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.