REGALOS

I’m watching snow come down in this early Tuesday morning and feeling like the luckiest person alive. Outside even the squirrels aren’t swinging away at the birdfeeders, and the birds too have decided to sleep late. A hawk flew high over the trees before, finding no breakfast here; otherwise it’s motionless except for snowflakes raining down on the white ground.

The ground is white here, a friend told me on the phone on Sunday, white with ash.

She was talking about Santa Barbara, where I’d hoped to have vacation this week. Bernie and I had lived there for over 2 years, in a compound of several homes that once belonged to the Beach Boys. When yoga teachers tell me to imagine a place of peace, beauty, and refuge, our home in Santa Barbara always comes to mind, and specifically sitting on a white Adirondack chair right at cliff’s edge, looking down at the Pacific Ocean, spotting dolphins and whales as they make their way between our beach and the Channel Islands.

There’s a piece of home that Santa Barbara alone captures for me, the piece that says you are enough, the world is enough, you are given this beauty not because you worked hard to deserve it, but just because.

Not this time, because of the fires.

You can’t sit outside anywhere without a mask, she told me. So I imagined myself sitting on the white chairs wearing a mask, breathing in the ash, smoke and particles (they get into your nose one way or another, she warned), looking out to sea, and thought it would make for a funny photo. Behind me I wouldn’t be able to see the mountains because of the smoke, and the haze would descend all the way down to the water, so even the fish wouldn’t surface.

I stayed here. Canceled all the wonderful people who enrolled to help out here at the house while I was gone, and stayed here, where it’s snowing and silent. Nothing moves.

Regalos, I think, is the Spanish word for gifts. I’m teaching myself Spanish using the Pimsleur courses that you can download from the Web. But I keep on forgetting that word though it seems to appear in every leccion. I get the vowels mixed up. Regalos, I repeat over and over again.

Bernie is sleeping late today, and why not? It’s a snow date; schools are closed. It’ll be just the two of us, along with Stanley, who, after breakfast, is also sleeping, not stirring even once by my desk.

These things are unbelievably precious to you at two periods of your life: When you’re a kid and schools are closed, and when you’re much older. The first because you’re going to run out and build a snowman; the second because you’re missing snow even as it falls.