Kage Baker was fixed a little loosely in the stream of Time. She liked it like that. She never enjoyed feeling especially constrained or limited by her environment, and Time was no different. There was only so far she would bend to the vagaries of temperature or humidity or Time, before she shrugged off their pernicious impudence and took herself off to milder climes or last May.
I tend more to stick it out where I am, especially now that I am not Kage’s chauffeuse. I’m a little stodgy. However, the damp heat in Los Angeles was definitely getting to me when I fled week before last – up to the clean chill and fog of San Francisco, and the simply paradisial last summer days in Santa Rosa. The weather was wonderful everywhere – in fact, driving up I-5 last Friday, I never found temperatures above 85. In that golden desolation of hills and orchards, I was cooler than I had been in a fortnight.
I wandered through San Francisco in bliss for the weekend – Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, the nooks and crannies of the Presidio, the beautiful neighborhoods in the Sunset and Mission Districts … even late at night, the streets were alive with people (they have real neighborhoods in San Francisco, so it always looks like a block party to an Angelino like me) and the moon was bright and benevolent.
Santa Rosa was a lord’s pleasaunce, the epitome of farming bounty, an icon of Harvest Home. Corn was high everywhere -some stands already being carefully groomed into mazes for October festivals – and the vineyards were almost ready to harvest. The wild hills were a solid, improbable gold with wild oats; the oaks were still dense and green, but gilded with the dust of an entire summer. The whole world was ripe, ripe, ripe. I spent the week in a happy daze of perfect High Summer, hiding in the middle of last month.
On my last morning, though – yestreday – the warmth was gone. There was dew on the grass and the windshield of my car, that heavy pearly dew that foretells autumn. And on the drive home, I-5 was suddenly full of harvesting machines and laden trucks full of corn and tomatoes and melons; the bonfires were starting, where the detritus of fields is burned each year so the rich ashes can enliven the soil. Except for that one fireball at Corral Hollow – I have no idea what they were burning there, but it looked a little vigorous for an aggie fire … maybe a triffid infestation being put down.
A week before I had driven past melon fields, solid green and smelling like paradise. By yestreday they had been stripped, and the heavy sweet perfume of the melons was underlain with a current of rot from the discards left behind. Deformed cantaloupes rolled pale and abandoned, like skulls between the yellowing vines, and the air for a mile on either side smelled of death and honey.
For unknown reasons, I saw few cows (except the Sea of Cows at Harris Ranch, of course) but a lot of horses. Maybe the cows had taken a week off for vacation, too. Or not – I did pass an ominous lot of reeking tankers full of tallow. But the horses were lovely, posing like dancers against orchards and empty hillsides; in the center of every little group, an autumn foal or two stretched out flat in a nap attack, secure in the shade of its mother and aunties. Horses benefit enormously from possessing noble profiles and never speaking.
When I came down into Los Angeles from the Tehatchapies, the Basin was filled with fog – the old stuff still fading in the middle air, while the new evening’s batch respired from the earth. It gave a beautiful haze to the distance, the sort of mild opacity that fools you into thinking the air is clear: even though you can’t see the Hollywood Hills through it, let alone the Sierra Nevadas. It was cooler, softer, definitely autumnal: such a relief!
So I left in mid-July, spent a week in August, and returned home to early October. I seem to have skipped September pretty much all round, which is fine with me this year – it’s been a beastly month. It’s just the sort of strategy Kage would contrive, too, to get free of nasty weather: go visit somewhere and somewhen else.
They say it will get hot again in a few days, but I think we’ve missed our chance for more 113-degree days like we got last year. It actually rained in Needles Thursday, which would indicate that November is drifting in here and there. Good. I’m ready for it. Let’s keep that Time stream swirling, and see what we can trick out of it.
Maybe the irises will get confused and bloom again. That would be neat.