Kage Baker: for her, the annual holiday season began on October 1st. Which is today. So, happy October 1st, Dear Readers, and welcome to three months of frenzied dancing in the dark!
As we slide (astronomically, culturally, spiritually. Grammatically.) into the night time of the year, the importance of lights and celebrations grows exponentially. The darker it gets, the brighter we need to be. That was Kage’s philosophy, which she implemented in every aspect of her life that she could manage.
Literally overnight, the light has changed. It’s older, colder, golder now – it thickens as the day ages, until by sunset it is pouring like syrup from the west. There was dew on the grass and roses this morning, distinct beads rolling; there were cat and raccoon prints on the wet windshields of the cars. The smell of barbecues is being overcome by the smell of fireplaces (it’s an old neighborhood; we still have fireplaces here.) Decorations are appearing, shy and secretive as crocus buds in spring snow.
My whole family is pretty much nuts about decorative lights – when we were little girls, we’d clap with delight when the white lights in the trees came on at Disneyland: we all liked those glowing trees even more than Mickey, Donald and all 7 Dwarves. Since adulthood and our own varied households, the holiday displays have gone up at all our houses – Kage and I usually on lit up for this 3-month season, but Kimberly strings seasonally-appropriate lights on her windows for every month of the year. Then all restraint is thrown to the winds for Halloween …
So today and tomorrow, we shall deck the halls with orange and purple lights; glowing eyes in the trees; waterfalls of embers, red and orange and yellow, like curtains in a god’s smithy. Down come the Chinese lanterns and cocktail-coloured lights that have been marking summer; up go the darker colours of autumn and Halloween. We have strings of crystal skulls, glowing jack-o’lanterns, and a porch light that paints the entire front door area with a fevered green glow as thick as paint. I’ll build a Jack out of corn stalks and a craft pumpkin head with a light bulb in it, and mount it on Lars the Wicker Moose – for Halloween, we’ll cover his antlers with spider web and he goes disguised as a stag.
And in the meanwhile, the orange-flavoured marshmallow pumpkins are out from Russell Stover, and we’re all courting sugar toxicity. The Peeps have appeared, too. Black jelly beans. Chocolate scratch cats. M&Ms that don’t taste any different, but are all the colours of changing leaves that California never has enough of … and for the brief while they survive in an open bowl on my desk, they are a a delight to the eye.
(Harry always carefully takes a bright russet one, and holds it in his claw to eat it like a wheel of cheese. The Corgi, who is of course not allowed chocolate, watches disconsolate and broods over his Milk Bones.)
Kage loved this season. She loved this moment – it’s when the year is tired and needs our help; when it becomes our responsibility to see to it that the nights retain a little light. Someone has to keep the beacons lit, to remind the sun to come back eventually. Kage took that on herself, every year as the autumnal mists rose up to blur the changing trees … and so do I.