Kage Baker said she saw each year as a dead end.
Not a waste of time – she worked hard to make sure every year was packed to bursting-full of work, meaning and consequence. Succeeded, too.
No, she simply envisioned the calendar year in physical-wise such that it ended in a bit of broken sidewalk every December 31st. I have old, old drawings of it … an empty bit of pavement, young trees colonizing the edges; battered pillars and roofless colonnades surrounding it. It looked a lot like the ruins of hotels and mansions we used to explore in the Hollywood Hills, when we were feckless teenagers (and there were ruins in the Hollywood Hills). Sometimes she drew herself on the edges, arm around a broken pillar, staring out at where the hillside took over the street … usually wearing jeans, a blue velvet smoking jacket, and bat wings. I don’t know why.
But although her self-image shed the night creature gear as adolescence wore off, Kage still envisioned the end of the year as a place where the street – just – stopped. And where there was a gap, a patch of wilderness and haunted woods, before the next tidy enumeration of the year began. She admired the Aztecs, who incorporated such gaps in to their calendars on purpose; she found the methods of Western calendars a little slip-shod.
Consequently, she liked the week between Christmas and New Year’s to be as quiet as possible. It was a stopping place on a long road; a place where you laid up, hid out, did your laundry, darned your socks and re-provisioned for the next leg of the journey. It never even entered her mind, I think, to retire from the road altogether: not of her own free will. Kage was a determined traveller.
But that untrammeled emptiness between Year’s End and Year’s Beginning did intrigue her. She always thought she could see figures off in the ground-fog between the trees, beckoning (and, as she usually added, grinning, Some of them with their hands! ) … When she finally did depart, at the end of a January, I rather think she was heading out between the trees to see who had been calling so long. Someone out there clearly was offering her a dance …
Anyway. Here we are again, at the tag end of another year. I don’t see any part of the year as a paved road; the whole thing is a series of clearings for me, variously lit and decorated, in the general universal sea of trees. Sometimes, I think I even miss a clearing or two along the way … I don’t mind. I like it among the trees. But from the long blue-and-silver lit ballroom of December, I can look across to the rain-and-frost-grey stone paving of January. In a day or two, I’ll just step off the tinsel and onto the stone, and a new year will begin.
But in the meantime …
As some of you must have noticed, Dear Readers, last night Word Press enlivened my winding down by devouring the post I had planned. This isn’t it … but I did mean to mention that I had gotten a wonderful Christmas present! It’s a plaque of Mars, showing the hemisphere around the Tharsis Bulge, with Olympus Mons nicely displayed and the Chaotic Lands beginning down toward the South Pole.
It has a few little pinpricks of light to approximate the locations of rovers, and since it is in mild bas relief, the bump of Olympus Mons catches the light as well. And it has a timer! You can turn on a light inside to illuminate, and it will glow martially (he he he) for 30 minutes and then go off automatically. So I went to sleep last night imagining I was looking at the lights of the Empress, up there in Mars 2. Tres nifty.
A good vision on which to end and begin a year, I think. Evocative. Stirring. Hopefully productive.
We all have our images of the year, eh? What happens in our heads is no closer to reality than what we imagine in the distance of the real world.
But it’s no further away, either.