Spring Fever

Kage Baker was the most productive person I have ever known.

Not the fastest, not the most industrious. Not the most dedicated, even; though she could and did apply a grim and implacable determination to jobs when required. That was stubbornness, and her personal refusal to ever settle for almost right or just as good. She applied the same willpower to finding the Corgi Miniature of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (from the eponymous film) as she did to finishing a novel on time.

She really only had two speeds – On and Off.  When she was switched On, nothing would slow or stop her. And when she was switched off … she was a Lotus Eater. It’s sometimes said of wild people that they “play as hard as they work.” In actual practice, it tends to mean people who are really, only, always playing: it’s always recess, and if they produce something solid, it’s a happy accident. In some people, though, it means they bring to moments of play the same irresistible force they apply to work.

Kage was like that. Fancies got the same drive applied to them as duty did. Sometimes she got up, declared the day a dead loss for writing, and turned her burning-glass energies to screwing around.  Most often, it’s true, she sat down and wrote; faster, harder, more inexorably than anyone else. But sometimes, she decided to give no shits at all, and proceeded to waste time as thoroughly as she could.

Especially in Spring.  It’s the classical season for it, after all, and Kage was very traditionally minded.

So we spent a lot of spring days lolling on the tiny terraced lawns in the near-vertical front yard of Momma’s house in the Hollywood Hills, watching the eucalyptus leaves move like schools of fish in the wind. Or under the oaks in some green valley where an English village was rising like a mirage, listening to the song of the screw guns and getting high on the scents of new grass and sawdust. Or sitting amid the silver lupine bushes in the dunes of Pismo, watching the sea change colours and shift lights all afternoon.  Wonderful days, fueled by Coca Cola and endless cups of coffee; when we were old enough (well, almost), both spiked with rum against the cold Spring winds.

It’s the perfect Spring weather right now for that kind of thing. Accomplish as little as possible, and then relax into a meditative, vegetative state … I been tempted to drive out into the hills and find some oak grove somewhere. I know where they’re even now building the Spring Faire, and I could turn up out there with a bottle of whiskey and a lawn chair and just let my brains leak out my ears while I watch the young and strong and obsessed build the village …

Sunday, I went out to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sunland, and Michael and I went plant shopping. That seemed the best compromise between being useful and being boneless. It’s an amazing place out there – they sell native California plants of all sorts, and were in fact having a poppy sale. While lots of people consider the native California poppy to be merely a decorative weed, it is in fact a splendid ground cover: it naturalizes like crazy, it self-seeds, it’s beautiful beyond description when it blooms, and it is designed to thrive in the sub-desert of Southern California. And butterflies like them.

With our current state of drought – and a front lawn that has had its grassy verdure tragically murdered by the last 2 summers – we’ve decided on native plants for the front garden. Along with poppy plants, I got several penstemon – a relatively little-known California shrub that comes in glorious colours and grows like crazy – and a big lusty ceanothus with lacquer-blue blossoms. That one will anchor part of the slope, and grow low and thick and spiky-leaved, so as to discourage rats, racoons, loose Chihuahuas and other vermin. And they’re all drought-resistant!

That was my one useful act of the last three days:  plant procuress.  All today, I have been a lay-about, reading and watching the wind rise outside, and doing nothing much. Kimberly and Michael have planted things; I have read books and petted kittens. Oh, and I’ve been tending to correspondence and such, so all of you, Dear Readers, don’t think I’ve fallen off the edge of the world again.

I’ve just got Spring fever.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to Spring Fever

  1. maggiros says:

    I’ve been wishing I could go out and sit in a lawn chair while Brigadoon rises around me, but I can’t do the walk right now. Usually these are intensive writing weekends for me, but that’s not really working this year either. So I listen to the reports as I get them, and remember the Makita whine and the smell of sawdust and burlap.


    • Kate says:

      Ah, the song of the Makita … and all the good smells of construction! And watching the sky worriedly, trying to remember anti-rain dances. I’m worried about them out there this week, and this weekend – we need the rain, but I can’t help fretting about what the heck folks out at Faire will do if it rains? I’ve got a permanent fear of the sound of rain in the middle of the night …


  2. Tom says:

    I didn’t stop at the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sunland on the way back from gathering boat bits in Simi Valley, as I had hoped, since traffic was thick and hauling the trailer behind Say Hallelujah, our little truck, was a new experience not without stress.
    Today, another great haul from the Craig’s List freebies: not laser printers, but an 85 lb aguave, one of its babies, and two colors of ‘Beans and Franks’ as some locals call them. They’ll be on one side of the yard as a Bee & Butterfly garden, with the big agave in a place of visual honor. Up the middle will be the pathway, trailer-wide and block-paved, from the gate one whole fence panel wide that will open on the alley. And in what was the Faux Finishing and Furniture Painting tent will be a baby boatyard.
    Still, I am bent and determined to get out to Sunland for some of those glories you paint so well in text. They have a place here with their Australian bottlebrush tree cousin. Tall grasses, tumbled and jumbled colors, a place for Pepper and Ducky to hide and hunt.


    • Kate says:

      Oooh, agave! Those are so wonderful. Kage loved them- not only for tequila, but the way they look when they flower. She called them wheel trees, and was always thrilled, to see that tall mast rising from a mature agave. Your baby boatyard sounds wonderful, too; you must have had good luck on the parts trip. We’re getting rather pleased with the natives we’re planting – they’re fitting in surprisingly well amid the roses we’re still hanging on to. We can hand water those … the main thing is to have colour and growing things, while paying proper attention to the conditions of the drought. It doesn’t have to be brown!


  3. Becky Miller says:

    My greatest achievement was to get the weed eater running and take down the 10 foot high grass (well, it seemed like it was that high) and then fixed the solenoid on the sprinkler. Woot. Not nearly as fun as putting up the Inn or chasing skunks out from under the platforms.


  4. Kate says:

    Weed eaters are fun. I always enjoy that sense of wholesale destruction that comes from waving my mighty sword over a patch of tall grass, and seeing it fall in droves! Of course, it’s hard to make Michael *let* me use the weed-eater these days. But, man, do I miss putting the Inn up … nothing is like that, nothing at all.


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