“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of 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.” — Raymond Chandler, “Red Wind”
Aunt Annette and Uncle Paul in Chicopee, Massachusetts, still don’t have power on after that freak snowstorm blindsided the East Coast in late October. Here in Los Angeles nothing so devastating has occurred weatherwise, but this morning the Santa Ana winds did arrive, making this the kind of day where ions are so active and static electricity so intense you don’t dare pet a cat. Our house is divided over these seasonal winds, with the breakdown in approval/disapproval generally falling along skin types. Oily skins love it. The sailor in the house loves it. And robust nervous systems usually have no quarrel with these winds blowing out of the cooling high deserts, but the Santa Anas have been notoriously to blame for all manner of calamities and crimes, as Joan Didion explains in this quote from “Los Angeles Notebook.”
“Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.â€
Kate Braverman in “Lithium for Medea” also finds the winds menacing:
“The Santa Ana winds were blasting through the streets, bristling and smelling of desert, of white sunlight, of sharp, wiry plants and white rock…A hot madness was enclosing the city.”
Doomsday literature aside, really, if you keep the lip balm handy, you’ll be fine.
(Brought to you by that imperturbable weather girl, Evie the cat.)
How did Joan Didion’s brilliant but oppressing literature end up dictating the tragedies in her life ? I remember arguing with a friend at least 25 years ago that she was professionally depressed and pretentious; pretty sure we finished off a couple of bottles of wine and god knows what else in this spirited discussion. I feel guilty now about my judgmental rant.
We had a Santa Ana experience here yesterday, though it was mildly warm, not hot. The wind was coming off the desert–this is so rare here that people who didn’t grow up down south don’t know what to make of it. My Miscathus was bent sideways and my pop-up greenhouse flew into the back yard,taking wing like Sister Bertrile.
Ray was right about the skin itching. I love the dryness of the Santa Ana heat, though. It has a purity heat does not possess in July.
Kathy, Didion’s got a new book out and there’s lots of print spilled on her lately, which must be why she’s on my mind.
Hoov, supposedly rain is coming. Huzzah!