May Grey, June Gloom

Kage Baker loved this time of year. At least, she loved the classical weather of our childhoods, when sometimes May and always June were dim and quiet under a grey sky … this is no longer a sure thing, as climate change is underscoring the desert part of sub-desert in Los Angeles; but this year, at least, it still pertains.

It’s actually rained a little, three or four times this May;  an even rarer occurrence in the LA Basin. Or maybe it’s really heavy dew. The temperature this morning was only 59, and the dew point was 57 degrees. The marine layer was breaking over the domes of the Griffith Park Observatory like ghostly waves. The front garden is wet and aromatic with it, and everything with leaves is still a fresh and vital green; the streets are slick and shining. It’s  paradisial.

There are camellias and  geraniums and roses blooming in our front yard, and the rosemary is covered in blue flowers and bees. The mulberry tree has leafed out, and and borne fat sticky black fruits as well; the birds and squirrels eat some of them, but never enough:  they’re full of seeds and peanuts instead, the little ingrates, and the porch has big purple polka dots all over it where the berries have splattered.

My xeriscaping efforts, alas, have not thrived. We planted all sorts of drought resistant plants, and they all died. The little rain we had this winter has apparently dissolved the redwood bark we laid down, and instead brought up a fine virile crop of dandelions, milkweed, wild oats, cranes bill, and a few varieties of bunch grass that are not worth the powder to blow them to Hell. They are certainly verdant, though. Tomorrow, I’m going to take Mike out and buy us a nice cordless electric lawn mower, and at least reduce it all to something that looks like a lawn. It’ll be flat and short and green, at least.

We’ll leave the roses, and spread some new bark. For all I know, the skunks are eating it and we are supplying a native animal population. Maybe we can add a few matiljja poppies, and some grama grass, or bluestem or some purple needle grass. Those are all native, and tend to be sold as larger plants. Hopefully they’ll survive. And in the meantime, we at least are not wasting precious water on a self-indulgent Beverly Hills lawn.

It looks like it will stay seasonally cool for a while, too. This was weather Kage adored. It’s been a little chillier than she liked – Salamander-woman disliked anything below 75 degrees or so. But  she loved the mild air and pearl skies, and the deep, rich perfumes that rose up everywhere as all the gardens and wild empty lots began to bloom.

We used to leave school at the end of the day, when she was a senior and I was a junior, and walk along Franklin Boulevard to Highland Avenue. Lots of magnolias along that route, smelling of lemons for blocks around; then you get into jacaranda trees blooming like psychedelic purple clouds. At Highland we’d walk North to the Hollywood Bowl, where grow things I think might be enormous, ancient ficus trees.  I don’t know. But they have silver bark and spreading green boughs, and we called them mallorns in our Tolkien-saturated teens. We’d hike up into the Bowl itself,  and watch the fog drift in curtains across the empty, echoing shell, sitting huddled on the silvered wooden benches; we’d eat Violet Crunch candy bars, and Kage would plot out the stories she would someday write.

I lost 3 shoes doing that. If I’d kept my damn shoes on instead of playing at being a barefoot elf-maid, or if I’d remembered to put them all in my book bag, I’d have had an extra pair and a half of cheap sandals by Senior year. I never remembered I’d worn shoes until one of our mothers had come at our pleading phone call to pick us up and take us home. But I’d get enthralled by the stories Kage was telling; it was pure luck I didn’t forget my school books, or my head.

Good times, man, under the ageless mist in the gleaming shell of the Bowl. Why we never kidnapped by white slavers, I will never know. Maybe the white slavers were too smart to be out in the cold in the empty Hollywood Bowl.

I must try to get back up there though, before June Gloom burns away entirely and leaves us to broil under the summer sun of July. Dreams and memories wander there, and some of them are mine. I could use a visit with some of those …





About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to May Grey, June Gloom

  1. Luisa Puig says:

    Ah, fine memories of Los Angeles, Hollywood Hills, and the late spring essences of our mutual childhood. Great times, indeed, Kathleen. Thanks for sending the memory aromas my way.


    • Kate says:

      The wonderful way the grey air smells is so sweet …. I could find my way through the Hollywood Hills by the perfumes of the trees and wild flowers. Or could once. And probably could now again, I bet, with the amount of nostalgia I feel these days!


  2. Kara says:

    My great-grandmother was firm in her belief that all white slave traders hung out in movie theaters, ready with needles full of knock-out drugs to plunge into my young grandmother’s arm if ever she /dared/ go to the movies by herself, so she would say you were safe enough in the Hollywood Hills.


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