Kage Baker was a big believer in Fate. She took signs seriously. She could even find them retroactively, noting after an event that some specific oddity or revelation had clearly been a contributing factor. She always said fortune-telling backwards was the easiest and most reliable, anyway.
She did not subscribe to any especial plan or rule of portents – no runes, no systems of birds and snakes; she knew the classic signs, and might remark on them – “Ring around the moon; it’ll be hot tomorrow”. But she didn’t actually believe it. She checked Weatherbug on her computer. As she remarked, ‘Red sky at night, sailor’s delight’ meant they’d lit the lamps on Maiden Lane and the lads fresh ashore could find the place.
No, Kage had her own set of signs and foretellings, culled from a lifetime of odd observations and convictions. Those continued to guide her. Blue cars were bad luck; she would not drive in one – her grandmother was tragically run over by a blue car. She wouldn’t watch opera because she’d been watching one on telly when John Lennon was shot. Looking at the street lights at the moment they came on was good luck, though I don’t remember why.
A blue heron meant money was coming (and I have never known this to fail, actually. Blue herons nest near me, in the L.A. River, and every time I see one, a royalty check comes). A hummingbird meant a good journey was in the offing; oranges by the side of the highway during a journey meant good luck on the road.Those big banners that planes tow over sporting events? Meant a message from God is on the way, an inspiration or idea. But a shooting star – ah, that means a chunk of rock fell out of space and was burning up in the atmosphere. Kage longed to find a meteorite, but didn’t feel they were magic. Consistency was a hobgoblin she eschewed.
This is, of course, how human belief systems evolve. Something significant happens; inquiring minds analyze the event to determine why. Triggers and causative agents – often wrong, often arbitrary, but compelling – are assigned. The next time the significant event happens, the inquiring mind is preprogrammed to discern the same triggers. One of the things the human mind does best is see patterns: it’s downright compulsive about the matter, and will invent them rather than admit to chaos.
What made Kage’s system of omens unique was simply that she started from this first principle and made it up on her own. She took bits from tradition and folklore; but in her own mind, every one of them was based on personal observation. I’m not sure she would have trusted anyone else’s.
She also believed semi-firmly in visitants: about the firmness of good mashed potatoes, say. Not space aliens – those familiar with her work know that in her opinion, the infamous Greys are merely a branch of Homo sapiens. No, Kage believed in faeries, elves, the Good People, the Fair Folk, the Lurkers and Watchers and Shadow People that populate every edge of every human place. And she believed in angels.
Strange events have prevented me from attending the last two weeks of Dickens Fair. Stents apparently wandering around in my chest like small, dazed animals have caused most of it. But in the process, I have missed tule fog, flooded roads, epic traffic accidents, and now – apparently – a millennial storm headed for the Bay Area. As a friend suggested yestreday, maybe my guardian angel is working mysteriously to prevent me from getting into even worse difficulties than I have managed on my own … I guess sometimes, guardians have to settle for not as bad as it could be.
I am quite sure Kage would have felt these events were pre-determined, and I know she would have blamed my guardian angel for it all somehow. (Kage had a somewhat combative attitude toward my guardian angel – she didn’t think he did a terrific job …) Nonetheless, although I am not at Dickens having Extreme Christmas fun, neither am I dead in a ditch. Or an emergency room. Or – in my opinion, worse – alive somewhere but having to call someone to come fetch me from the wilderness because I was an idiot and had a heart attack in the middle of nowhere. Someone moved big orange cones up to close that exit to Samarra.
Maybe it was an angel. Maybe it was a brownie or the lios-alfar or the little stupid guys from the hollow hills. Maybe it was String Theory or micro-mini-black holes or the Galactic Convergence. Maybe it was chance.
I don’t quite believe that, though. Kage wouldn’t have.
Tomorrow: Last Day of a Fair