Kage Baker always said that one of the worst doldrum periods in the year was the first fortnight of January. She herself tried to hibernate through it. However, deadlines being what they were and increasing every year, she tended to spend January alternately playing games on her computer, and writing like a madwoman on several projects at once.
January has such a weight and mass of its own! Its gravity hauls one in and spreads one like peanut butter across the internal landscape … Christmas is gone, but Winter is just getting its second wind (often literally). It’s freaking cold. It’s still more often dark than daylit. There are all the toys and festal foods to be used up before they go bad. Really, it’s hard to do anything in January.
And then, just as you decide to be responsible (said Kage) California unleashed its Secret Winter Weapon. The Halcyon Days arrived.
Classically, the Halcyon Days are a period of calm and warmth at midwinter, a false spring that gives a few days or weeks of mild, sweet, warm weather just after the Solstice. In the Greek myths, it was a reward for a loving couple who were inconveniently turned into birds: the Halcyon Days arrived just so they could build their nest floating on the calm seas, and raise their brood in peace.
Regardless of cursed bird lovers, California and Greece share similar climates. And California, especially the Southern part, gets its own Halcyon Days – a heat wave is almost normal around New Year’s, and January usually alternates between mild sunshine and Fimbulwinter. Kage and I grew up expecting to be able to run around barefoot at the end of Christmas break, and then be wrapped to our noses in scarves and coats by the time we went back to school.
Once we were adults, though … the Halcyon Days became a real hazard to adult responsibilities. Getting to work. Holding down a job. Writing 3k words a day … these were the times when we tended to blow off all our scheduled endeavours and spend the day under a budding tree. In lawn chairs on the beach, counting sand pipers and concocting stories. Chasing the sunlight down some road between newly-green fields and exclaiming over all the baby animals. Lambs! Foals! Calves! Or, as Kage would cry exultantly, “Oh, look at the little vitellini!”
During the Halcyon Days, we were major slackers.
This week, the Halcyon Days have been hesitantly showing their shining, misplaced faces around here. The Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park are green, green, green. The spring king tides are flowing relentlessly on shore, and Humboldt squids are staging carnivorous raids into all the winter harbours. The weather is changeable and totally confused – this morning it rained, now we’re having 40 MPH wind gusts, the sun is shining brightly and tonight we’re scheduled to freeze! No end of hilarity. All in all, it’s just not a day when one feels fulfilled sitting indoors at a desk.
But I’ve a novel I’m doing Phase 1 cleanup on, and another that is still in its (staggering) infancy. I’ve a short story partway composed, and it’s not gonna get any longer on its own; I even went to the trouble of making an outline, for heaven’s sake! It would be wrong to waste it.
Still, the light is so beautiful outside … it leaps and bends, wanes and waxes on all the white walls, imitating flames and waves as the mulberry tree does a strip tease outside the window, exuberantly losing the last of its leaves to the wind. Soon the eastern mountains will begin to burn rose and orange and amber, crowned with snow and mirroring the sunset. What’s a poor girl to do?
I think I need a floating nest. I need to go float on the tide a little, and nurture something.
PS: Dear Readers, I have checked with Subterranean Press and they inform me that they will begin shipping Nell Gwynne II tomorrow. That means not only the copies ordered by individual buyers, but the ones going to outlets like Amazon. The weather has been truly weird and bad back East, where they are. But your patience will be rewarded!