Kage Baker loved a grey June.
June was her birth month; she probably would have liked it well enough had it been engaged in active vulcanism or glaciation. But the classic California June weather – soft, warm, damp, and above all, opalescent grey skies – delighted her. It was a luxury to sleep in when the sky was so dark. It was a summer idyll to wander through warm fogs in the Hollywood Hills, the vistas melting and changing at every ridge or hill slope: until you ended up in the vast seashell of the Hollywood Bowl, sitting on the silver ash wood benches with a cold Coke and a Violet Crumble*, watching the curtains of mist move in curtains stories high across the face of the white proscenium …
June in Los Angeles this year has begun in sweet overcast. It was the norm when we were young. In recent years, though, it has become instead a hot hazy lens focusing in on a July from Hell … but this year, there is hope that we will not fry for the next 3 months, and shamble into September as despairing crispy zombies. I can take heat. I just can’t spend a quarter of the year in a roasting pan.
The city is so lovely, under the pearly overcast of June. This is when the jacarandas bloom, vast clouds of a perfectly unnatural lavender exploding like slow motion fireworks through the plain green canopy of other trees. The bougainvillea blooms madly now, too, especially in the older neighborhoods where I live, close to downtown. Everywhere, white walls are effaced with enormous waterfalls of burgundy, pink, orange, white, scarlet.
Kage loved that; what she loved most of all, though, was the morning glory vines that cover downtown Los Angeles and the neighborhoods all around it. They are an especially delicious dark blue kind, and when they bloom through the bougainvillea – all that marine blue amid the beds of coals and rubies – the contrast sets up a kind of current that goes right to the pleasure centers of the soul. It did for Kage, anyway. It still does it to me. And with the rain we had this winter, the blooms of everything are so thick, they are practically audible: an undercurrent of brass and woodwinds under the sounds of the streets.
Kage vibrated to it, in a grey June. All the colours entered her eyes and then overwhelmed the auditory centers of her brain with a mad maenad hymn: then, when she rang with the vibrations of all that glory, it ran out her fingers into the stories she wrote. She always wrote like a madwoman, in a grey June. She said it was her season, and she was right.
I miss her dreadfully. I mean, I miss her all the time – that business of Time filling in the hole when someone you love dies? That’s all bullshit. But in a June like this, I miss her more than usual. I don’t mind. Any part of her in my awareness is welcome.
In a time like this one, where there is illness in my house and we are all aware that loss and sorrow are on their inevitable way, a grey June helps. The mornings are cool, and we can all sleep: even if we’ve spent the night in uneasy vigil, the whole household gets quiet when the dawn comes all pearly at the windows. The mourning doves, who are coloured like the grey clouds themselves, come and feed, and coo, and court on the porch. Roses are blooming. Fruit is ripening. The days promise peace.
I hope the promise is kept. In the meanwhile, I will eat a plum and watch the doves, and breathe in the scent of jacarandas – honey laced with musk – on the cool morning wind. And I will eat a Violet Crumble.