Kage Baker was fascinated by weather. She was eternally intrigued by the apparatus of detecting weather; the cunning artifacts that described it, forecast it, recorded it. Whether it was algorithms that sent updates to her computer, or an old fashioned Kewpie doll that turned pink or blue to indicate humidity levels, she liked it.
Some of this interest arose from being a devoted domestic gardener, one who lived in a city on the edge of a desert. We don’t get rain all year round, here in Los Angeles. We have a dry season – which is most of the time – and a wet season. You need to know what the weather is doing, if you’re trying to keep a garden alive without selling your soul to the Department of Water and Power.
Some it, too, was being an historical re-creator. A lot of the venues were out of doors – Kage was a set designer, a builder and a performer: weather impacted what she built, how long it stood, how it could be used as a stage. Our faux village of the Renaissance Faire was a complicated piece of origami, buildings fashioned out of cheap wood and glorious paint jobs: sea-foam and cobwebs were sturdier. They all looked glorious in the sunlight of a summer day, brave with banners and canopies under the sheltering oaks. And they were fine shelter on the summer nights, lamp lit and padded with rugs and sleeping bags.
But if it rained … all our roofs were compromises between weight and shade. None were meant to be waterproof, and they all leaked. Some structures didn’t even have roofs – just canopies of brightly dyed burlap; when those leaked (and they leaked at the onset of a heavy dew), you emerged tattooed like a wild Pict wearing Rorschach blots.
Many were the times I woke in the middle of the night and heard the rain coming down a few inches above my head – we always slept in the Inn lofts, Kage and I, right up under the roof-tree. I’d rouse and climb down to the lower floor (Kage slept as deep and unwakeable as a 4-year old), to count all my people and made sure they were indoors or under canvas: I could usually hear, above the sound of the rain coming down on the oaks and hay bales, the distant shrieks and laughter of the romantics who had slept out between the bales as they scurried to whatever bit of roof they could find. There would come a long cannonade of slamming wood or plastic doors, too, as some folks took shelter in the privies … man, that was desperation!
If the rain kept up, we were a mud swamp by morning and had to cancel a day’s performance. It meant a long slog out into the parking lot (a field. Always. Just a field …) trying to keep your shoes from being sucked into Hell, to bring in one vehicle to take all my folks out to their own cars. Very few cars were allowed on site in the mud, because they tended to get stuck; so groups would send one driver out to come rescue the rest. I always drove a truck or a van, so it was usually me. No end of wet fun!
Anyway, these were the sorts of things that concerned Kage, who took on weather-forecaster as one of her jobs. I’m thinking of it now because it rained all night here in Los Angeles – an incredible rarity this late in the year! It’s been cool and grey and overcast for two whole days, which is Paradise itself. And it smells and sounds like Faire, summer and hay and wet soil, stone running with silver; hawks skreeing bad-temperedly where they hunch in the trees. There was a pair of them in the garden this morning, one leaning into the high-arched shoulder of its mate in surprising tenderness …
All the doors and windows are open, to let the sweet moist air in. It’s been a silver ere-dawn all day; it will stay there, posed unlikely at cool sunrise until the sun slides away behind the clouds and all the lamps are lit.
Me, I am safe and comfortable and dry. There’s nothing like 30 years of living on a Faire site to teach one to value dryness, Dear Readers. When I woke last night and heard the rain, old habits leaped up too – I got up and went through the house, checking for leaks, making sure all my family was safely bedded down. The dog didn’t even wake up as I checked on him, sprawled in the hallway like a little lost stole. The rain had lulled everyone to a deep, grateful sleep.
And no cancellation to be worried about tomorrow! No worry that one of my people is trying to sleep in a chemical toilet. No counting the breathers in the dark to make sure they all made it home, indoors and into a bedroll. No moving the jockey box under a leak to keep the tap-room from flooding.
Oh, my heart beats in the hollow of my ribs, filling up with the sound of the rain. I miss those nights. I really do.
It rained on the way home yesterday afternoon, and that smell was there as I left Burbank, the green jungle smell of the mountain just across the way. Just big fat raindrops, widely spaced. I never imagined it would keep up. Then I slept right through it and through my alarm this morning, apparently in relief after the past week. Totally shocked to walk out to my car to go to work and realize it had indeed rained in the night,well and thoroughly. The smells of wet suburb aren’t quite the same, but near enough.
Your Faire reminiscences always bring a tear to my eyes. I was never in your employ–though I had hopes that last year. Even so, we have all those rainy and rain-out fields in common. Good times.
Fate’s been pretty good to us, you know. We carry as casual reminiscence the sort of memories that most people only find in books. Look back over the life that Faire gave us, and my God! We’ve done our living in a Golden Age, we’ve eaten and worked and played and slept with the High Courts of the Fae. With angels and demigods, with really good jugglers and the sort of people who can fix a broken main pipeline with what’s in their pockets … no manner of wonder has missed us.
And the very best thing of all is that it’s all still there. The only thing that really limits our participation in that world of miracles is our own fatigue. I finally figured that out, and set to determinedly to make sure that my life can still be poured out on the altars of Art and Magic – with, of course, a special libation off to the side where Someone presides over the miracle of beer …
The day after escrow closed and we were the actual owners of The Farm House, a rare summer rain came through our town, too. Mark and I were excited to own our little piece of paradise, and thought it a grand opportunity to check out the roofs of the old barns (sold ‘as is’ along with all the property ‘out buildings’).
When we went into the first barn, an old hay storage building, I was immediately hit with That Smell: Agoura Spring, wet hay, moist earth, fertile soil grasping the golden drops greedily.
I love living in ‘the country,’ for many reasons; the memories that rain brings is only one.
But it’s a Big One.
Thanks for sharing the smell & feel from The Old Days. They will be my dreams tonight.
Good. I’m very glad.
Love the picture of Lake Elizabeth and the tributary feeding into it.
As one that you looked out for thanks again.
Thankfully none of us ended up like Rock Hudson and Paula Prentess in Man’s favorite sport
I believe you did sleep a few nights with us, Mike. Either in the Common Room or in the Baby Pit … rain was one of the things that always reminded me to open the doors and take in the stragglers.
It really was Paradise, wasn’t it? All that sweat and dust and dirt that took three showers to be rid of… all trumped by that magic smell. And the people who could do anything with the stuff in their pockets. I thought anyone could do that; all our friends could. Every once in a while, one of us will be driving somewhere and catch a whiff of Faire – a smell of dust, laurel (Northern faire), churros and longing. I sure miss it. Thank you for the reminders.