The Wind

Kage Baker loved the autumnal wind storms. We get such, in the coastal areas of California. They’re exciting, primal and fierce and threatening calamity.

Sometimes it’s the relentless breath of the desert, when hot winds flow out over the land like a boiling tide –  cats give out shocks from the static in their fur, and the humidity drops so fast your eyes start shrivelling, and (as Raymond Chandler wisely said),  “Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and eye their husbands’ necks.”

Sometimes it’s the first blast of winter. The wind swings round and comes roaring down from the North so cold you can see the air turning a steely glacial blue. Time then to find your flannel nightclothes and the socks that have crawled to the back of the drawer over the last 6 months; time to find shoes with closed toes.

Either way, the leaves end up being blown sideways up the street. Our lawn is covered with the jacaranda leaves from the church four houses up the block; our mulberry leaves are skittering cross the schoolyard 4 houses down from us. Last night, the wind took most of the leaves and started on the Halloween decorations on all the lawns and porches hereabouts. Our lights are now dangling like glowing mutant Spanish moss, blown all akimbo. And the wind is rising to set them swaying again.

We kept losing power last night. When the wind started – with a literal BOOM as it blew out a nearby condenser – the power started trying to die, like a candle flame in a draft. For the first half hour it flickered on and off like lightning: dying, catching on again, dying again … the modem and all the lights were flashing on and off insanely as the electricity surged through them at intervals of only seconds. My computer had hysterics and started cycling my screen saver like a magic lantern show before I got to it and shut it down – the surge protector seemed to be the first casualty and nothing shut off automatically.

Which is pretty much why I did not get a blog entry up last night. Everything went nuts.

The power finally settled down, though not before there were a couple more condenser explosions and a low, monstrous groaning coming from the turbines at the DWP station three blocks away. We got lights and telly and some computer function back. But my machine had had a trauma, and there was no gallivanting round the internet for me last night. When I finally got brave enough to turn it back on, I got one of those interesting white-on-black screens that give you options on how to re-start. In SAFE mode, in Swahili, standing on one foot with an apple pie on your head … any way but the normal way, because that was no longer an option.

It took me until 3 AM to finish all the diagnostic tests and reboots and re-loading of drivers and ancillary crap. By that time, I was discovering that there were … holes … in some of the word processing files I had had open at the time. And 50,000 words of a novel, half done, were MIA.

The sound of the chimes still banging away like artillery fire in the backyard were suddenly a knell.

So I sent off a desperate email to the amazing Neassa, who was in possession of the URL for the off-site place where I had stored a copy of those 50,000 words. I couldn’t remember where it was. After nervously chomping my way through half a bag of Trader Joe’s Parmesan Pita Chips, I realized Neassa was unlikely to answer me at o’dark thirty. So I went to bed and brooded my way to sleep.

Luckily, she did indeed know where I’d put it. Now I can rebuild the document on my hard drive, and stash away another copy or two on separate thumb drives … one to be laid away in a desk drawer, wrapped in samite and holy herbs and only to be called forth in the event of the Last Days eating every other copy.

So I’ve reclaimed that, at least, from the winds of the season. They’ve been cruelly busy this year, sweeping away friends and memories and dreams – I’m clinging to whatever I can. The wind is rising again, now, and is supposed to be every bit as fierce tonight as it was last night.

This time, though, I’m turning off the computer as soon as the chimes in the lemon tree start. I can knit in the dark or read by Kindle light, without risking losing my words to the wind again.

It’s taken too much this year.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to The Wind

  1. Here in Valley Village (more or less Studio City) the wind doesn’t seem to have the same kind of power. But I grew up in Granada Hills on the knees of the hills where, I always said, is where the wind comes from. It was a lot like what you describe when I was in school. It was energizing and exciting, and I loved it. It carried a melancholy, too, though I didn’t have a name for it then. Yet again, you’ve caught an experience exactly.

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  2. Kate says:

    Granada Hills – and Valley Village – get some ferocious winds this time of year! I usually met them when they came roaring up and over Griffith Park, or through the Cahuenga Pass – and the light show, with condensers blowing up out in the Valley, was always impressive. The autumn winds are the best ones … scented with sycamore and carob trees, and wet stone that smelled like chrysanthemums. The smell of melancholy, as you say.

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  3. Jan Foley says:

    Yikes. A writer’s worst modern nightmare – losing work in a computer crash. I suppose writers in the old days worried about a fire sweeping through their flat, hovel, apartment, garret, house, castle, warren, whatever, and wiping out precious years of work. Now it’s satellite malfunction, electrical faults or a pooped-out microchip.

    Flash drives are the KEY. I am the paranoid type and have everything I’ve ever created on 4 different drives as well as my computer itself. One to take with me everywhere I go. One in my desk drawer. One in my filing cabinet. And one stored at a friend’s house! I suppose I should buy one to bury in the back garden too, just in case? Mind you, they do need to be updated frequently…

    Anyway, glad you will be able to restore yours, via EtherMagic.

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  4. Tom B. says:

    I love to feel and hear the wind – especially at this time of year. The consequences, though . . . yowtch!

    A thing to remember about flash drives – they are good only for a certain number of recording cycles, and then they die the death electronic. Forgive me if I sound pedantic. We lost Mary Lynn’s very best ‘I Survived Sewing This Damn Thing’ stories because we lost track of the back-ups and failed HDs, and we were too broke for flash drives while I was out of work. So. One copy to the cloud or Dropbox, one or two to NEW flash drives for each new work (kept in separate places), and one to an external hard drive – that’s should keep you covered.

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    • Kate says:

      This is excellent advice, and a bit of information of which I was unaware. Thank you! Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

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    • Jan Foley says:

      Double-yikes! Thanks, Tom B. Now I’m REALLY paranoid. I guess I need to print all my writing endeavours out on old-fashioned paper, and keep them in a old-fashioned folder, and hope the house doesn’t catch fire. Oh, wait, ink is ephemeral. I got it — a marble tablet and a chisel — so 10,000 years from now, some archaelogist will decipher my alphabet, and conclude that ‘they’ certainly wrote slibber-slobber, back in the 21st century…

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