Kage Baker loved the light of autumn.
She loved light in general, being a thoroughly solar person. But all seasons have their own palettes, of course. Her favourite season was Summer, but her favourite seasonal light was Fall’s.
Northern light, she called it; because, in her opinion, the light always looked like that in Northern California – it had a visual chill, a sharpness and a formality that reminded her of the aging year. Kage theorized it might be a perpetual thin layer of ice crystals, refracting all the light between Point Conception and Mount Shasta. Or maybe magic. Even if it was the middle of Summer and we were running around Northern Faire in 15 pounds of wool each, the light was chill. The air was hot, but the light was cool and crystalline. It was the light of the Summer Country.
That was what she liked about it. It made all the colours of the world more intense, and Kage lived for colour. Everything had an associated colour for her, which she usually experienced directly in one form or another. Home decorating or synesthesia, it didn’t matter to Kage as long as she was accessorized properly. If she hadn’t been so thoroughly in love with words, nothing would ever have pried her from the visual arts. But I think those visual arts she tried – water colours, murals, enameling, illuminating, DIY fireworks – all sent the wrong kind of Muse to tempt her. Classically draped ladies with archaic smiles were not Kage’s thing.
The other thing Kage especially liked about the light of Fall was that it usually happened smack on the Equinox. BOOM! And the light of the day, especially the early mornings and late afternoons, was altered. It was dependable and cooperative. Los Angeles is such a freaky place, climate-wise, that it can produce the illumination of any season at all on any day; it all depends on how much and what particulate matter is floating around.
Autumn, though, didn’t play such tricks. The Equinox appeared, doing its fouetté en tournant, and the change was made right on schedule. Even before the leaves changed (and even in Los Angeles, we have a lot of leaves that do) the angle of the sun wrought a magical change on the landscape. It was harvest light, Halloween light.
Not that this has much to do with the temperature. The Equinox was a hint that eventually the nights would cool as well as lengthen, but we still get heat waves right up through Halloween – I remember lots of Halloweens where makeup melted right off everyone’s faces. Made the candy taste funny … As a matter of fact, we’re still bouncing around in slowly cooling heat waves right now; from triple digit Venusian heat, we’re now down to a mere seasonal warmth. The nights begin to lengthen in earnest now, and will soon cool down properly.
But the light will stay, that harvest light, making the world look like ripe fields even if it’s just warm dusty concrete. By the time October ends, it will look warm in comparison to the lead and iron skies of a Southern Winter; and it will still evoke the hills that frame San Francisco Bay, long gilded slopes of wild barley and grass. Here, as soon as we get a first rain – if we get a rain at all – our own hills will go dun-grey and everything on them will be slicked down like a cheap rug. But the light on them will still be Harvest Home for a while.
And that was the light Kage loved best of all. She said it was the light for which stained glass was invented; the light that inspired beer. You can keep your snows of yestreyear, wherever it is they get to. Immortality was in the light of Autumn.
And I guess it still is. The season of spirits is coming. In the light of the Summer Country, I see their long shadows cast from the West, growing long and longer under the bronze oak trees. I know each one by their silhouettes. Even though we can no longer see one another’s eyes, they wave and I wave back; we salute, and the extended hands cover acres to meet mine. And I know who they are.
I know them by the shape of their shadows, in the late, cool, pure light.