Kage Baker loved new roads.
Not newly-made roads; given a choice between a mossy track and a gleaming new concrete superhighway, in fact, she would choose the track every time. We saw a lot of interesting places that way, including several views over the Yawning Precipice of Imminent Death: which is a nice enough place, but the restroom is always out of order and one’s need is always very great …
No. What Kage loved and constantly sought were roads on which she had never been before. We would drive miles out of whatever our way actually was in order to see the views on an unknown road. Sometimes Kage had a putatively sensible reason as well – the rumour of a sculpture garden, or a new restaurant, or a restored antique building – but those were just excuses for times when she thought I’d respond better to a pretense of logic.
All she really wanted was a brand-new horizon.
Her ardent love of sailing ships arose from that, I am sure. Part of Kage was always longing to be hull-down over a fresh horizon, out where the green water turns to soul-deep blue; where the curve of the globe is as obvious as a smile.
She rarely got out there on the infinite water, so she contented herself with exploring by car. And every time we turned onto some hitherto unknown way, she would pump a fist in the air and yell, “New road!” And she’d turn up whatever was on the radio, and sing at the top of her lungs in sheer glee. It was wild and mad and exhilarating.
These last several days it’s been all new roads, all the time. I’m driving around Washington alone, so I am frequently lost – though it’s so lovely, I don’t even mind much. For one thing, even on roads where it appears the forest primeval has devoured whatever human habitation once stood there, coffee houses survive. This place is paved with Pete’s, Tully’s, Starbuck’s, and a myriad of non-corporate one-offs. One could live forever on coffee and tea cakes, and on the endless blackberries of the season.
Every time I find my way to somewhere I really want to go – a bank, the grocery store, any road that leads west – I rejoice at my fragile directional skill. Being without Kage has robbed me of my compass and sextant, and I am therefore always lost.
But every time I turn onto some new road, I hear Kage cheering triumphantly. I can see her from the corner of my eye, jumping up and down in the passenger seat with excitement and delight. Neither of us ever saw Washington beyond Seattle; now I’m finding my precarious way through the edges of the Great Pacific Northwest, and some part of Kage’s spirit is still here to urge me on.
We might find the secret, hidden home of all blackberries – some valley with cliffs of briars and berries as big as melons. We might find a sasquatch (I’ll wet myself, but for Kage’s sake I’ll snap a photo with my phone.). Heck, we might even find our way back to the coffee houses and cement plants of Kenmore in time for dinner …
And if I do, I’ll sit down and work on a story. Kage would cheer. New roads indeed.