They are called the Santa Ana winds in Southern California and up here in the San Francisco bay area they are sometimes referred to as the Diablo's. Warm, dry and blustery. Wrapped up in an eerie stillness, feeling like earthquake weather. Nobody has described them better than Raymond Chandler. In his story Red Wind, he introduces the Santa Ana's as "those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen."
The Santa Ana's are mentioned in other songs, stories and movies. In the romantic comedy The Holiday, Miles, the character played by Jack Black, says of the Santa Ana winds, "when the Santa Ana's are blowing, all bets are off. Anything can happen." And it is true, when they blow the air is charged with excitement, an unknowing, a feeling that there is something big about to take place, some change is going to occur, good or bad, and there is nothing you can do about it, this is a fated act of nature.
I haven't seen those winds since last October. Those warm dry winds were blustering around, creating a firestorm of orange and yellow leaves that blew wildly from the black oak trees outside my window. From the inside looking out, it looked like fall, but once you stepped outside you would instantly shed your jacket and roll up your sleeves. Late October and 80 degrees outside. It just felt strange, oddly out of character and made you feel as if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as if you needed to search for shelter or you'd be swept away.
Wind is a metaphor for the constant change that occurs in the world as well as in each of us. As the weather constantly changes, so do our bodies, the people around us, and the circumstances in our lives. Each moment is unknown to us, what will happen next, what will be presented to us, just as when the Santa Ana's blow you are never quite sure what is going to happen. They come on hot, strong, dry, powerful, and can leave you wondering what hit you. This "never knowing what's right around the corner" is a double edged sword, part of what keeps us hopeful and part of what keeps us fearful.
Usually when the strong winds are blowing it can be disconcerting. For they can blow the roof right off your house, set the fields on fire, knock the trees down, or simply scatter leaves that you had just spent hours raking. They can mix it up, switch it out, and definitely leave things different than before they came. And as with any act of nature they are a wake-up call, a loud reminder that we really aren't in control.
In our own life we make plans, we have dreams, we set goals. "What are your plans?" for the weekend, for the summer, for the future, we get asked or we ask of others. And most of us have a plan. But it seems in the "business plan of our life" we need to include the disclaimer, "of course these plans can change at any given moment," if the winds of change decide to blow. Just as every sailor knows, the wind is the driving force and problems arise when there is no wind, no motion. So when our own internal Santa Ana's start to blow we should welcome them and pay attention to the direction they leave us facing. Because as you know, "You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails."