Kage Baker waited frantically for June each year. She lived for its arrival for lots of reasons.
School was out – an event that carried such spiritual weight for her that she still honoured it no matter how many years had passed since it had made any difference to her life. “Of course it matters!” she told me when I observed that, at 50, it was no longer the big deal it had been when she was 14. “I still notice, don’t I? Summer vacation is one of the big borders of life! There’s something fundamentally wrong with the Universe that makes it stop just as life gets interesting.”
And I guess there is. Kage was certainly not the only person I have known who still depended on the idea of summer holidays to give shape to life. She just really, really worked at it: to the point where being free all summer was a major goal of her life. It was one of the biggest reasons she worked so hard: just so she could stay at home . Self-employment meant not getting up early for work, not knowing or caring what day of the week it was, spending the whole summer in tee shirts and jeans. Kage’s goal was to spend the last 18 years of her life the same way she had spent the first 18. Being a writer was how she accomplished it. And every year when June leaped above the burning horizon of the world, Kage celebrated the return of summer vacation.
Writing was what she did on her summer vacation. It was what she did the rest of the time too, but she said it was more fun to define it that way. She was getting away with being on permanent holiday. She loved getting away with things.
Of course, June had other charms. Summer does begin during this month. Things got hot, and Kage could actually be warm for a few weeks. (Though on foggy summer nights, there were still some epic battles over the thermostat.) And of course, Kage’s birthday was in June. Sometimes the celebration for that was all of June.
But (other than being as unconstrained by routines and schedules as she could manage) what summer brought was the Silly Season. In the hot depths of summer, people get … peculiar. Monsters go wandering, UFOs buzz everywhere, men bite dogs in droves. It used to be when news agencies had so little real news that two-headed cows and the Ascended Masters of Mount Shasta appeared and made headlines. Even now, the Internet carries some crazy news every day – radioactive catfish in the cooling ponds of Chernobyl, the (mythical) carburetor that lets your car run on water, virgin births and honest politicians. But in summer … ah, in summer, even in these modern and over-informed times, it all gets even stranger.
Kage waited eagerly for this time of year, specifically to replenish her files of Weird Stuff, Uncanny Science, and General Craziness. It was one of her major sources of Story Ideas. She liked archeological finds that turned out to be customized dog skulls, or spark plugs. Living (briefly) frogs in geodes. Some English village deciding to reinforce the ancient law that said you have to wear a white wool cap on Sunday. Bugs – embarrassing bugs in computer networks, hungry bugs in Biblical hordes, mystery “space” bugs in local tomato patches. And, or course, all the bugs in people’s heads. Those were the best of all.
For instance, she always wanted to witness a UFO flap, but somehow never managed to be in the right place at the right time. Despite living in the Hollywood Hills and in Central California for most of her life, she was never resident precisely where there were Gulf Breeze-levels of flying saucers. UFOs were locally believed to be all over the Nipomo Mesa near Pismo Beach, but Kage never saw one. Though when the power went out on hot summer nights, killing our vital fans, she’d shake her fist at the sky and curse the aliens. (It was probably the extra 25,000 people in town for the summer. Though you never know. Aliens are apparently dreadfully inept pilots …)
I am still reading new books on UFOs, partly to honour the Silly Season coming in. When it gets a little warmer at nights, I’m going to sit out on the front porch and look for anomalous lights. I’m also waiting eagerly for the DNA analysis of Loch Ness to come out, so we can see if there are plesiosaurs in there. There is always the chance that Betelgeuse will go nova, which is expected to happen in the astronomical equivalent of any minute now, and would be an amazing sight. Statues may start drinking milk or weeping blood. There may be another plague of carnivorous frogs on Florida golf courses. Someone may decipher the Voynich Manuscript. Again.
In the meantime, I need to put up the mini flamingo lights at my desk. And then I think an ice cream bar is in order.
It’s summer time.
PSA: there were no possums in my house last night. I traumatized the cats, charging into the kitchen with a flashlight every time I heard crunching in the dark, but no possums. It’s what the cats get for falling down on the job, anyway.