James, the first bishop of Jerusalem and generally accepted author of the biblical Letter of James, mentions the wind in a dramatic treatise on the power of the human tongue. He writes, “If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder. In the same way the tongue is a small member yet has great pretensions.” (3:3-5). The winds to which he was referring were more than likely the Etesian, Sharkiya, Sharav and Khamsin winds. These are still the dominant winds of the far eastern Mediterranean. James was right, aside from learning to curb the power of our tongues, the winds of the globe are a mighty force to which we humans are pretty much submissive.
The reason I am thinking about winds is because Panama just received some winds that came all the way from the Saharan Desert! To say the least, I was surprised to learn of this as Africa seems so far away. It is, but Africa did not come, just the winds that blew over the Sahara, bringing to Panama some dusty desert air.
The photo on the left shows the hazy condition looking to the northeast from the Obarrio area of Panama City. It’s amazing that this haze is dust from Africa! The winds have died down and the mountainous area is much more visible. Look, though, at the heavy cloud hanging over the east side of the city. This cloud is moving toward downtown Panama City. This rainfall of Caribbean moisture was heavy.
To the north of Panama, places such as the Yucatan, Caribbean islands, and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States are now preparing for the Hurricane Season. Panama, that I know of, does not have hurricanes, but its position plays a part in redirecting the African winds clockwise up to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. It is odd, but the prelude to the Hurricane Season of powerful winds and rain is a dusty/rainy season in the central part of Panama. My apartment windows are now covered with ‘dirty rain’ spots. This reminds me very much of the dirty rain on the monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert.
This map shows that Africa just blows and blows eastward, and that Panama escapes the hurricanes that develop over the Atlantic continue westward or curl northeasterly. This does not mean however that Panama does not have tropical storms. Believe me, we do. We get our fair share of rain from late March to late November. This is a good thing because the rain keeps the Panama Canal operating.
Anyway, now, when I look northeasterly through the grime on my office window, I think of how small the world is to the mighty world winds.