I know—or thought I knew—what wind, big wind, is like. Living in the mountains, I have
experienced the full force of a winter storm sweeping in across a broad ocean, no obstacle impairing its progress until it slams into a mountain. The winds, driven upward, gain in momentum wringing the rain from the clouds. It “falls” horizontally. Birds trying to fly in the face of the storm hang momentarily suspended in air, until the effort of trying to
simply hold steady becomes too great and they take shelter to ride out the storm. The wind obliterates all, driving rain and fog across the sky, reducing visibility to inches.
There was some wind, but not big wind, as I headed south, bound for L.A. Trees along the
road tossed about in the breeze. The sky and the air were transparent and bright. No hint
of a storm or even a cloud could be seen in any direction. I took 101, the road less traveled, rather than I-5 so I could stop and visit a friend
As I broke through to the coast at San Luis the ocean sparkled. At Santa Barbara the
islands in the channel loomed out of the sea, distant and hazy but clearly visible in the
Beyond Ventura I headed southeast, straight for the heart of the city. The palm trees, now
in abundance, tossed and swayed. Occasional palm fronds dropped and sailed through the air. Debris began to litter the sides of the freeway.
In the bright alleys downtown created by buildings that tower like palms in an orange
grove, life continued as usual. Men in suits, even ties, hurried along. Women of fashion
emerged from cars that had never been driven in mud or had crackers ground into their
carpets. Wind was not part of their lives.
But leaving these canyons of shadow, I turned down a street crowded with vendors and
commerce. And there at the end of the block where wares and humanity jostled each other for attention I could see them—mountains, gorgeous mountains. Snow covered, the ones in the backdrop–as bright and white as a mountain could be. So this was the work of the wind! It made mountains while no one was looking.
I left and headed straight for them. By now evening was falling. Always at home with
mountains, I grabbed a quick supper near their base. The restaurant had been thirty years
in the area and had tales of the town and its mountain. But all the while I was eating, the
wind carried on. It created below me a city with lights sparkling brightly as far as the
eye could see. To the west a blackness of ocean, to the east a silver moon, the full moon
of the equinox rising over the shape of the mountains, playing black palms on a navy sky.
And then I heard. These were the Santa Anas, the great winds of legend. And they were not done with me yet. At three in the morning I woke. A roar filled the night. I opened the
curtain. Trees twisted and writhed, branches flew through the air, something on the roof
broke lose, bounced across the surface and fell to the pavement below. The Santa Anas were signing their work, and I looked forward to reading their script in the morning.