Kage Baker was a devoted believer in running away.
She abhorred violent interaction of any kind. She was rendered tongue-tied and incoherent by arguments, and was terrified by any threat of physical roughness. “I go tharn,” she would say, comparing her own panic to the deep, paralytic terror experienced by the rabbits in Watership Down.
Was she brave? Well, I think she was – because I knew how angry words and deeds rendered her helpless, and yet she would try and get through them if she had to. And she would defend others. The only times, in fact, I ever saw her take up a quarrel, it was to defend someone who was even more badly stricken than she was herself. (On one or two memorable occasions, that was me. So I understood, and was always prepared to be her bodyguard.) Sometimes the bravest choice is to refrain from everything and scarper for the border.
It’s why Kage seldom watched the news, or read a newspaper; it’s why she never joined Facebook, where so much bad news and loud fights frame one’s daily nods and waves to friends … there is always someone posting disaster or scandal, gloating over someone else’s misery, calling people ugly names. There aren’t enough kittens and rainbows and good jokes to drown out the ghouls’ cackling. Sometimes you can’t keep them out at all, and then it’s time to Run Away! Run Away!
So tomorrow I shall rise early, turn widdershins in the face of the rising sun, and drive away. The Road of the Weird calls to me, and at its end – solitude and silence in a green garden, where the sea mist comes in of an evening and the late sunlight is a thousand years older than here in this stone city. The desert is breathing much too hard and hot over my shoulder. Fiery manias are festering across the aether. I need to be someplace quieter for a little while.
Also, 10 or 20 degrees cooler than here. The longer it stays hot, the more ill I become; so I need to escape somewhere where it’s just not quite as hot. That means heading North, and settling somewhere near the sea for a few days. I’m enormously fortunate in that I have some friends with a well-located little house and garden – they are off for a trip to somewhere even niftier for a few days, so I have volunteered to guard their house and keep their cat company.
It’s the most selfish act imaginable, my running off to a brief hermitage. The Irish, who took to Christianity with a notably manic enthusiasm, called hermiting The Green Martyrdom – you dedicated yourself to God’s service by going off and living alone with Him in some forested pied et terre. Their beehive cells of stone and lime always stood alone in the green silent woods, and there you gave your life to God as to a lover … an idea that made Kage wistful and a little jealous. It’s something she yearned for more and more as the years went on; I suspect she may have had to make a serious decision somewhere along the line, weighing a life of silence with God whispering in her ear against the joys of rum, writing and her Muse.
I don’t know what Kage would have chosen. We used to talk about it, but she never figured out the choice, either. Both God and her Muse were kind, to take the decision out of her hands before it interfered with her work.
Me, I’ve got no such dichotomy of desires. I have a ton of stuff to do, and no time to be bored – there are stories to tell, and books to read, and textiles to craft; and what solitude I need – and I do! – is always available. I can either stay up later than everyone else in the house, or take off driving: and voila! I have my own pellucid bubble and can float away like Glinda over the noisy, busy hills of Munchkinland …
So I’m off to the Northern lands tomorrow, off to the Summer Country where frost always floats like a glassy oxymoron over the golden hills. I’ll toss a few pearly pebbles at Facebook from time to time, just to see if the quarrelsome murk will clear; and I’ll write. And write. And write.
It’s not God I am hoping to hear.