Kage Baker was a morning person. Despite a fondness for sleeping in on weekends – and who gets through grammar and high school without developing that? – she was by nature a solar and diurnal person.
When she was little, she was often up at dawn. Momma would come downstairs to find Kage already watching cartoons, a bowl of cereal in front of her and often one of the babies drinking a bottle in her lap. Even when we were teenagers, she was like that: once Kage had paid off the sleep debts of the school year, she would rise with the sun. Summer days were not to be wasted. She’d usually roust me as well, and we’d be out on the golden hills or racing down Hollywood Boulevard by 7 or 8 AM.
I’m much more nocturnal, but who needs sleep when it’s summer? Summer mornings, for me, are the coastal fog burning off in iridescent streamers, and the pavement on the Walk of Stars shining wet from merchants’ hoses, and the inexplicable fragrance of plums everywhere. Startling late deer and early quail in the empty places above the Hollywood Bowl, and sometimes finding terrifying cat tracks as big as my hands in the golden dust.
There are pumas in the Hollywood Hills. There are humans, too, and things that used to be or never quite managed to make it to human. Kage carried rocks in her pockets in case of attack by wild felids, stray mutants or cranky druggies – though in order to protect us, she’d have had to aim 6 feet to one side of the attacking monsters. Or maybe at me. She had the worst aim in the world. That was all right, though, because I carried my Swiss Army knife in my pockets. We were confident nothing could harm us.
We were a pair of nincompoops, of course, but we were actually pretty safe. The late 60’s and early 70’s really were a more innocent time, and large stretches of the Hills were untenanted by anything more dangerous than a rattlesnake. Besides – despite our armaments, what we really had going for us at 15 and 16 was that we were fast: we could both run like the mule deer we scared up out of the ceanothus thickets. Screaming like banshees in unearthly harmony. I know, because that’s what we did a few times when we encountered snakes or dogs or skunks …
I never seemed to sleep back then, but it didn’t matter. I might have caught an hour or two before dawn, or I could always doze off in the oak tree above Momma’s studio later. Those mornings were for adventuring. Come afternoon, we would chase the shadows back up into the Hollywood Bowl and pant in the green shelter there. Eventually we’d coax someone to come get us in the car, and end up back on the roof outside Kage’s tower windows: where we would talk half the night away, and then I would watch the stars turn overhead when Kage fell asleep at last.
Next morning we’d do it again. But maybe we’d end up in the cool haven of the Ivar Branch Library. I would read science fiction, and Kage would pore over plates of N.C. Wyeth pirate illustrations …
This morning was a morning like those, and a warm wind has been blowing shining drifts of cloud across the sky all day. The entire world smells of barbecues and fruit. I saw the sun rise – which I never, ever like to do – because I simply did not sleep last night. I finally dozed off when the front lawn was golden with the new sun; and I’ve mostly napped until now, when the back yard is getting its westerly sunbath. I can’t run through a day on no sleep like I used to: hell, I can barely stagger to the bathroom.
But there’s a few hours of light left. Mockingbirds are singing outside my open porch door – though one of them, a youngster, is learning Harry the parrot’s favourite come-hither whistle … It’ll be hamburgers for dinner, and we have some sort of interesting peach-nectarine hybrid for dessert. I’ll manage. I’ll sleep. Eventually.
I’d rather have been dancing on the hills. But if I can just sleep a little and dream of it, I think I can survive.