The Santa Anas are blowing. The devil winds.
Chandler wrote of them: “those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.”
Whoever first spoke of an ill wind must have been from Los Angeles. We all knew they were coming, bearing down from behind. The newsmen and weathermen – because the Santa Anas are both – warned us. Still the hair on the back of my neck prickled last night when I walked alone to my car in the dark, started the engine and watched as a stream of dry leaves, plastic bags and discarded trash blew in a straight line, hard and fast like they were caught in an invisible and rushing river of air, toward some faraway vanishing point I could not see.
The devil winds.
They are merciless. Hot and dry and ferocious. A reminder that, for all our ocean views and lawn sprinklers, we live pressed up against a vast and unforgiving desert that, like a living organism, can be stirred to anger. These are the winds that prep miles and miles of brush land for fire, fire that will take men from all the western states together to put out, fire that will create plumes of smoke visible to satellites.
And there’s nothing to do but wait and listen to them blow.
On the dark drive, leaves and trash whipped across the road in front of my headlights portending a mighty storm that will not ever come. Just more wind. Hot, crackly, electric wind. Finally home, I sat still in the living room as the lights and the computers and the microwave all switched themselves off and then on, off and then on, the winds enough to cause breaks in the electric service. Off and then on. Off and then on. Like a horror movie’s atmospheric trick.
The devil winds.