Last night, while barbecuing dinner, Dad shook his head and commented "Man, Santa Ana winds in May and last month too? It just isn't right."
This morning, when I picked up my carpool buddy, we talked about the weird weather and she said "It's gonna be a long, hard summer."
I think they're both right.
This afternoon I sat at my desk and watched a fire burn up and over the hills near the Los Angeles Zoo. Helicopter pilots dropped water on the flames with amazing precision. Huge clouds of white smoke would fill the air following each drop then turn to a dark brownish orange as the hot, dry winds whipped the remaining flames over more terrain. Santa Ana winds always add an eerie quality to a Southern California day but a brush fire colors and scents it. These fires have a distinct odor. As you would imagine, it smells like a wood burring fire but there is also a sweet, sharp scent mixed in. Some might call it acrid but it's more subtle than that. I've never figured out what it is exactly, maybe sage and eucalyptus, but it's not a nice scent. It's creepy. Like a full moon, the Santa Anas can be awesome but they can bring the crazy out of all of us.
As the fire started, some friends walked outside on their way to a meeting. They smelled the smoke and wondered where the ash was coming from. They looked to the poor smoker who happened to be standing by the door and gave him an extra dirty look. They soon realized their mistake. Brush fire smoke smells nothing like cigarette smoke. Oops!
I'm now safely at home, about 20 miles away, and I can still smell the hills burning. I live in a "high brush fire danger" area. We had a fire rage over the hills above my house a few years ago. A police officer came by and told us there was a mandatory evacuation in place. Dad balked because, knowing the area so well, he felt the fire was still far enough away to get a good sleep in. Besides, the neighbors had been told the evacuation was voluntary. Mom and I decided it was a great excuse to stay at The Ritz but Dad disagreed. We came close to going without him but, in the end, thought it wasn't very nice to leave Dad in our endangered home all alone. We all woke up around 2:00 am because the entire house was lit up in an orange glow. It's so obvious but it's not something you ever think about. Of course a fire will light a place up, you just don't expect a fire, a mile away, to illuminate your home so thoroughly that it wakes you out of a sound sleep. The sun never breaks through the shutters in my bedroom but that fire woke me right up. It also made an enormous sound. Fires that size truly do roar. Earthquakes still sound more furious to me but fires are a close second.
Don't get me wrong, I love California. But considering what weather has done to other US cities lately, this is nothing. Still, here I sit, eyes burning, nose running and throat irritated... is anyone out there still California Dreamin?