My brother-in-law visited for the weekend. He brought with him from out of the Sierras a small stack of nicely-split oak, and I had bought some as well. Our custom is to have an evening warming fire. Winter or summer, we build these wonderful piles of flame beside my house when the sky goes black. We listen to the fire snapping and sparking. On the more lucky nights we might see a display of meteors. A couple of arm loads of the oak should burn two hours. Then the flames quickly drop off and we are left with the glowing coals, which also provide an array of heat and warmth for most of another hour. We then pull the old Adirondacks a little closer to the pit and look down in more directly to get the advantage of the rising hot air. We discuss whether to throw on an extra log and allow the sacred source of heat to continue for an hour, but he has had a week of working hard and is yawning.
The weather people have been saying for several days that large waves will be hitting central California, and a big-wave contest up the coast in Half Moon Bay is scheduled. Warmth and waves and Martin Luther King’s holiday all coming together at once will draw the crowds from their winter television slumber. As we drive through town to get to a beach where my brother-in-law’s dog may run free from leash and dive for frisbees, we notice a lot of pro football fans are eager to honk or talk through their car windows about the status of the big game between San Francisco and Atlanta. I’m not much of a fan of football, or any sport, except for surfing, so I find the enthusiasm of the fans to be more interesting than the progress of the game. All year, strangers stopped at traffic lights ignore one another, but today they either mourn or shout with unlugubrious glee as the radio announcer they happen to listen to fills them with the excitement of the game.
My brother-in-law left last night for home. Today, King’s birthday, and Obama’s inauguration, the winter warmth has clung on, and that is what fills me with excitement. I can be outdoors to let my skin see the sun. I’ll take a long walk on the hard-packed sand to a certain redwood log that washed ashore and up against the sandstone cliffs many years ago. There I might read for an hour. I suppose that in many parts of the country this day would not be considered winter.