Los Angeles has its Santa Ana winds, Salzburg has the Föhn. These dry, warm winds, an effect of rain clouds massing at the tops of the Alps and forcing dry air down the far side, are credited with creating tension, even psychosis, just as the Santa Ana winds are in Southern California.
I can’t say that yesterday’s Föhn winds had an unsettling effect on me. It was a clear day, cold in fact. The sharp winds had that chill razor edge that Angelinos also recognise when the Santa Anas blow in winter. Here, they whipped the two loads of laundry on the line dry in a matter of a couple of hours, tossing towels and shirts backwards so they lay outstretched on the spinner. Leaves blown sideways tapped sharply on the windows; sycamore pods spun overhead like helicopters. Birds struggled from tree to bush.
The winds vigorously ruffled the surface of the fishing pond as I passed it on my walk. All the way to the Spitz along the bank of the Saalach, I walked through a litter of bronzed oak and beech leaves while more swirled around me, blown from the trees. The turquoise blue water to my left foamed over rocks, turbulent and fast. At the Spitz, I watched it pour into the wider waters of the Salzach, which, at the point of confluence, were more placid as they flowed north.
According the literature, I should have felt tension, unease. In fact, I felt productive and more focussed than I’ve been lately. Ideas swirled, sentences swept into mind, words frothed surfaceward. It was only late in the day when I spoke with my friend Edith that I put a name to the winds.
‘Föhn,’ she said. ‘They give some people headaches. Or worse.’
Much later, I awoke in the night and stood briefly at the window looking southeast. Hundreds of crystalline stars pierces the sky’s black expanse. I could pick out Orion and his belt among the multitude: More than that I did not try. Instead I returned to bed, thinking as I burrowed into the down, ‘It’s so clear, it must be freezing.’
This morning, though, as I write, the grey light is filtered behind the high, streaked clouds that come with the Föhn. The curve of the moon, as slender as a sigh, breaks through their grey gauze, its frail bow incandescent against the pale silver light. Around me, all is calm.
But I feel the skin across my nose tighten; my hands feel dry and taut. It will be another day of Föhn winds today.