Autumn Transformations

Kage Baker’s favourite season was undoubtedly summer – for sheer personal pleasure, for warmth and freedom and endless hours of light. But she had special remembrances for all seasons, and took their progression and suitable rituals quite seriously. It was for mood and ambience, you know? You have to decorate properly to keep the seasons on track, especially in California.

Of course, non-Californians (and the less-observant emigrees) will claim California doesn’t have seasons. Or, worse, has purely apocalyptic ones like Fire, Wind, Flood and Mud. This is the rankest calumny to the native attuned to the local seasons. Hell, it doesn’t snow in Honolulu, either, but no one claims winter doesn’t come. In Australia they run the whole show upside down, but no one claims they don’t have seasons, or label them Wildfire, Flood, Poisonous Spiders and Salt-water Crocodiles.

Kage liked autumn – for the colours in the deciduous trees (the California broad-leafed maple is every bit as lovely as the East Coast trees), the fogs and cool winds, and especially the escalating hysteria of Halloween. In a house with lots of kids, Halloween lasts two weeks, at least; preparation, feuds over who got to be what, acquiring  the candy, hiding the candy, hunting and illegally eating the candy; rehearsals and decoration. And we always had lots of kids in the house. By the time the youngest were outgrowing Trick-or -Treat, the eldest were breeding their own.

So Kage had a special fondness for Halloween, as the linchpin of Autumn. And then there was the fact that she and I (all the girls, in fact) were conceived around this time. We had to be, we were all born in June and July. So while Kage’s heart belonged first to the summer sun, the fall fogs were second on her list of faves.

Things change so interestingly in the fall.

Fall is, hands down, my favourite season. Maybe because of the weather cooling down, or the joys of Halloween, or the lengthening nights; maybe the cellular memory of beginning that cellular memory when the weather was just like this. Family legend says that I was conceived after a Halloween party at a brewery, beside what is now the I-5 Freeway, that road of mystery – the brewery is still there, though it’s hard to tell whether it is still producing or being considered for lofts. But it’s there, vast and Ghormangastian in its brick and lead-paned glory, and I drive by it twice a day getting the nephew to and from CSULA.

I was apparently born to sell beer. And I was reportedly conceived in the fogs of autumn and hot barley mash, coiling into the chill air of Los Angeles on an October night.

Kage loved that family story. She said it was a par with Sir John Falstaff being conceived in the groin of the Cern Abbas Giant. It’s why she made my character at Faires an InnKeeper, why I still run the Green Man Parlour at Dickens Fair, and the main reason Kage made me a tavern keeper-character in several of her books.

I think of that with fond nostalgia as I speed past the brewery these mornings and evenings. There between the wooded hills around Downtown and an especially lively stretch of the LA River – full of birds and fish and cotton wood trees; parts of it are real, you know – stands the beer factory responsible for … well, me.

And responsible, too, by the romance with which she endowed it, for the careful shaping of my character undertaken by Kage through thousands of written words.

She never quits.