In nearly all the eight years I've lived in the Santa Clarita Valley, I hated the Santa Ana winds. A generally destructive force of nature that could topple trees, twist poles, and cause sparks that could set things aflame was, to me, worse than the thunderstorms in South Florida, the afternoons of rain that were merely inconvenient at times rather than downright scary like the Santa Anas were.
I wondered how people could live with this. In our first year here, in the apartment in Valencia, there were bad wildfires that produced a darkened, sooty sky. At College of the Canyons, I remember standing on the second floor, looking out at a hill that had flames creeping up, the tendril of one shooting up and then retreating quickly, only to repeat many times over in one minute alone.
Whenever it was announced on the news that Santa Ana winds were coming, I went to noaa.org to see what their speed would be, and would always get that reliable feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. What would happen? Would this round of winds cause flames to engulf the valley, pushing the Apocalypse closer to us yet again? It always felt like that.
In October 2007, we were evacuated from our place in Saugus for a day, though at that moment, we weren't sure if it was going to be only a day or longer. I remember Dad putting important papers in the trunk, getting our dogs and birds together, and leaving quickly.
One of dad's co-workers let us stay at their house for the time being, and in fact, they had been evacuated the day before when flames had come rushing down the hill toward their house and had been stopped right up to where their patio began. The black scars on the hillside were still fresh, though thankfully without smoke emanating from them.
It was a tense day, and I couldn't understand how people could live in landscapes that foisted this upon them. I knew there were other areas that faced wildfires every year and those residents were evacuated every year and still they came back. Same with flooding. Those people returned as well. Why would they want to go through that every single time?
I realized that it's because they loved where they lived. I couldn't feel the same for where I lived. I never felt the connection that those people felt for their areas. I always questioned everything around me instead of simply enjoying where I was, because there wasn't, and still isn't, anything to enjoy.
Over the past week, the Santa Ana winds came back, much colder since it's December, which is also a relief because hot Santa Ana winds are the worst, making brush much more flammable. The "meteorolgists" on TV said that there was a red flag warning, that there was fire danger, but there couldn't be. People were indoors. The crazy ones that were likely to set fires wouldn't because what good is any of that when it's freezing?
On Monday, I began sweeping up from the patio the alive and dead pine needles that had fallen from the tree that hangs high directly over our patio, as well as the leaves that had been blown into our patio from nearby trees. It was a lot to sweep, and as I did, the Santa Ana winds kept blowing, but I ignored it. I'm not afraid of them anymore. It's part of what Southern California is, it's just the routine of autumn, and there's nothing that can be done to prevent it.
I knew then, looking up at the trees that were at times becoming flattops, that it's time for my family and I to leave Southern California soon. There is no way we can stand another year here. It's time to move on with life, to be where we truly want to be, where we can be happy every day in exploring all that's around us. I miss having a city to poke and prod, to uncover every inch and see what I like about it and what I know I want all the time. I'll get that briefly with that final visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain on Saturday, but that's not enough. I want that feeling to grow ever larger with every place I go to. Not being afraid of the Santa Ana winds anymore means that there is nothing else here that I want to poke and prod. Once we reach Henderson, and have Las Vegas nearby, I want to learn about all that's available to me, yet have everything remain fresh all the time and always worth exploring.
And the Las Vegas valley does have sandstorms, but compared to what I've had here for eight years, I can live with it. I've lived through hurricanes, after all, thankfully not knowing the full brunt of Andrew in 1992, but dealing with vicious rain bands, so sandstorms are just a small price to pay for living where I want to live.