Kage Baker had a number of work-related personal rituals. These were the things she did to facilitate the start of a writing session, or close down her computer at the end of the day. They were things that calmed her, or started her brain kicking over, or helped her remember to save her files and run a security sweep.
If she’d been a poker player, she would have had to wear green socks or turn her hat around to spark her luck. And if Freecell did not exist, she’d have written twice as many books.
I’ve adopted a few of her rituals, just to evoke her when I write. They don’t seem to actually do whatever sprititual thing they did for Kage (who was more rote religious than I): except for one. That’s the daily webcam rounds.
The first thing Kage did when she went online every day was check all her favourite live webcams. She called them her palantiri (which she thought were one of the few practical inventions in LOTR.) They were her magic windows.
Among them were the beachfronts at Torquey, England; Ocean Beach in San Francisco; the view of Avalon Harbor from Crescent Avenue. Her very favourite was the deck at Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur – it’s like looking out over the woods from a terrace in Rivendell. Sometimes there are odd shadows on the edge, indistinct but people-shaped, even when there is no fog and the view is as clear as glass: Kage loved that, and was never able to figure out what they were. I don’t know either, but they still show up from time to time.
It’s been foggy at Ocean Beach for days on end – but that’s just summer in San Francisco, about which even Francis Drake complained. Nowawdays it is suddenly clearing out, as the autumn comes on – that’s the best time, when the air is like blue wine along the coast.
Avalon, on Catalina Island, is always clear: a beautiful, serene morning – in 1964. You can see the coast of the mainland, sunk in smog, fog and the 21st Century; but in Avalon, King Arthur is probably strolling down to the Busy Bee Cafe for pancakes, in his jams and flip flops. For sure, some of the sleepy tourists on the Serpentine Walk are operatives Dr. Dr. Zeus on R & R. At night, the view is nothing but an amber glare (someone has mounted a yellow spotlight on the palm tree facing the camera) but daylight is tropical paradise.
Point Reyes … is pretty consistently a fog-bound curve, and a fog bound slope, and some low fog in the sky. It might be a bear, or a shrub, or a Park Ranger: can’t tell. Later in the year it will clear out as all California beaches do in the latter half of the year. Right now I can’t tell if I’m looking North or South. Somebody’s dropped this palantir.
Torquey is in Devon, England, on the Coast – a holiday town, they call it the English Riviera. It’s not especially Riviera-ish, but even in modern times it does look like the sort of place where one could ride donkeys (if the Nanny State still permitted it), eat enormous ices (if the Nanny State still permitted that) and pass some vacationing Oxford don trailing smoke from his pipe as he strolled in deep thought along the strand (if the Nanny State still – oh, never mind.) It’s 8 hours ahead of us, but this time of year the evening in the British Isles last forever – I can check it in the California morning, and still see sunset on the Atlantic swell. Except it’s been raining there this week. (It is England.) It’s delightfully exotic, though, to know I am looking at the English Channel while I sit beside the open side porch door on a Los Angeles summer morning.
I’ve added Pismo Beach since I moved back to LA in March. It used to be the view out my window – now it’s a window directly into my personal past. It’s the one I look at most briefly, just long enough to see if it’s foggy or fair, and check out the weekend crowds. To see if a seagull has pooped on the camera lens this morning, which is always childishly funny. I fear I’ll see a red-haired woman walking on the beach; I fear even more the sure knowledge that I won’t. But everyone needs a splash of ice water to wake up in the morning, right?
When I’ve checked all the magic windows, I go to the Hunger Site (http://www.thehungersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=1) and click on all their causes. It was Kage’s daily charity; it’s mine as well.
Then I check my mail. And refill my coffee cup. And post this blog.
And then I get to work.
Tomorrow: a report on the LA County Fair