Kage Baker had very distinct and personalized ways of looking at everyday things. She maintained that everyone did. It was simply that very few people talked about it, and so didn’t realize that their own vision of certain things – the gender of numbers, the literal shape of the year, what the shadows on the Moon show – were not what everyone else was seeing.
She cherished her own concepts, and was really not very interested in what other people saw anyway. Sometimes, when it become obvious that, no, she really did see what other people saw – then she’d express genuine surprise. More often, it was clear that whatever Kage was envisioning as the physical aspects of, say, information flow bore no relationship to anything anyone else thought. Which was pretty much what she expected. But most people, she believed, never compared notes.
Your grandma may tell you that there’s a Man in the Moon. You believe her for 5 or 6 years, and even afterwards, you sort of half-consciously “see” the features of a face on the lunar plains … but what do you see? The full-faced cheese guy, grimacing from the rocket in his eye and bleeding Brie? The Joker silhouette of the crescent? Diana or Isis head to toe, braced in the silver frame of the orb?
I suspect Kage saw the George Melies Moon – she loved that film. Me … well, I saw a rabbit.
Cultural expectations don’t work the same on everyone. Which pretty much proved Kage’s point, that we all saw something unique and no one thought to compare notes.
How do you see the year, Dear Readers? The perception of time is on lots of people’s minds right now – not only because Christmas is imposing its onrushing deadline on about a third of the world, but because a lot of folks expect the whole damned thing to end next week. The Mayans – who, incidentally, do not expect an apocalypse – are nonetheless in possession of one of the most accurate calendars ever devised by the mind of man. It can be used to calculate dates from before the entrance of Homo sapiens (enter stage left, mind the orchestra pit! Ah, hell, someone haul him out of the bass drum, eh?) and well into the future when otters have evolved thumbs and are running the world. And they saw it as a circle, one that repeated itself with mild variations.
What do you see? I picture the enormous span of time as a long, long, straight road. It runs out of sight in both directions, and little bits of it are lit up here and there with recollections, the candles of myth and legend, bonfires of books and martyrs: the usual flammables. I’m not on it, though. I standing off to the East of the road (positing the future as North and the past as South), about even with 1964. I have no idea why, but that’s the little diorama in my mind when I picture the flow of time.
The calendar year, though, I do see as a circle, a sort of ring road. Each month is a distinct and separate landscape, in varying sizes – the summer months of July and August are much longer than January or February. I am standing, always, on the border of September and October – apples and barley to my left, stone and bare fields to my right – staring out across the void to where June is glowing on the edge of summer. The weird thing about this view is that I was born on the first day of July. I was conceived, however, in October. I evidently see Time as a function of where I was technically begun.
However, the weirdest thing of all about this view of the year is what Kage said when I described it to her, and asked her what she saw. She looked at me sort of slantways and said, “Well, I don’t know how to describe it.”
There was nothing Kage did not know how to describe. NOTHING. I’ve thought about that ever since, wondering what the hell she saw. Sometimes it makes me wistful. Sometimes it frightens me.
So, Dear Readers: what do you see? And what do you think you see? And what do you think Kage saw?
Rhetorical questions all, but cogent at this season. Time may be only a matter of point of view. Or, you know … it may not.