Kage Baker lived an enchanted life. I really believe she did, as her luck was astonishing.
Some of that is attributable to her having a will of iron and refusing to cooperate with the daily ration of shit the Universe delivers to all of us. She simply wasn’t having any of that, and would go on her way in pursuit of goals that would have seemed totally impossible to most people. I know, because 1) they seemed impossible to me, and I was there; and 2) she accomplished them anyway.
Kage wanted to be a writer. She succeeded at this task. This is a much larger victory than most people realize, though all writers will realize the enormity of the triumph. Even if you, as a writer, are satisfied with just being a private, domestic writer – one who, like Emily Dickinson, writes for your own self and never sees a public sale or audience – the strength and discipline required to actually write all that stuff is heroic. Many try; few succeed, even in their private journals.
Further, Kage wanted to be a published writer. This, despite the historically growing ranks of the literate throughout Time, remains one of the largest, harshest, most unfairly rigged lotteries on Earth. But that never gave Kage a moment’s pause. It was what she intended to do. And she did it. And so strong was her intent, that I am still getting things published on the mere strength of her name.
I don’t dare stop. Some vital escapement on the gears of Time will probably fly off into starry infinity, and cause the Universe to dissolve into turkey gravy, or something …
Kage wanted to make her living at home, writing. She might have waited until she retired, but no – she wanted to do it while she was still in those years which her staunchly middle-class upbringing told her were the years to make your way. So she did. She moved someplace where it was cheaper to live, she built her entire working day around the production of her craft, and she worked as steadily at that as she ever did administering insurance or selling ad space (both of which she did with great success). By the time she died, she had been making more writing than at any other job she had ever held, and did so at her beloved oaken desk looking at the sea from her front room window …
Had Kage beaten the cancer, she’d have been supporting me too within a year or so.
That’s one of the reasons I retired early and took up her work. She made me promise to do so, of course, which would have been enough – but she had demonstrably so overpowered Fate with the sheer energy of her will, that I have had no reason to ever think it would not continue to work. That undoubtedly has more than a small helping o my own hubris in it; but you know? It’s been pretty much working …
The only problem has been the collapse of my health. After more than half a century of fairly robust life, my body fell apart like the One Hoss Shay* once Kage was gone. It’s made doing anything and everything somewhat harder than I had anticipated. But I soldier on …
At the moment, just as I was poised to resume Dickens Fair with all the vigor and enthusiasm of youth – I have been firmly reminded that I no longer on the positive side of that ledger. Right now, I am at home – still – and will be so for this weekend as well. I am fighting pneumonia; so far, I am winning, but if I go dashing off, I likely will lose that battle. Probably my family will kill me, too, if I do something so stupid.
I hate this. I had a crying fit this morning when I realized I was not going to be able to go North; that was especially idiotic, since I was then nearly drowned by my streaming eyes and nose, and just about coughed my lungs out, too. But, Dear Readers, it is the ultimate bummer to embark on Extreme Christmas, to set out on the glorious starry Road of the Weird, and then to be jerked up short by the failures of the flesh. MY flesh, anyway; I could forgive other people, but it’s my own damned body that has betrayed me.
This is not acceptable.
So I’m not accepting it. Kage never accepted all the common sense strictures that said she would never succeed at her goals: she just kept on working until she Did It. While I am not driving North (Kimberly would hide my keys, I suspect), neither am I giving up, There is still Last Weekend after this one – a new goal at which to aim my will and desire.
And in the meantime, there is the writing. There is always the writing.
And that’s the other thing Kage taught me about never giving up. If you never give up on The Work, The Work stays dependable. And that is all that matters.
- If you have never read “The Deacon’s Masterpiece; or, The Wonderful One Hoss Shay”, by Oliver Wendell Holmes – first, shame on you! Second, go read it here: https://www.legallanguage.com/resources/poems/onehossshay/