Kage Baker’s heart was always in Northern California – her Summer Country, her Isle of Apples. Even when we lived for so many years in Pismo Beach, part of the attraction was that we could be in the Summer Country with a half day’s drive. Somewhere around Emeryville – with the towers of San Francisco beside us and the gold hills of Marin ahead of us – she would suddenly sigh and smile.
On clear days, it happened wherever Mount Tamalpais suddenly became visible. All the ley lines were suddenly running straight through Kage, and she was energized.
Why did we never live in the City? Time and opportunity never coincided, I guess. But we spent decades of summer doing Renaissance Faires at Blackpoint; where a weekend’s worth of live was worth a month anywhere else. And for two years we actually lived there. In a trailer, in an oak grove, beside a pond … hares kept our tiny lawn nibbled short, and deers nibbled on the cotton laundry unless you kept a close eye on it; foxes denned under the outdoor privy, and a badger built a stet outside the bedroom window.
I have never been as happy anywhere as I was in the trailer in the oaks. Close – very close, a few places – but that remains the best place I ever lived. Even when midnight rescue parties had to be formed to drag low-lying trailers out of range of the rising waters of the pond in the rain. Or when the curious (and real) events on which Kage based “Indian Tony” kept us all awake half a night. Even when the frogs got so loud in spring that their bellowing echoed off the hillside; even when a doe ate my best linen kirch. Damn you, Bambi’s mother!
So I am very happy now to be just kicking back in the North, doing as close to nothing at all as I can manage. I drove out to The Cheese Factory just outside Novato this morning, and will be gorging on curds and whey, triple-cream Brie and local bleu cheese for days. I indulged in a honey cake, and shared it with my dear hostess’s copper-coloured Cocker Spaniel. Ginger is a sweetie pie dog, but apparently no one has ever fed her. Ever. Anything. She is always on point of dying of starvation when I get here … she has a lot of energy for a starving doggie, I must say.
She is gazing at me reproachfully now because cherry Jello is not edible by her standards …
Kage and I always made a point of going to The Cheese Factory when we were up here. Kage herself preferred harder cheeses – Swiss, Parmesan, Jarlsburg – to the obscenely soft and fragrent cheeses I like best – which was very cool, really, because neither of us had to share! And we were united in our love of fresh bread and ripe fruit. We’d drive out there, picking up the various bits of a picnic from local bakeries and fruit stands, and then settle down under the shade trees on the Factory’s lawn with the Crown Jewels of lactic art.
I made no picnic today – missed her too much to pause for a rest there, where she no longer can accompany me. But the pilgrimage was fine, and the drive was bliss. And I have an inordinate amount of cheese stashed away now. I’ll remember Kage with each bite; especially during the wonderfuly smelly ones, where she’d make terribly mature gagging noises while I ate. Nothing like a meal with your sister to keep those family traditions going.
I miss Kage incredibly up here in the Summer Country, this land of our mad and misspent youth. Also our equally mad and misspent maturities, middle-ages and encroaching senescences. Part of my heart will always live here, amid the oaks and wild oats, racing along some golden road while Kage pointed ahead and cried: Go there! I want to go there!
And she did go, damn her. And I haven’t found that hidden turn yet, no matter how many miles of yellow hills flow past my windows … I will, though. I have an absolute talent for getting lost. Someday, quite by accident, I’ll find that turn.
And in the meantime, I can still sit here and eat cheese in the Summer Country.