Kage Baker truly adored the Summer season.
It was her home season. It would have been even if she had not been born on its door step – which she was – because it was generally the longest period of calendar time she ever spent without two sweaters on. The rest of the year, it was uncommon for her to be typing furiously away, in her patented Chico Marx double-forefingered stab, with all available sleeves pulled down over her entire hands to keep warm.
Kage hated gloves. She said it was easier to type with her sweater sleeves pulled down over her knuckles. I always laughed this idea to scorn, except for those times (knitting in lace gloves, say) when I knitted myself into my needlework, and had to ask Kage to untangle me. “Ah, tatted yourself to the couch again, eh?” she would say at Dickens, deftly unstitching my gloves in her character as Mrs. Drum. “Ah, the old Master always told ye to be more careful with the needles, he did!”
“Please be still and do hurry up, Drum,” I would say with as much dignity as I could muster. And Kage would snicker audibly and ply me with all sorts of homely advice in an accent that veered between Devon and Yorkshire, to the amusement of the audience.
That never happened in the summer. All Kage had to do then was save me from the sudden attacks of Harry, who harbours a lasting desire to grab my knitting and wreak havoc on it. Luckily, Harry could be distracted by plums, cherries, pizza, and cocktail umbrellas, all of which were in ample supply around Kage in summer. We bought cocktail umbrellas in bulk, so it was not a tragedy to buy the parrot off with nice little pastel parasol, and watch him scamper about with it like a demented green geisha.
The only thing Kage held against Summer was that that the weather could be – well, boring. She was a native Californio; her summers, from infancy on, were long hot seasons glowing with heat. The sky was blue. The earth was brown. The grass was gold. The only colour in the sky was a few pink stripes at dawn and a god’s forge in the West at sunset.
Lately, though, what with climate change and the fact that people in California don’t remember the weather from one year to the next, the weather has been more interesting. This year, the fire season decided to run for 12 months, for example – the golden hills have been burning here and there continuously since April. There’s a good-sized fire in Yucaipa as I write this, and various small empty lots and freeway verges are burning all over the Basin.
At the same time, this year has given us not only the seasonal winter rains that saved our municipal arse, but showers have just kept on rolling through the area. Actual rain! Most of them are thunder storms in the hills; which, since those hills also burned last year, are now debouching major floods into normally parched areas like Acton and Devore and Riverside.
In fact, fires and floods are presently happening simultaneously at both ends of the 210 freeway. That is, one end is burning and one end is flooding. Berms have been cut away from the edges of the Metro train tracks, leaving the silver railways hanging nearly unsuspended and completely useless. Yucaipa is on fire and evacuating. And water mains continue to break here and there in the metropolis proper, turning streets in Palms, Brentwood and Sherman Oaks into spouting rivers.
Being a homebody these days, I watch the chaos on the news and cheer all the brave first responders impartially. And while I do rather wish some of the thunder storms would decide to rain on me here on the edge of Griffith Park, I don’t really mind missing the fires, the smoke, the exploding water mains and electrical vaults, the burning palm trees levin-struck by the lightning … if I want more excitement, I can always walk a few blocks down to the L.A. River bank, and watch the cottonwood trees drown in the run-off from the hills.
It’s 90 degrees here, and the River is rising …
But the sun has gone down in glory, and there are brilliant summer stars out now, between the fog from the sea and the thunder heads from the desert. Thanks to a lit screen and a lit keyboard, I can sit here in the dark and type in some comfort. But for now, Dear Readers, I am going to go read a wonderful article on the arrival of human beings in Australia 65,000 years ago. I think it will activate some real writing …
Now’s the best time to work, in the summer darkness. Moths and stories are battering softly at the screens.
And that was also why it was Kage’s favourite season.
You make this so vivid, hanging in time, today and yesterday.