Wind-Blown Sand Near Keeler, CA
It’s the end of the week, and I feel like a poem. I have this slim Everyman volume entitled Poems of the American West , selected and edited by Robert Mezey. The poem entitled “Sonora Wind,” written by Arizona poet Richard Shelton, also described those horrible Santa Ana winds that sweep through Los Angeles from the vastness of the desert.
Nobody can stop this dry wind,
this disaster of a wind. Nobody
can heal it, soothe it, send it on.
It remains. Has it nowhere else
to go? Has it been forbidden
to return to where it came from?
It is driving us mad with the sound
of a wound torn open again
and again. It can bend us down
as it bends the greasewood.
It can desiccate our minds.
It screams at us with the voice
of a raging mute who has no words
to tell his pain. When we begin
to scream in return, it rips
the words from our mouths,
replacing them with sand, the taste
of all the evil ever done to us
by those who died before we could
tell them how much we hated them.
The month of January is Southern California’s rainiest month. Usually. But not this year. So far, we have been treated to an endless round of Santa Ana winds and low humidity (around 10%). Right now, it’s about 85° Fahrenheit (that’s about 30° Celsius). If the temperature didn’t drop sharply at night, we would all be sweltering.
I just got back from lunch. The heat in this arid weather isn’t quite so uncomfortable as the laserlike light of the sun. It makes me wish I wore my baseball hat or some other brimmed headgear to protect my eyes. Although I wear photo optic glasses, they don’t provide sufficient protection from the sun’s fierceness. Years ago, I used to have super-dark prescription sunglasses. I’m beginning to think I should see my optometrist for another pair of those.
The Dread Santa Ana Winds Are Blowing
Generally speaking, the western beaches of Los Angeles have the cleanest air in Southern California—except when the Santa Ana Winds are blowing. A high pressure area parked over Nevada and Utah is sending winds from east to west (the opposite of the usual direction) and blowing all the pollution of the Los Angeles area out to sea. Today, the temperature was around 90° F (33° C) with a brown horizon and smog over the sands of Santa Monica Bay.
Although we get some of our hottest weather this time of year, our only salvation is that sundown comes much earlier. Throughout the month of October, each day is approximately two minutes shorter than the one before it. That’s two minutes of intense sunshine in the bone-dry air that is not beating down on the uninsulated roof of our second-floor apartment, which was built almost seventy years ago. Another nice thing about sundown is that all the blowing dust in the air makes for occasional beautiful sunsets.
Also, around October the mercury drops down to about 60° F (16° C) at night, so the apartment cools down earlier. During the humidity of July, with its long days, it frequently doesn’t cool down until 3 am, if at all.
The Santa Ana Winds are also noted for virulent brush fires that spread uncontrollably through the hills and mountains surrounding the L.A. Basin. Right now, the wind is blowing around 20 miles per hour, which is approximately 9 meters a second. With some luck, we’ll get through this period without having the San Gabriels and Santa Monica Mountains erupt in flames.