Kage Baker liked to be in control of her environment. That meant an exceedingly – sometimes excessively – detailed attention to home deco. Her desk, the table by her armchair, the wall art – all was designed to hold or carry things that pleased her eyes and created specific moods.
Well, isn’t that what everyone does? you might inquire. To which I reply: not like this.
Not like Kage. Most people have some art or doohickeys on the walls and shelves just because they fit there one day. Or they match the couch. Or they get trotted out to delight the see-them-once-a-year relative who sent them to you, because you personally have a low tolerance for the constant company of a life-sized porcelain marmoset.
Not so Kage. There was almost nothing that was casually placed in her personal space, despite the fact that it resembled the storeroom of the Smithsonian in the early 1900’s. The things in her desk area were dedicated to an atmosphere of action, research, discovery – real writer work. Even the plastic figure of Eugene Krabbs from Spongebob Squarepants; he was the penate for the need to acquire money. She kept a barometer, a thermometer and a sextant there. The Coke can riddled with a decorative pattern of holes was important: it was her echo device for Captain Morgan’s voice when she did readings (thank you, Mike Rettinhouse!) – she kept it like a ritual mask in a tree, so the Captain’s voice would never desert her.
Icons of comfort surrounded her armchair. All the remotes; a table shaped like a scallop shell; a game about ships played with dice, another played with coloured stones. A stack of books, carefully rotated through current obsessions. A model schooner.
Me, I have always been a lot more casual. You might even call me a slob – while Kage or Kimberly might have a week’s worth of clean clothes in a folded stack at the end of the bed, I have a disordered pile on the floor. As long as I can find my glasses and whatever book I am reading, I have never been too concerned about what met my eyes in the morning. I’ve depended more on the contents of my pockets (I would implode without pockets) than what’s on a shelf or table top.
My environment hasn’t mattered very much to me. Nonetheless, I have acquired … stuff. Somehow, unconsciously, without actually noticing. Looking back on my last bedroom, many of the items that made me feel happy and secure were, in fact, supplied by my sisters. Kage painted my shelves with stars and moons, hung my blue Kit Kat Klock, gave me the Mah Jong Cabinet I kept earrings in. Kimberly gave me my sun and moon throw, my feather pillows, the battery-operated candles that turn on and off like obedient fairies when I fall asleep reading …
It’s only recently that I have come far enough up for air (out of the Slough of Despond I’ve been inhabiting) to realize that I felt … unsettled. Unsettled was previously too vague a feeling for me to identify; like missing an itchy nose over the pain of a severed limb. But I’m beginning to make progress, to come back to life and pay some attention to things like: do I like that colour? Do I want bare walls? Am I really cut out to live in a pile of boxes? My family has been inhumanly patient and kind, and has slowly been introducing things into my environment to remind me that I am, in fact, alive.
It’s like re-habituating a hawk with a broken wing to the wild – only not so noble, and with more Pop Tarts than dead rabbits.
Today, Kimberly and my darling nephew Michael re-hung my Kit Kat Klock. Once again, her smiling blue face is beaming over my room, her eyes and tail ticking back and forth in comforting rhythm. They also hung a mirrored jewelry cabinet up for me, so I can comb my hair (with results that look less like a demonstration of String Theory), and get the random piles of earrings and necklaces off my desktop and into somewhere safe. It’ll look every so much less insane around here when there is not a string of tiny Jack-O’Lanterns hanging off Kage’s Nebula; or a votive light in a sugar bowl in a highball glass half full of dimes next to a hollow blue glass donkey filled with rings …
Time for the Green Man to go back up over my bed. Time for some order around me; I’m not drifting in a lifeboat anymore, I’ve made land! It’s high time I started that cunning bamboo and plaited grass rope water system, like the Swiss Family Robinson had. It’s time for clever devices and everyday joys, and being alive. It’s what Kage would demand.