Kage Baker regarded February as the last month of peace in any new year. It was usually the last stretch of time we had to sleep late and wander around, before our annual activities would rev up.
That’s because for, oh, 35 or 40 years, we worked Renaissance Faires. Preparations began in March – digging things out of garages, finding all one’s props, clothes, weapons, cooking implements, and pieces of seasonal domicile – and segued directly into rehearsals and construction on site. Where, due to the season, we had to deal with rain, mud, sleet, hail, snow; bogged-down cars, missing pieces of buildings, sudden droughts of screws and nails and paint, outrageous thefts of lumber and burlap and canvas, and learning all the cues and stops for a stage that travelled on wheels and had to be hauled through dirt streets …
Then we’d eventually open, and do weeks of performance in triple digit heat, living on bread, beer, and (for Kage) Coca Cola concealed in pewter pint mugs. At some point, it would end and we’d break down the set, and finally catch up briefly on the laundry.
For most of that gloriously insane time, the Season began in March for the Spring Faire. Then we did it all over again, 400 miles way in Marin County for the Harvest Faire. And that continued in the heat and perfumed dust until we were usually halfway into October and could expect to be back to freezing rain for Breakdown.
And in really crazy years, we then started Rehearsals for Dickens Fair in November. and performed until about 4 days before Christmas. Technically, at least, we were indoors: though in venues where the winter San Francisco rain leaked through the roof, and flooded in under the doors, and whistled through the broken windows in the Victoria and Albert Hall …and eventually, London too had to be packed away.
And this is why the 2-month period of January and February was Kage’s Island of Peace in an average year.
As time went on, we stopped doing the Spring Faire – it changed hands, in so odious a manner that Kage used the basic scenario as the inspiration for Empress of Mars. The Harvest Faire mutated more peacefully, but we still declined to follow it . By the time Kage retired to write full-time, though, the pattern was engraved in our DNA.
And besides, we still did Dickens Fair. Believe me, that makes for a madly busy Year End/Year Beginning! We welcomed winter quiet and solitude with paeans of gratitude.
Nowadays, I do only Dickens Fair. There are still Spring and Summer Renaissance Faires (the Spring Faire is starting its build-up right about now, I think: you can check at http://www.renfair.com/socal/, Dear Readers, if you are interested ), but they are no longer run by my friends and patrons the Pattersons, and so I don’t participate. I missed Dickens last year while evicting my kidney and breaking my ankle, but I will be back – Next Year In London! I have months to get ready for that, though.
Nonetheless, the old seasonal madness is still stirring in my blood. I have the urge to go out and start building something on the new-greening earth; I find myself salivating at fabric sales, and eyeing loads of new lumber with rising lust. I have a great longing to sit somewhere in a cold green place, on a cold lawn chair, drinking a beer that is cold only because my fingers are turning blue, as I direct the raising of the Taproom walls.
Naturally, when this fit began to creep over me, Los Angeles developed a fever and went into a ridiculous hot spell. I did what I could, sitting out on the porch in a lawn chair (for which I had to wrestle the little black cat most severely) and watching the nice young men who converted our front lawn into a xeriscaped garden. But it wasn’t quite the same …
Today, though, the clouds came in with the dawn. The temperature has dropped 30 degrees, from 91 to 61; and it’s been raining for hours! Cold rain! We had to run out front to save the garbage bins, which had all been left by the robot truck with their lids open, naturally. The redwood mulch that now surrounds the roses and rosemary and sage and lemonade berry plants is wet – and it smells like the Faire. It smells like the years and years of wood chips that went down around every Ale Stand and filled the air with the scent of incense, art and riot every day.
So I had rain sliding down the naked nape of my neck today, as I pulled heavy things through the scented mist rising off the wood chips and mulch. Man, it could have been 30 years melted away for a moment there, instead of 30 degrees of temperature.
I haven’t felt so sure of Spring in years.
We may not be able to step into the same river twice. But we can surely keep wading in over our heads somewhere.