“There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio passes, blowing up sandstorms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to the flash point.”
– Joan Didion, “Los Angeles Notebook.”
I am not a fearful person, but there is something ominous about the Santa Ana winds. Lying in the darkness, listening to them howl, trying without success to keep the curtains flailing about the room from disturbing a good night’s sleep. In essence, they are predictable hot and dry winds that blow through each autumn, but they seem to be more. They inspire authors and lyricists.¹ Some call them the devil winds.
In a word, they threaten. They famously threaten to spread a catastrophic wildfire across the parched region, but they also threaten to rearrange your house, deck, yard, and day; fell trees; nudge cars from lane to lane; and even produce a bad hair day or so I’ve been told.
I don’t care for them. I don’t like anything that threatens to disrupt order.
I’m not a big fan of helplessness either, and the Santa Ana winds are rather difficult to punch in the face. Or, easy, but it doesn’t seem to have much effect. The winds are the outlaw bandits blowing into town to wreak havoc on the village, and you are the cowering villagers, hoping behind barricaded doors for a fearless sheriff or The Magnificent Seven.
Okay, a little melodramatic, sure, but in the middle of the night when the winds howl, the apprehension is real.
And yet, even this is good.
I am not a fan of helplessness or disruption (in fact, I have a teensy control problem), and yet in so many ways I am helpless, and disruption is inevitable. The Santa Ana winds remind me of these truths and teach me to trust and stand fast and bend with the breeze and endure.
John Ruskin put it best: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
¹ In between the Star of David and the California moon
The Santa Ana winds blew warm into your room
– Elton John, Mansfield