Kage Baker disliked what she called “Pollyanna stuff”. Forced cheerfulness really torqued her wa, you know?
She herself was consistently what her mother despairingly called “an unhappy little pine tree” – which meant Kage was not bubbly nor sunshiney nor any sort of cheerful Charlie at all. She did not count Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Cheerful Cherry or a single March girl among her personal heroines. Kage was, in fact, outright dour.
She did rather like Dorothy Gale of Kansas, but that was because Dorothy was a no-nonsense, practical sort of young lady. “Oh well, no help for it,” Dorothy was wont to say philosophically, while falling through the air beside a talking hen. And then she’d contrive a parachute out of her petticoats, and land on a raft in the Deadly Desert.
She believed in action rather than words – funny attitude for a writer, but whenever she could, she preferred to supplement her written effort with actual action. For one thing, she always said, “I write FICTION. I tell stories, I’m a professional liar. The heroic cyborgs are not coming to save us all. Neither are the heroic aliens, the heroic talking animals, any god you can imagine, or the United States Marines. This is real life, and we’re on our own.”
So she spent part of her money earned by telling well-written lies on the ACLU, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders; the local food banks, battered women’s shelters, no-kill animal shelters, children’s rights groups. She was a Court Child Advocate for a while. She worked at her local polling places.
And when the world was too much with her, and the local news made her want to blow someone’s brains out, she turned it all off and did something productive. Usually gardening; but if she could find a seasonal project, she’d do that. We drove out a lot to look at Halloween displays and Christmas lights; we went out to watch the shrimp boats come in (giggling about meeting the fleet), or the lights of the squid fleet shining over the midnight sea (they use spotlights for bait, you see.) We’d go out and watch kids hunting Easter Eggs, or take lilies to the local Dawn Service.
And I know these things all help the doer as well as the recipients; because I have continued to do them, and I am still alive.
Right now, like a lot of people, I am constantly under emotional siege by the idea of blowing someone’s brains out. I strive daily to break no laws, and to avoid working my way down the list to my own brains – always remember, Dear Readers, it you shoot yourself in the head it means the bastards win. At the moment, that is doing a lot to keeping me still shuffling on this mortal coil.
Christmas shopping helps – although I have to do a lot of it via the aether, which necessitates a 24-hour watch on the mailbox. Our neighborhood is suddenly plagued by package thieves, and we are tragically, temporarily dog-less. (Harry helps, though. A lot of solicitors and/or thieves will flee a screaming bird … especially one screaming Popcorn! Popcorn NOW!) I’ve lost two gifts so far, which is not helping my holiday cheer one bit. I’d order myself that shotgun I’ve been wanting, except I’m afraid it would get stolen.
However, working on the lights on the porch and the yard helps, too. My role these days is mostly supervisory (Move that tree a little to the left. LEFT. Your OTHER left!). However, this evening, Lars the Solstice Moose made his yearly debut, and I helped. As he is a very old wicker-work moose, we had to re-string his lights this year – and I actually wired lights to one half of a moose! I did an actual thing! I am useful!
I also got an email from a nice lady who is trying to find someone to let her re-print Kage’s story “The Books” for something; I was delighted to accommodate her and also to introduce her to my new agency. And as lagniappe, she informed me that she handled the acquisition of “The Queen In Yellow” for the UK Mammoth Book of Mummies. The Mammoth Book series are fantastic, and I had searched in vain for news of what had happened to that project: it vanished after Kage’s death. But it did go through, and it has been published, and soon I will have a copy. Huzzah!
And now the lights have come on outside, and Lars looks rather splendid as he poses menacingly beside the larger ice-tree. I am a moderately contented pine tree right now, feeling a little justified and harbouring a tiny coal of seasonal warmth under my breastbone. Just because I can’t get to Dickens Fair does not mean Christmas is missing me; no, nor just because the world seems to spinning to perdition even as we sing carols and hang tinsel.
After all, when do we need a season of light more than in the darkest hour? And who will light the lights – except us?
Nothing wrong with being a grumpy pine tree, as the picture book ‘Parsley’ taught me when I was little: