Kage Baker was a fervent Californian. She was born here.
I suspect she’d have been fervent about wherever she had happened to be born – she was strongly attached to her native earth, and felt she owed it to her corporeal origins to be cognisant with its history. She learned the lore, she memorized the legends, she scouted out and became intimate with the local landmarks.
And she did the same thing for all the places we lived after we left Los Angeles: new maps and neighborhood libraries were magnets for Kage. Within a few months of a move, she knew more about the history of a place than most of its native-born. She’d correct them when conversational errors and mispronunciations came up, too; which was a habit she strove mightily to correct, out of sheer courtesy.
But you can’t always tell what the weird local dialect may have done to a word you learned how to pronounce from formal research. In San Luis Obispo, for example, near where we lived for 20-odd happy years, they all pronounce it as “San Louis” – as if they lived in Missouri. And there is a main street called Higuera. Being born in Los Angeles and having a working acquaintance with Spanish, we pronounced it “Eegwarah” – and people giggled, and corrected us. In SLO, even the native Spanish speakers pronounced that street “HIgeereh”. I don’t think anyone even knew why; or cared, for that matter. We amended our ways. In public, anyway.
No matter where we lived, though, Kage was a defender of California’s seasons. Those of you, Dear Readers, who are also Californians may have never thought of whether we have seasons or not. Those of you who do not live here have probably never given it much thought, either. But you still probably hold to the idea held by the United States East of the Rockies: that California has no seasons.
At best, it’s often held that we have artificial seasons here. Things with funny and derogatory names, like “Fire, Riot, Drought, and Earthquake”. Things named after sports teams or natural disasters, meant to bring a scornful smile to the faces of those hardy souls who deal with REAL WEATHER. Apparently, REAL WEATHER means anything that only happens somewhere that isn’t California – but the truth is, we have all that damned REAL WEATHER somewhere in our state, as well as our own special versions of it.
In California, you can go surfing in the morning, and then drive up to the snow before the Pacific even dries completely in your hair. You can ski in your bathing suit, if you’re really crazy; some years, as late as June or July. You can play Polar Bear in icy water on New Year’s Day; or have a barbecue in the back yard, depending on where you live. There are dunes, swamps, mountains, valleys, crop lands and wilderness. We have dozens of volcanoes and cinder cones, and three of them are considered both active and high threat. We can go 5 years at a time without rain, and then get it for 5 months straight, and then catch on fire for another 4 months – and we’ll still grow most of the nation’s salad while all that is happening.
Kage was proud of it all – its ferocity, its variety, its frequent batshit craziness. We once drove all night and for more than 500 miles through one single thunderstorm, complete with water spouts off the coast and a funnel cloud in the San Joaquin Valley. We danced in the streets in 80-degree winter nights, and in sudden, cold summer hail storms. (We were once young, and usually poor; you dance where you can, then.) Pismo Beach was subject to micro-bursts: intensely local dry tornadoes, that swept across the town taking roofs, kayaks, lawn furniture and the occasional domestic animal.
We have it all, Dear Readers. Whether we want it or not.
Right now, the summer is actually winding down. That doesn’t always mean things get cooler right away, and in fact the last fortnight has been the hottest of the yearBut the Autumnal Equinox is in a week, and the texture of the light is changing even if the temperature is not (yet). It’s getting that crystalline look that means there is ice in the upper air. Fog and clouds are blowing in and out all day, making their last bows before Fall clears the atmosphere. Such plants as shed or change their leaves are beginning to do so; some are setting fruit, or going comatose, or disappearing completely – they will appear next Spring, just in time to get in the way of the first lawn mower of the year.
Halloween always has about a 50/50 chance to either broil or drown us.
We’ve been able to turn off the A/C at night lately, and just leave the fans on. We open all the windows, and the sweet night air fills the house while we sleep. I do get woken up from time to time by crunching from the open windows on the porch, but it’s only the skunks and raccoons raiding the bird and squirrel food. I don’t mind the night shift, even when they squeak and squeal and dance on the lawn; they are the least intrusive of the neighbors, unless the wildcats and coyotes try to eat someone … and even that is better than bad karaoke at 2 AM.
Soon, I hope to sleep under a blanket again.
I can feel Autumn slowing the Year Wheel, the drag of all that summer growth gradually stopping the seasons’ rush for a moment of equipoise. There are quiet moments in every dance, and now we are just upon point of briefly standing still. We will catch our breath and trade partners before we fling ourselves into the long night of winter.
If you listen, you can hear the music slow. If you dance with the seasons, you will catch them in their pavane and move with the rhythm of the year. There is one, Dear Readers, and not one marked with sports ball or natural disasters.
Even in California.