Kage Baker was much interested by time. She studied it, she speculated on it, she wrote stories about it in (I think) an attempt to corner it with sympathetic magic. She used all the resources at her command to maintain the present and corral the past. She was particularly fascinated by the passage of time.
Well, to be more accurate, she was more usually enraged by it. If it had had the courtesy to simply pass, like the wind, she could have borne the occasional blown-out candle and blown-down branch that littered her life. But it is instead a repeating tide, a relentless tidal bore that sweeps inland and bears away all the treasures of careful fields and gardens into chaos and wilderness.
Kage couldn’t bear that.
Hence her intense recreation of things she loved, in her books. If something had ever pleased her, amused her, caught her eye or her fancy or some breathless adoration from her soul – she made it immortal in a story. These additions were often so small and subtle they meant nothing special to the reader – unless the reader had also been there when whatever-it-was engrained itself on Kage’s mind. But a thousand tiny shiny bits go to make up a mosaic; when the artist is done, you don’t see the sources they used, you see what they made from them instead.
Green glass from a spring tide on a northern beach, found laid like exotic eggs in a nest of deep water-kelp. Fragments of blue enamel from an an abandoned garden bench. Red bits from some wild grass that looks like oats until it miraculously sets seeds like chips of ruby. Mirrors cut from foil chocolate wrappers, and sticks of gum, and polished chrome plucked from the gutter where someone’s fender fell off.
You don’t see those sources in the finished project, Dear Readers. Unless, like me, you were there when Kage’s gaze fixed on them and the fire in her eyes leapt up, that meant the Storyteller had woken: and then you had to find a bag or a box or donate your pockets to carry all the glittering plunder home. Those moments are part of what I am trying to share here, to keep alive the way Kage did it herself. Tell a story and hope it sinks into someone’s mind, and in the meantime take some contentment from knowing you at least wrote it all down …
Of course, memory itself – though it was her servant and playmate – was not enough for Kage. And that was why she was also a skilled and ruthless patron of EBay, Amazon, The Vermont Country Store and old book merchants. When Kage found she could buy back a lot that had vanished from her personal past … well, she didn’t go nuts, because it was all much more careful and thought-out than a mere mania. But she brought the full force of her research skills and OCD energy to the hunt.
She found amazing things. Somewhere, someone – several someones – had saved Beistle paper decorations in perfect condition for every holiday on the calendar: Kage got them all. Not just the scratch cats and pumpkins she had loved – oh no, life-sized skeletons, polychrome witches in embroidered gowns, every avatar of Thanksgiving and Christmas imaginable. New Year’s cats and foxes, in tops hats and monocles.
Books she loved and lost as a child; candies, ditto. Buying candies on EBay is, of course, insanely risky – but Kage managed to find small companies that were making old candies fresh and new! Or could be bullied into it by a determined letter campaign. The letter campaigns were especially successful in getting someone to manufacture something everyone in the world had loved. It’s why I am still able to wash my hair with cloned Herbal Essence Shampoo – the good stuff, the green one that smells like a rain-wet garden.
Following her example, I timidly reached out into the aether this week to see if I could assuage a sudden, irrational craving. Do you, Dear Readers, remember Moon Pies? Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and banana. (But the banana was vile, and tasted like recycled Nyarlathotep.) The inside crust was made of some weirdly wonderful hybrid of shortbread and graham crackers, and the marshmallow was divine.
Sometimes you can find them, singly or as miniatures or in the loathly banana flavour. And probably stale. I despaired! But then I went hunting … What I now happily possess is 23 fresh, chocolate, full-sized double Moon Pies. There were 24 when I sat down to write this, but – you know.
Memory is sweet. And it tastes like Moon Pies …