Hot Wind Rising

Kage Baker, for all her love of heat, would have been hiding from our weather now. This is the sort of weather where errands were run at dawn and after sunset; we spent the day en deshabille in front of fans on at max, and lived on ice cream and gin and tonics.

Now the hot wind has risen, and keeps rising. It marks a weather change, which is good in that it is at least closer to normals. It’s still hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk – yes, it really is; generations of my family have done it – but the air is alive and dry. It’s almost nice, like talcum powder on the skin. You don’t need gills anymore.

The temperature here in Los Angeles has been flirting with 100 degrees all day. It goes a little up, it goes a little down – I’ve been watching the temperature display on my online weather program turn red and pulsate at regular intervals. That’s what it does to announce triple digit heat … it’s rather entertaining, as long as you know it’s happening outside and not on your auto dashboard. And it helps that the heat is, at least and at last, DRY. The humidity has been around 15% all day, which makes it all slightly easier to bear.

Although, of course, the rising wind brings to life the dragon that always sleep beneath our hills. Los Angeles is on fire in several places. Not large fires, mind you; but the little fires that break out all along the hill crests can sometimes grow. It’s a nervous time, a nervous season, when the heat rises and the humidity plummets and the afternoon winds begin to blow straight from the heart of the sun …

There’s a fire in the Sepulveda Pass, below the Getty Museum and above the ever-congested 405 Freeway. There’s been an underground explosion in Studio City, and appears to be a fire in a utilities vault under the street. There are various structure and car fires hither and yon, as barbecues and stoves and car engines get over-frisky in the hot afternoon, then decide to grow glowing leathern wings and dance on the wind. Our firefighters, though – men and women as determined as St. George – are beating the dragons back. This is an almost normal day, for them.

But the dry wind is rising. We all feel it, we all watch the branches of the trees move and are uneasy – we scan the edges of the sky, to see where smoke might begin to rise. I remember, beginning as a child, watching the red borders of wild fires creep across the faces of the hills in Griffith Park, wondering if the flames could leap the freeway … you always wonder if this time the Great Worm might get away and come to visit your house.

If the fires were distant, Kage liked to go to the movies – a couple of hours in a cool dark theatre was always good. But the urge to keep an eye on the hills makes that an uncomfortable option right now: Kage would want to be at home, too, watching the sky and flipping through banks of web cams. She had an instinct on where to find free, open webcams; she would assemble all her palantiri and watch the flames from all angles available.

We’ll all hope all night that it stays at small brush fires here and there: a spark through a bit of broken glass, a lawn mower blade against a stone, a BMW or old Ford emulating the Phoenix on a verge thick with wild oats and blessed thistle. Little brush fires are all right. If there aren’t too many. If they stay small …

And the wind is rising