New Mexico · Outdoors · Running · Sports · Women

Where There’s Smoke, There’s…Confusion

It’s nutty how nature catches us so off-guard sometimes.


Most of us live in places that have the capacity to get banged up a little by the elements, depending on the season. The northerners get snow and ice in the wintertime, the southerners get hurricanes, or at least the butterfly kisses of hurricanes, in the summer, and tornadoes and floods these days happen pretty much everywhere. The same goes for summertime cloudbursts.


Runners in all of these climates have acclimated themselves accordingly. It’s a matter of resigned acceptance, I think: you just learn to deal with the weather, be it shorts-soaking humidity or face-numbing cold. Having run for extended spans of time in a place that gets a fair amount of snow in the wintertime and another place that gets constant hurricane monitorings in the summer, I admit I take a little pride in the fact that the only elemental conditions that keep me inside are lightning and ice. The pushy New Mexico winds that even seasoned locals say have hung around longer this year than usual? They’re annoying, but nothing that confines me to my living room.


Recently I was thrown for a loop.


Wildfires are nothing new to the Southwest, but this year for the first time in my Albuquerque residency, the town is getting a healthy taste of their effects. Or rather, a smell of their effects. Actually, in all frankness, more like both.


This fire is a good couple hundred miles away, with origins in our neighbor Arizona. So we are all a little awestruck that here we are, in a town usually nice and snug and sheltered from any real weather nastiness other than the aforementioned wind, stepping out of our front doors and cars into an ashy haze smelling of campfires. I gotta say, without the possibility of roasting marshmallows, it’s not that much fun.


As the fire spreads to the East, authorities and weathermen toss out a lot of cautions pertaining to air quality. I’ve rarely been so grateful to have air conditioning – a lot of homes in these parts have “swamp coolers,” which draw air from outside in order to cool a home, and weathermen say “Turn off your swamp cooler so you don’t bring in the smoke!” Interpretation: “Bake in your own home and invest in some fans!” So for central air I am thankful. However…


…they also say “Don’t exercise outside.” Well, usually I would probably scoff, noting clear sky and temporarily benign winds, and go trot for a few miles anyway, but this is a new one for me. Sure, the air doesn’t smell very smoky on my way home from work, but it did this morning!! So maybe it could change!! Within minutes!! And render me a hacking, doubled-up, walking shriveled lung on the side of the road!! Or something. I tell you, it’s worrisome.


But I have every confidence that a) the weather will get better sooner or later – this is mainly due to the absolute inconsistency of the winds, so one of these days it will blow in our favor – and b) just like humidity and snow and summer storms, I’ll get the hang of this eventually.


Now I’m craving roasted marshmallows.


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