Kage Baker only used the calendar loosely to establish the turning seasons. As she said, (tenting her fingers and looking pious): “The air and earth have their own ideas, which are based on rhythms man cannot entirely fathom nor control at all.”
Also, she was likely to add, “All this stuff runs on rules of physics and chemistry, anyway. Humans can muck it up pretty well, but they can’t predict it very accurately or make it do what they want.”
Not that Kage really understood either potential set of causative agencies for weather and the seasons. Nor did she especially want to – it all worked, which didn’t need her approval or oversight. The breathing air didn’t fly off the surface of the earth like a bad toupee; the waters under the earth and in the Ocean-Sea might raven around now and then, but they t basically stayed put. No careless sublimation into the troposphere and out into the starry depths, like Mars. When she wanted to say a few words about why, she’d research it and quote some reliable person who understood thermoclines and the Celsius scale.
She claimed once that she always got both “Thermocline” and “Celsius” confused with the Muses. That was boasting, though. She knew all nine of All-seeing Zeus’ arts and crafts girls perfectly well. Kage pledged her primary allegiance to the goddess Athene Ergane, with ample side-shrines to the muses Clio and Thalia. At least, when she was feeling classically Greek. At other times, she offered beer to Thoth or Govannon the Smith; she kept a hand-drawn glyph for Papa Legba taped to her computer.
But all that kaleidoscope of deities was aimed at the writing. She lit pink, rose-scented candles to the Virgin Mary, too, for personal matters. But while she could and did curse the weather for its eccentricities – as anyone involved with agriculture or outdoor theatre has motive to do – she never prayed over it. Weather, in Kage’s view, was like a damned cat. It did what it wanted, unless something else was more annoying; and then it did that.
In a way, this was a very soothing view. It freed Kage from a lot of bootless worrying over the weather; it’s not very satisfying to spend energy railing against foe that is an airmass 500 miles to a side. You can just clear your mind and curse it as you slog out of the dripping oak woods through ankle deep mud, with all your gear on your back and ice water dripping from the feather in your hat. Or when you have to live in triple digit heat at sea-bottom air pressure, until sweat is squeeeezed out of you as much as sweated. No intellectual effort required.
So, here we are in California, in this damned drought. Due to the drought, we have suffered wind storms and hideous heat and an unnaturally extended fire season – like, things have been burning all over the place for the last 12 months. And though we’re in a drought (which is not actually an abnormal condition for California, if we’re to be honest), we have still enjoyed just enough rain to soak the bald, burned hills … which leads us to mud. Some years, mud is a formal season around here – this looks like one of them.
At least the rain will be the saving of anything not already burnt to a crisp or buried in a slide. On many hills the faint green fog of wild flowers and oats is thickening now. The air is cool, the sky is high and white, so softened by haze that the evenings look deceptively clear as they darken to blue. Quite suddenly, trees are budding and putting out leaves. The wild poppies are sprouting. There are ruby leaves on the roses, amethyst bobbles on the wisteria, topaz and coral blossoms amid the chamomile and clover.
And the weather people are wildly proclaiming that rain is visible in the near future. Maybe by this weekend, and in the middle of next week, too! The middle of next week, let us never forget, is a metaphor for the never-never-reached: but it must be admitted that it looks like some rain is really on its way. Smells like it, too. If there is a sound associated with rain, it would be a faint, desperate sucking noise: and I think I can hear that as well.
So some ” … dishevelled dryad loveliness”, as Professor Tolkien said of Ithilian, will come to this Southern Garden as well. We will actually have a Spring. In honour of which, I mean to actually get up before noon tomorrow and head out to the Theodore Payne Native Plant Foundation nursery, in the aptly-named Sun Valley.
There I will get me some native California plants. Poppies, fuschia, ceanothus; diverse salvias and penstemons. Plants that will drink thriftily and spread like the wildfire on the parched hills, and colour the yard like bright glass tiles. These are the homegrown lovelies Kage taught me to love, the saloon girls and ladies of the canyons, dressed in “rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters” . Hot colour and gaudy beauties, that’s what we need.
Spring is really coming, and that’s just the kind of lady she will be.
Very minor correction: Thermocline IS a Muse here in California. We respond to her at every turn. No praying, only cursing, even in Northern California, where we are guaranteed at least one inch of rain in the current 24 hours. I think we’ve topped that already and still have several hours to go.
Thank you again, Kathleen. With your words I could smell that mud from Black Point; usually the last weekend, that one late September or early October when we’d had Just Enough of the Hot Faire and the weather cat decided to show us what she could really do. Just so we could put our props away slightly wet, dammit. The smell of wet, soggy and sagging hay bales will never leave my memory. The struggle of moving babies and granny carts through the muddy slush out to the van at the end of a tiring day, wet and cold and cranky. And the joy of knowing I’m not the only one in the village cursing Dame Weather and knowing that someday this will be one of the fondest memories I have. All it takes is a simple reminder. You do that so well!
It’s raining stair rods here in Central Jersey, and it may not stop until the middle of next week, which is when handymen, electricians and plumbers always say they maybe can fit you in.
I’m re-reading The Empress of Mars and I was struck by the fancy that Unity and Diana Mitford may have been the inspiration for the two blondes sent to grab the Heretic. They’re whom I picture, anyway.
I admit I’d never heard of the Mitford sisters before, but now, having looked them up, I’m amazed they were real – they appear to have come from a piece of badly written WWII fanfiction.
And yes, I agree they sound like they could have modeled for some of the more rigid members of the Goddess church.