didn’t understand; and a clear moment of thoroughly erroneous self-realization in a darkened theatre 2 days ago. It runs between Up and Inside Out. It runs, for half a decade and 24 hours, between me giving up in abject failure and suddenly finding some success in my grasp.

It runs between Kage thinking she was giving me a hint, and me not knowing what she was talking about for 5 freaking years. Holy shit, Dear Readers, what else is out there for me to discover next?

I have no idea. But I don’t mind at all.


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July 1st

Kage Baker always had a plan.

She made plans compulsively, determinedly. She made lists, with headings and sub-headings and all the alpha-numerical descending gradations we learned in high school essay: 1,2,3 to A,B,C to i, ii,iii to a,b,c and down into some sort of nano-notation you needed a magnifying glass to read or write.

The timeline for her first Company novel was 27 feet long – made of taped together pages of typing paper, in a spectrum of inks and all the fancy scripts Kage knew (which was a lot), it ran around 3 walls of our spare bedroom/library and was notated in English, Latin, Greek and some laboriously reproduced cuneiform symbols. I’m not sure she knew what they meant, but some of them were numbers and she said they were in there for “Sumerian flavour”.

Kage could barely manage Western numbers, and she had all 10 fingers needed for base 10 calculations. The Sumerians used a base 60 system … and evidently “Sumerian flavour” was beer, bread and beans, with garlic and cucumbers.

But her penchant for plans got us through all manner of hard times. And we had our share – evenings that descended into despair by the light of the Lava Lamps, the two of us staring at one another and asking “What the hell do we do now?” It always resolved with Kage grabbing up a pen and a legal pad and making lists: and that always worked. It calmed us down enough to sleep, it gave us a place to start digging our way out of whatever hole we’d fallen into, and we always got out.  Lists were Kage’s ultimate fall back plan.

She made a lot of lists, her final year. Almost none of them were about how to survive – she left that up to me, and medicine; her contribution was to work hard at whatever we came up with that might save her. She was brave, steadfast and never shirked; and believe me, Dear Readers – the responsibilities that devolve upon the dying are as tough as can be. She never wept or whined. But she swore me to those carefully outlined lists.

The main one was what I was to do about The Writing. I was to continue it. I was to keep her own stories going, and I was to add to them from her notes, from our conversations, from whatever surfaced in my own rattled brain. It was why she went through all her notes in that last year, getting them into a sort of order – piles, mostly, but sorted more or less by subject and on the stratigraphic  system: which, Kage said, worked for geology and so should work for me.

It was why she left me her high school notebooks – her first plan had been to burn them, but instead she left them to me to explore. It was why she left me not one, but two agents; in case one failed. Mind you, Kage never thought either of them would fail – her faith was steady. As it turns out, things have gotten rather wonky; but her plan still works. Because she left me a backup.

This year has been hard and painful. Who knows why? Not me. The psychological analyses, the DYI grief counseling, the Hallmark cards – they all say that by 5 years along, I should find myself content, resigned and functional. Well, they’re all wrong. I feel worse than I have since the first few months Kage was gone, and despair has been my constant companion this year. I’m climbing a cinder cone – climb 13 inches, slide back a foot. I’ve been staycationing in the Slough of Despond, and I don’t even like that damned book … and all of you, Dear Readers, have been inhumanly patient.

But I have The Plan. Kage’s Plan. I know where I have to go, what I have to do.

I’ve spoken severely to one agent, and unhappily terminated our relationship. But that will let me deal better with Kage’s legacy, and it gave me the time and room to plead with an uncertain Italian publisher about a seriously endangered deal. Today I found out that I have saved it – Mondadori will be printing the first two Company books in Bella Italia, in a mass market deal that will give Kage enormous coverage.

Armed with this success, I am negotiating with the backup agent; and I think that all will be well. They are interested, they know Kage’s work and like it, they’re willing to deal with me (and mine) and are already talking about how to announce it. Publicity! Professionalism! A way out of the Slough of Despond! I’ve been leaping up and down for months like a crazed marmot, and suddenly my little claws have caught the edge of a root!

And it’s all happened TODAY. Which happens to be my 62nd birthday. I see the left hand of Beneficent Fate here.

The next story to finish will be “The Teddy Bear Squad”, and that starts today. (Somebody remind me about “mammatus clouds” tomorrow.) The next book to finish will be Marswife; and in the meantime, I have a completely different kind of story done and ready to be examined by my (interested and competent) agent. Those tasks  I have feebly plugged away at this last 7 months are not for naught after all. Suddenly, there are lots of nice little check marks to be noted down in the margins of my life.

So happy birthday to me, folks. This may just work after all.




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Kage Baker loved Midsummer. What’s not to love, after all? Midsummer, St. John’s Day, Litha, the Summer Solstice that marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year – it’s the very peak and pivot of summer.

And summer was Kage’s own season, daughter of the Sun Triumphant that she was. Midsummer’s Night and its Eve, she happily dedicated to Shakespeare. She always tried as hard as ever she could to spend it in that Wood Outside Athens, regardless of whether it was in the eucalyptus groves of the Hollywood Bowl, or the long ballroom beach at Pismo. But her heart was really given to the daylight.

By this time, most years, the morning marine layer could be depended upon to have burned away by afternoon – long golden twilights happened, softened by the remaining mist into a false clarity that made the hills look miles deep. It’s nearly 8 PM as I write this, and the sky is still a well of light. It’s blue in the east, lilac and orchid in the west, where the setting sun is dissolving into silver-gilt smoke … Kage always wanted to see this day and night in England, where all the stories of our childhood promised us sunset at 10 PM and a twilight that lasted half the night …

But California’s pretty indecision between the desert and the tropics was enough. The particular loveliness of California’s oak savannah is made for Midsummer; the wild oats soak up the daylight and breathe it out again into the evening, so the shadows beneath the trees are full of faerie luminescence, and smell of spices and rum. Kage would eat hoarded plums, we’d roast beef in the back yard and eat with our fingers, and sit by the bonfire as the stars pricked out late in the sky, drinking beers … us, drinking the beers. Not the stars. Or maybe them, too; who knows?

Plums, apricots, Italian ices (Kage had permanent dibs on the cherry ones), bomb pops on those few Hollywood summers when an ice cream truck braved the vertiginous Hills. The red, white and blue ones are good, but the fudge Bombs are simply amazing, and you can never find them in the grocery store. They have to be bought from a diesel-fuming truck in the last light of the longest day, with frost gleaming blue on their wrappers.

So, tonight is Midsummer. And it’s also the Summer Solstice, which makes it the beginning of summer. I know of no explanation for this mystery, except for a paradox of Time. No one remarks on it, no one worries, no one cares – because Summer is Timeless, and while it’s going on, it’s also eternal. We are all dancing in a ring,  on point at the border of Forever; twirling on one foot on the edge of luminous twilight, of a night that never really falls.

That’s the natural law. I hereby declare it.

So keep dancing, people. Keep dancing.


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To Every Season

Kage Baker hated change.

That’s not so peculiar, really. Most people dislike change, when you get right down to it. When there’s some vast problem, some injustice or societal harm going on, then people want a change – but in everyday life: not so much. It’s normal to resist change until you can be sure of it. It’s a survival technique, not a bug but a feature.

Of course, you need to make your mind up eventually, whether to embrace or resist change. That’s where most people get fouled up. They have difficulty making those hard, hard decisions. Is warmth and cooked food worth the danger of setting yourself on fire or angering the sun?  Is it appropriate to eat the neighbors or might they be people, too? Should we really give up paper bags for plastic? Especially if, 50 years later, we have to decide to give up plastic bags for paper?

This stuff can be tough for people. To Kage’s credit, she was not afraid when it came to making decisions. She disliked change, especially small personal-level change; but when a choice was demanded, she buckled down and made it. Lots of folks can’t get over that impediment, but Kage had an iron will.

It’s how she learned to survive editors. I never, ever believed she would be able to manage the third-party editing process – though I knew she could write, I always feared she’d founder when it came to time to make changes to her stories. But she faced it clear-eyed and brave. She was brave enough to make the changes that were needed, and also brave enough to say NO when it mattered. She was blessed by extraordinary people in her first few editors, but still – that stumbling block for many new authors was simple for Kage.

She gibbered and wrung her hands for months, though, when I wanted to change our music system to CDs, She never did give up her beloved vinyl and turntable.  And, of course, it has eventually turned out she was right about those …

But Change Happens.

Today, I terminated my business relationship with Kage’s old agent. The necessity has been growing for 3 years, now; I’ve avoided the decision because – well, she was good to Kage and I wanted to honour the association. These aspects no longer pertain.

And then, there was the element of arrant cowardice. When Kage died, she told me to keep writing – and to rely on her agent. If I parted from Linn Prentis, would any other agent want to consider my stuff as well as Kage’s Estate? I confess to considerable doubt and sniveling about this point.

So I hung on. But this … has not worked well. Linn kept both me and Subterranean on track to get Nell Gwynne II published: it was an heroic task, and I will always be grateful for that. However, the 2 short stories I’ve produced (under my own name) have been published through my  own efforts, and the good will of Tachyon Publications and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.

Projects since Nell Gwynne II  have tended to founder, unless I took them over myself. Since most of these were sales of Kage’s own work to new markets, they should have been relatively easy sales; but they’ve been delayed, mismanaged and misrepresented to the point where I am getting letters from polite but desperate foreign publishers begging for contracts … their inquiries, and mine, have vanished into the Void. Repeatedly. I get emails dated 2 and 3 years in the past, demanding action on projects settled months ago. Checks have been delayed, or arrived without payment details. The 2014 1099 never arrived at all.

So it’s come to the point where I gotta cut some ties and cast off in a new direction. Or maybe it’s in the same old direction, but with my own sail and rudder now. Can I find a new agent? I don’t know. But I know I will be able to do more work, more calmly and successfully, when I’m not worrying about whether or not – and how – Linn is answering the mail.

I may have shot myself in the foot, but I’ll be able to do a better job on Kage’s legacy. It’s just … making changes makes my stomach hurt.

SO, I will self-prescribe 50 grams of theobromos. Trader Joe’s Pound Plus Belgian Milk Chocolate – 5 squares should do it.  It’s supposed to stave off strokes …



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Grass and Air

Kage Baker did a surprisingly good Blanch De Bois imitation. She wasn’t the sort of woman poor Blanche is, but she could summon an astounding Southern drawl from the depths of her maternal genome. Kage could coo like a born Steel Magnolia when she wanted to, especially on Blanche’s signature line: I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

With a toss of her braid, and a flutter of an invisible fan – at which point, Kage would relax and add, “And what I can depend on them to do is to pay me no attention at all!”  And since that was what she pretty much wanted from strangers, she was cool with it. Her friends were sufficient unto the the day.

And so are mine. One of the greatest blessings of a fairly exciting life is the quality of friend I have managed to attract over the several decades I’ve been careering around the world. They are astonishing in both variety and virtue; and they include all you, my Dear Readers, whom I never expected to meet and am so glad that I have.

Occasionally, one must gird up one’s petticoats, and cast both dignity and available bread on the waters. Hopefully, one’s friends will be of assistance – if nothing else, they can help one gather up the soggy bread and get it back in the basket. And if ever strangers are going to exhibit any kindness, this is the time to let them know their chance has come.

As you know, I have an unhelpful heart condition; it limits how much I can walk or garden, and makes me susceptible to heat. I also am living in a drought of Biblical proportions (as are many of you, Dear Readers). Consequently, I have embarked upon 2 projects to improve life and my water usage: 1) convert the front lawn in xeriscaping, and 2) install a mini ductless split air conditioning unit in my study.

Unfortunately, although the DWP in Los Angeles is offering rebates to convert lawns, it doesn’t like the kind of grass we have planted and so has denied us membership in the program (we’re working on that). Also, while LA County does offer some programs to assist with cooling systems, they only offer money for humungous damn big ones: what I need is tiny, abstemious, frugal and thus not eligible. (I’m working on that, too, and if some money expected from Italy arrives, I shall be set.)

Sp I’ve started a Go Fund Me campaign. I’m not announcing this to ask any of you specifically to help out; but if you know anyone who might be interested in a weird charity – why, I’m your girl! There will be some rewards and thank you’s in this eventually, too. I know I have a couple of boxes of signed copies of this and that (signed by KAGE!!!), and I’ll happily make them available as prizes.

The link is http://www.gofundme.com/xf45dk. Spread it around! And don’t think you have to contribute – just helping me spread the word will be an enormous help. The prizes will show up in the next couple of days, once I’ve counted what’s to hand. There’s a fair selection, though, including some foreign copies and even some in foreign languages.

In other news, my concussion is doing very well. Me, not as much – my head aches abominably and I am still prone to dizzy fits, but that’s what you get when invisible cats give you contra coup head injuries. I’m being sensible, avoiding bright lights and loud noises, and not driving. That last is especially nice for other people.

So, Dear Readers – please forgive me for taking the Blanch Du Bois route myself. But I’ll do most anything to keep writing, and cutting the utility bills and avoiding heat stroke are minor matters indeed.

Just imagine it all in Kage’s smoky alto, and her patented North Carolina drawl …

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The Necessarys of Writing

Kage Baker – stubborn devotee of writing every day that she was – would sometimes admit to being defeated. Not often, mind you: even when with faced with almost insurmountable barriers to accomplishing anything authorly, Kage would bend all her considerable will into managing something.

Desperate hunts for something to write on and with occupied a lot of our travel time. It is, for instance, difficult to find somewhere in the tiny Northerm California town of Willits in which to purchase pen and paper. At least, it was in 1996 when we drove through there on a Sunday morning. We found a Safeway open, though, right beside Highway 101, and it carried big newsprint tablets (the kind with the blue dotted lines and bits of wood pulp in the paper) and 3 colours of felt-tip pens. That kept Kage going long enough to sketch the basic skeleton of “Merry Christmas from Navarro Lodge, 1928″, while we drove around Modesto and Fort Bragg.

We were always stopping somewhere in the middle of nowhere, trying to locate writing materials. It seemed that the further we were from anything more sophisticated than a 7-11, the more Kage had left at home. Fortunately, she eventually acquired her Buke tablet computer, which helped a lot. Then she only got desperate when she’d forgotten an adapter plug or a 500-foot long extension cord. But we usually carried those in the car, anyway.

Before the Buke, she just did the best she could. Story notes accrued on the end papers of science-fiction novels found under my car seat (there was always at least one), on the insides of yarn skein labels, on candy wrappers turned inside out. A portion of In The Garden of Iden was written in pencil on the inside of a flattened Good N’Plenty box; I’ve got story notes now on the backs of receipts from gas station snack stores up and down the length of California; envelopes covered inside and out; the edges of Chinese restaurant menus detailing lists of Company agents’ names.

I always tried to make sure I had a pad and a pen in my purse: and it had to be a pen Kage could write with, because some pens didn’t feel right. It had to be a fountain pen, or a Koh-i-noor Rapidograph – the big, fat black ones, not the skeletal technical pens they make now.( Kage liked the .50 point; which was broader and less spidery than the .70.) Or a really fine felt tip, which would only be acceptable when it was brand new and pointy; or a Pilot roller pen, when those were invented. As a kid, she liked those stubby half-size Bics that came in green and pink and purple, and smelled like cheap Easter jelly beans.

Kage hated ball point pens. She always wanted a Mont Blanc fountain pen. And what she wrote with at home (pre-computer) was usually a tabby plastic Cro-Quill pen staff with a brass nib pinched from the clerical stores closet at the Oregon State Mental Hospital, during the filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She had a Twinings Lapsang Soochong tea tin full of them; she used them with a bottle of Higgins Black Ink, from which she scattered miniscule black nebulae as she dipped and re-dipped her pen.

The pens available now would make her insane with greed, there are so many and so peculiar. Porsche makes a pen. MOMA makes a pen. Waterford Crystal makes a pen. Freaking Swarovski makes a pen! There are pens with roller tips like inch-wide paint rollers; pens with ink that changes colour; pens with ink that glows in the dark. There are pens with barrels made of glass, precious metals, rare woods, papier-mache, refractive plastic and corn starch.

She’d write with anything, though, if she had to. And on anything, too; both of us bore crucial lines – usually opening and closing lines – inscribed on palms, arms or knees for a few hours. I once drove I-5 in triple-digit heat with my window rolled down and my arm out in the hot wind, so I wouldn’t sweat off the opening lines of the birth of Gard that Kage had inscribed desperately on me in the rest stop just North of Buttonwillow. And none of this ever stopped her. She’d have written in blood if she’d had to; her own, I am sure. Almost sure …

After Kage’s tutelage, a mere paucity of materials has never stopped me, either. Even when all my electronic toys began croaking, one after the other, last month, I managed. I still have lots of pens, and reams of paper – not that horrid Corrase-able that was Kage’s favourite, and from which ink falls like dessicated ants, but good honest 20-pound Staples Dead Cheap Printer Crap. Not to mention that I have a thing about notebooks, so there are blank ones everywhere. No, all that stops me are actual physical disasters.

Last night, I rose from a late stint of research at my desk. I was studying ooparts, which are “out-of-place artifacts”: screws and gold chains inside chunks of Carboniferous coal. Ammonites with fish hooks in ’em. Dinosaur  skulls sporting bullet holes. Most of these turn out to be cases of mistaken identity – what was thought to be an electronic coupling in a geode turns out to be a 1950’s spark plug in a ball of dried mud, for instance. Or they’re more a case of earnest hysteria than eagle-eyed treasure hunting. But now and again you find an inexplicable one, which might just be the seed of a story.

Anyway, I stood up in the dim light from my Kindle, mind far away in the Sahara on a supposed mosaic floor made of yellow glass. And I stepped on a cat. We have two, Dear Readers, and one of them is as black as the Earl of Hell’s weskit: with her eyes closed, she is invisible. So I stepped on her, she squalled, I leaped sideways and stepped smack on my rolling suitcase. It rolled and the frame bent, precipitating me sideways; my foot got stuck in my knitting basket and I made a very poor landing on one hip. Since my foot was in a basket, I promptly fell over and brained myself on the wooden edge of my bed.

The result of all this today is a scraped knee, a crunched toe, and a mild concussion. Plus, I need a new wheelie suitcase. My knitting basket, oddly enough, is unharmed; luckily, so is the cat. Then I dropped a loaded bagel on my keyboard this morning, and it took me half an hour to clean the cream cheese out of the keys. So it’s taken me 4 hours to write this little essay, and that’s as much as I can manage.

So I’m going back to bed, Dear Readers, to rest my aching head. I’ve enjoyed wandering the hallowed halls of pen and paper., especially once I had the computer functional and schmeer-free. I’ve even committed a few ideas to the files …

Kage often said, piously, it’s all grist for the writer’s mill. Nothing is wasted. Write it all down; stories, like roses, will grow in any old shit.


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Under The Veil

Kage Baker loved classical California June weather: “June Gloom”, as the non-appreciative call it, or “May Grey”, in years when it doesn’t cooperate with weather tropes.

Historically, May and June are overcast. The sea and the air get amourous and confused, and the interface between them becomes entwined: for 50 miles inland, it’s not so much the lowest layer of the air as the highest layer of the ocean. Everything smells of salt and sage, and the sun only appears in time to set – vague and pale, long drifting stripes of lavender and orchid and silver painting the West. Most people complain about it. But Kage adored it.

California, you see, is essentially just one long coast – 800 miles of it, with an average width inland of only about 250 miles. Fog, clouds, muscular mist and wind-whipped sea foam can therefore spread in from the omnipresent Pacific and envelope entire cities. And it’s most likely to happen in May and June, when the damp spring sharpens into arid summer.

The last few years, though, we have been having weather out of Monty Python & The Holy Grail*. Or maybe A Midsummer Night’s Dream**. No rain in winter, no rain in spring, heat waves beginning in April and extending to September, when we segue into a re-enactment of the surface of the Sun. The cool mornings and the soft evenings of May and June have been bright and dry and glaring; and over the last two panting years even the people who most scorned the annual foggy season have begun to mourn the lack of that sweet marine layer.

But this year, it has come back! We had some insane heat waves in March and April, times of year when we usually are in greater danger of frost; but they relented and went away! And over the last 5 weeks, the weather has been …. normal. Which is now so peculiar that people  are anxiously wondering what it means, and what ghastly weather anomaly is coming next.

(And, actually, a humdinger of an El Nino season is forecast for Autumn and Winter. There’s an enormous sink of warm water up in the Arctic Ocean, aptly named The Blob by the NOAA, and apparently we now have an 85% chance of an aerial river debouching over Los Angeles this winter. We’ll drown, but we won’t be thirsty!)

So, those with short memories or new to LA are worried about the foggy foggy dew. The natives are mostly delighted – we’ve even had rain, here and there, producing effects ranging from floods to merely damp lawns (most of which are already dead anyway). This is the way it was when we were kids, and the return to what I knew as a child is always a delight these days.

The summer is supposed to start like this – dim cool mornings, early plums, bare feet leaving marks in the sparkling grass. The cat comes indoors doing indignant dressage, lifting high-trotting wet paws with disdain and disapproval; the Corgi is wet to his shoulders after a morning run in the garden. Through mid-afternoon you can see the mist moving in the street like a phantom army, lower than the roofs and bringing all the perfumes of the sea and the golden hills … when Kage and I were girls, we’d fill our pockets with plums, apricots and Corn-Nuts, and go wandering through the Hollywood Hills to eat our breakfasts in the ruins of old stars’ mansions …

When we were grown women, living in Pismo Beach, this weather was like being in  a soap bubble. Kage would sit at her desk, staring off through the refractive walls of cell on drifting cell of fog: everything between our window and the sea was rimmed in a nimbus of rainbows. And she’d exude content like a cat on a warm hearth; and then she’d sigh, and turn away, and begin to write her way through the thinning veil into some new world.

Gloom? Grey? No way, Dear Readers. The walls between the worlds can be just that thin, the light of other lands coming soft through the sea-foam piling on the hills. It’s a magic veil that gives sight as it falls across the eyes, a lens that sharpens vision as it thickens in the air.





* … Winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed back into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn …

** … the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have sucked up from the sea
Contagious fogs, which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.
The fold stands empty in the drownèd field,
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock.
The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud …


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