Kage Baker loved dawns.
While she also loved sleeping in, she liked being up to see the dawn. Many mornings that meant getting up to watch the solar rebirth, then toddling back to bed for a couple of extra hours of sleep. That was especially true as she got older, and tended to spend much of her nights sitting up and writing.
But when she was a child, she was an up-at-dawn type of person. Even as an adolescent – when even the most diurnal people spend some time being nocturnal instead – she couldn’t stand to waste a summer dawn. She’d be up and dressed and setting out for long walks in the Hollywood Hills as soon as the first colour bloomed in the east. A lot of summer days began that way, ending up in trekking down through the hills to Hollywood Boulevard just as the tender first light burst into the flame of real day, and finding someplace open enough to sell Coke and coffee and maybe some pizza …
I saw a lot more dawns than I wanted to, accomplishing these mad errands. I went along with it due to a suspicion Kage would walk off the end of the earth if unwatched during her rambles, and because I knew the stories born during the long walks through the Hills and along the Boulevard would be amazing. Besides, coffee and cold pizza is one of the breakfasts of champions.
The summer dawns that turned into day-long adventures were the best. The rest of the year, seeing the dawn was just one more side-effect of having to get up early enough to go to school. And who, from kindergarten to high school graduation, thinks that’s any kind of blessing?
Only people like Kage. Even then, she’d growse and grumble about getting up, but I think it was because the electrifying effect of rising with the sun was subsequently ruined by being compelled to attend school. In summer, she leap up and into jeans and out the windows on the roof with the alacrity of a young gazelle. When instead she had to get dressed in our fairly appalling blue uniforms and slouch off to the nuns, she showed all the enthusiasm of someone on their way to the gallows. And once at school, Kage was likely to spend her time describing that morning’s sunrise in careful prose than attending to Civics or Algebra or English …
She classified dawns in various ways. There were hot dawns, wet dawns (which had nothing to do with rain), runner’s dawns, dancing dawns … The scale was mostly based on colour – the celestial nursery scheme of blue and pink clouds was likelier to show up in July than in January; a silver-gilt and crimson tinsel dawn was almost always Winter. Intensity of light was another factor. Storms sometimes ate dawns entirely, and the light would grow, sadly and dully, as grey-tinged and mechanical as a rheostat. On the other hand, spring rains usually broke with daylight here in Los Angeles – those were sparkling dawns, immense clouds exploding in soft slow motion as the solar wind drove them from the sky, painting them until they were pouring down colour instead of rain.
Some dawns were described more in terms of emotion – I think, because I never got a clear explanation of precisely what a “bottle dawn” was. It might have been a bleak sunrise with the green light promising a winter storm; it might have been one where Kage was unhappily hung over. Not sure what a “white dawn” was, either, though I am fairly sure insomnia might have been a component; while cloud cover was definitely not. But they all had resonance and deep meaning for Kage.
I am not a dawn kind of person. In fact, I find sunrise to be downright depressing, especially if I have been awake all night and am suddenly aware that the stars are fading and the sky is going pale with the shock: so am I, probably. Dawns are pink and gold, to me: shallow, excessive, and even a little tawdry, with none of the majesty and glory of the sunset. Nonetheless, I’ve seen an awful lot of them – what with Kage, and going to school, and my own sleeplessness. Even though they often led to delight, I am still not overly fond of them …
Last week, in fact, I saw my first dawn in a year. Waking up early on a Saturday, with the necessity of getting from Santa Rosa to Pacifica by mid morning – I found my glasses and was staggering for the bathroom with my toothbrush when my eye lit blearily on the window above my borrowed bed.
The sky was scarlet. Nothing prim or cherub-supportive: a deep martial red, with an equally deep martial blue between the reaching fingers of the rising sun. Halfway up the Eastern sky it was gold evolving out of transparent silver, and the last star was an unlikely gem still shining through daylight.
It was – wow. Maybe because I hadn’t seen one in a year. Maybe because my eyes were only half focused. Maybe because for once I was seeing something of what Kage had always seen, without her even telling me what it was.
I saw it again this weekend. If this keeps up, I am really going to enjoy doing Dickens Fair, in a way I never have before. And that’s amazingly cool, at my age.