Kage Baker loved the winter holidays. Nonetheless, she was always on the lookout for good remedies for holiday depression. She herself didn’t suffer from it; the more festivities the better, as far as Kage was concerned. Extreme Christmas could never go too far for her.
She sometimes ranted about having to much to do during the winter season – when you’re self-employed that can happen pretty easily. Most folks think you’re free as a bird and can take time off whenever you like; go fishing or sleep late or take a random ferry to Catalina Island. But the truth is, when you are your own boss, you can’t skive off nearly as easily; you’ll always catch yourself in those clever lies you used to get away with telling to strangers.
Besides, Kage was inhumanly disciplined. Procrastination was something seldom indulged in; and even when it was, she was usually just substituting one determined task for another. Over the years, she learned to apply this principle to leisure as well as labor -a rare trick indeed. But she played as hard as she worked, and with just as much focus. That kept her from being bored, and it usually kept her from getting depressed.
No, the holiday depression she had to deal with was mine. I droop easily in the winter.
You must understand, Dear Readers: I love winter. The night of the year is my favourite time; the palettes of snow and fog and bare trees etched against a silver sky make my heart sing. The sound of rain, the smell of wet stone, the high tides on on the grey beaches … that’s how my soul rejuvenates. So when the loud, bright, frenetic, tap-dancing, choral singing, sweet-flinging holidays start to burn out my brain – that’s when I get depressed.
I want more time in silence. I want solitude. I want to sit in a quiet place and watch the stars come out like flowers on bare oak boughs. I want to see the sunset limned across the western horizon like red tinsel, and the moonlit shadows glow a deeper blue than a summer sky. I want cold water in a white bark cup; I want to practice asceticisms on stony heights.
And when I can’t do these things – which, for many perfectly good and practical reasons, I usually can’t – I get depressed. Kage always saw it as her duty to cure me. Sometimes this was damned annoying – there’s always a part of you that stays 14, you know? And that rather likes sulking about and being artistically limp on a pretty couch … but the people who have to live with the reality (which is you being a lumpen gargoyle in the most comfortable chair) would really rather you took a deep breath and did something useful with your time.
Kage would ask me to drive her out – nowhere in particular, but she always found a reason to head for back roads and empty places. A few hours driving between the grey winter sea and the grey winter pastures and I would perk right up. It was amazing.
Or she’d find me a book I loved and hadn’t read in years; she’d ask me to read something she supposedly wanted to research and had no time for herself – nothing comforted me like falling into a biiiig book and living in another world for awhile. Or she’d put on a movie I couldn’t resist, and she and Harry would sit there sharing popcorn incredibly loudly until I gave up and joined them.
Kage would tell me stories; stories only I ever heard. I don’t even know if she meant to write them, though she certainly reminded me of them frequently in her last months. I’ve begun to think she came up with them specifically to give me something to write when she was gone. It’s one of those stories, told to me on a candle-lit winter evening by the sea (while eating pizza, as I recall – romanticism will only take you so far) that I am writing now.
I miss her very much. But I am now so deep in the story, that I almost resent taking the time out to write this. Because Joseph needs to find out how an ikon really works and I’ve left him wandering through Constantinople with the truth under his cloak …
As Kage used to say: Things to meet, people to do. No time to be sad this year. Hark the herald angels, God rest ye merry, and a hotch-cha-cha.