Marking The Place

Kage Baker was an anxious user of bookmarks.

She said she could never remember where she was in a book, or a movie, or a story. She’d use anything that came to hand as a marker – Post-It Notes, hair ribbons, popsickle sticks, parrot feathers … you could often tell what else she was doing while reading a given volume by which concert ticket or candy wrapper remained fossilized in the pages.

She hated turning down page corners, though, and often yelled at me for doing so – not that I did that very often. I seldom put a book down long enough to need a bookmark; and I could easily memorize the page number where I last ended. But Kage forgot so little of everything she heard or saw, that it was harder for her to recall where in a narrative she’d ended – hence the use of pens, earrings, flowers, ribbons and occasional onion rings to mark her place.

Our books were awfully lived in …

When movies and music began to exist in formats like tape and magnetic ink, she learned to note playing time marks. I was astounded, as it was a mathematical usage none of her teachers would ever have expected to see. But Kage didn’t use those numerals as actual mathematics – she used them as coded markers, that was all; eldritch symbols that meant where to pick up the action when the right marks rolled into view. Like cherries and diamonds on slot machines. Kage left the timing marks on sticky notes stuck to tape and CS cases, and matched them up with all the functional dyslexia of an archeologist who cannot read the pictographs she is nonetheless capable of identifying.

She actually had to stop and translate what the numbers meant before she could tell how long a given track was on a record she was recording to tape or disk. I know this for a fact, because I asked her. Even I had trouble believing she didn’t think about how many minutes the numbers meant, but she just shrugged and said:  It doesn’t matter how long it runs! I just need to know where it starts and stops.

Which is not a system most of us can use, but Kage could. And that was all that mattered.

I find, myself, that I don’t need to mark where I am in writing. I’m trying to resume it now, after the long dark travail of March – and I’ve no doubt at all where I am, in the half dozen projects I’m pursuing. However – I do know that it’s only 7 minutes until the next 24 hours starts, and I need to get a blog in to keep my own tally running in a way that satisfies me.

Hence this little diversion on marking spaces, marking places, keeping time and rhythm. You, Dear Readers, are my bookmark.

Thank you.

And now, back to work.


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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