The winds in Southern California are epic. You don’t hear about them outside of our region much because once you’ve lived here for any period of time it’s just a part of life. Like rain in the winter or sun in the Summer, and they come with a similar regularity. Offshore in the fall, bring hot and dry weather, and onshore in the spring though they run occasionally at all times of the year.
They are called the Santa Anna winds, and they “come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch” (from Raymond Chandler’s 1938 short story Red Wind).
I love them.
I stand, eyes closed, and feel the curls of the wind wrap around and over my skin. I fell them pull at my hair and my clothes until I must lean forward to steady myself.
Standing and feeling the invisible fingers wrap around me, I swear I can feel them scrubbing the ions in my very atoms. Though there is little scientific backing for this feeling I get of being scrubbed clean, I know that it happens. Raymond Chandler described it as making your nerves jump. Ask any teacher on a day the Santa Annas are blowing if the wind affects their students and they’ll tell you that there is a correlation.
When I stand in the wind and have my molecules scrubbed and rearranged and cleaned, I feel my energies realign.
Winds herald change in literature as well as in weather. Change comes riding in on the gusts or on gentle cat’s paws in the quiet moments after. Change from disorder to order or back again.
I thrive on change. On sinking my teeth into a new challenge. I love learning as fast as I can and growing in leaps and bounds not sedentary steps. It invigorates me and inspires me.
I do not want to lose my desire for and love of new things, but I wonder what the balancing point is between change and tenacity. How do I keep the inspiration that newness brings to me while maintaining a drive and a focus on something over a longer period of time?
I struggle with viewing things “over a longer period of time” as being boring. My current working theory is that change and newness in the smaller things which all serve a common theme or goal spread out over a longer period of time might be the solution to my desire for newness combined with my need for longer-term focus.
I’m not one to sell everything and head off to travel the world. I imagine often that I would like to be that kind of a person, but I am not. There have been numerous times in my life when I have had ample opportunity to do just that, but I never stepped up and took the chance. Every time I have opted for building a home and putting down roots instead.
But that is also not the total of what feeds me. I need stability, but it is not enough.
I one to settle in and find myself in the daily grind of homesteading or digging REALLY deep roots. I have and enjoy my community of friends and family, my home life and my place in the world, but I do not need them in order to be myself. I have moved alone, far away from all that is familiar, and thrived. I know that I would be completely alright should I lose (or give up) the familiar trappings of my life as it is today. It is, perhaps, one of the graces that comes from being divorced. To know that you can have your entire life and plans for a future ripped from you, and emerge still yourself on the other side.
To be tenacious, one needs to have a very clearly defined understanding of where you are going. Though I may stand in the wind’s way, it will still get to it’s destination after whipping around me and across hundreds of miles of other things as it flies. This has been a stumbling block for me before – blaming my lack of tenacity on my lack of clarity about direction.
The truth is much more humble than that – since I left professional ministry I have ceased to set long-term goals for myself out of nothing more than fear. I worked for years to get the education and backing to become a minister. To achieve a long term goal and find that not only is it not what I expected, but also something that made me miserable, introduced a deep level of self doubt into my life.
Doubt about whether or not I knew myself and what I wanted.
I had been wrong once, in an epically expensive and long-term commitment kind of way. What if I was wrong again?
I just started doing whatever was necessary, whatever was expected, whatever was needed. I stopped really chasing long-term goals or dreams. I lived for the short-term, which I defined as a 3-year stint.
In the midst of it all, I forgot something important – that it is OK to be wrong.
The Sailor owns a wonderfully large, loud, black and chrome machine called a HARLEY…. The word must be said with emoji stars surrounding it, it is that delicious. It is completely impractical, unnecessarily expensive, completely at odds with the persona he presents to the world. It is also perfectly him – the adrenaline, the exquisite machinery, the delight in a fancy name brand.
He takes me for rides, when we can spare a long weekend day. As we ride, he blares classic rock out of the speakers, but the wind on the back of the machine means I can barely hear it. I hold on to his hips and let the wind scrub away my stress, cocooned in a traveling bubble of sound and vibration, unable to do anything but be present. After several hours, we emerge at strange locations, sun kissed and tired but exhilarated. It’s like stepping out of life for a brief time and it is beautiful. It doesn’t matter where we go – sometimes we go to beautiful back country roads forgotten amidst the freeway culture of Southern California, sometimes we fight traffic through sweaty Los Angeles gridlock.
People who ride motorcycles on the regular have a saying that is iconic of that culture but also, I am coming to believe, a pretty profound insight into life:
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the ride.