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Why The World Smells Like a Fireplace

June 8, 2011 at 3:06 pm

That would be smoke from the Wallow Fire that I'm inhaling.  And I'm lucky—I'm in another state and not in any direct danger.

It's weird, though, the way every morning and evening takes on this sickly yellow hue, as though the world itself has a case of jaundice.

Two nights ago the smoke moved in with a vengeance.  Around 7:30 or 8:00 the darkness fell quickly, more quickly than normal at this time of year.  "Oh, finally," I thought.  "Maybe those are rain clouds moving in."  Ha.  Next thing I knew, the entire world smelled like the inside of a fireplace.  

So even though it's finally warm enough to start sleeping with the windows open, I've kept the house shuttered up tight.  Kind of a drag.  Yesterday, after work, I opened the windows to get a cooling cross-breeze going.  That was nice for a while, but perhaps another plume drifted in our direction, because I had to close the windows again after a while.

This is another reason to hate these damanble winds.  Bad enough it blankets us with smoke, but far worse is the fact that it makes such a huge fire almost unstoppable.  Damn you, wind.



Scott Denning June 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm
The smoke has interfered with my sleep -- the back of my brain keeps saying, "Bosque Fire! Wake up and fight it!" One of my co-workers says she tells her brain that she is camping, and it is the smoke from the campfire. I'll have to try that. But the fight-the-fire mechanism is mighty strong when you live along the bosque. One silver lining of the clouds of smoke is that it lends an otherworldliness -- as you mention, the late-afternoon yellow tint to everything, that brings out certain colors very strongly, especially purple and violet. Then there is the red sun, and strange orange moon -- I put the binoculars on the sun and was actually able to see a sunspot. The strangely-colored sun, the billowing clouds of atmosphere, each evening/hour different -- it's like being on another planet or six, without having to buy a ticket for the voyage. The other night I went out with a powerful flashlight and pointed it straight up; it illuminated a steady drizzle of ash particles, with occasionally a moth or a bat blurring through the beam. With the thick-in-the-lungs smoke, it was like being at the bottom of the ocean and seeing the diatoms drifting down, the fish darting through the beam -- the Undersea World of Jacques Wallowfire. So, while I know it is a hassle and a health hazard for some folks, I still think it's sorta cool that this week the smoke has taken me to several other planets and the bottom of the ocean.
Melinda June 8, 2011 at 6:20 pm
I heard today that they may just give up and let the thing burn itself out. Horrible for that Arizona forest. Meanwhile the outlook for rain in N.M. is nada, nothing, zero, zilch for the next 7 to 10 days. When I walk outside my grass literally cracks under my feet like glass.
Scott Denning June 9, 2011 at 8:42 am
Had a new perspective on the smoke cloud, last evening -- for the first time saw it *as* a cloud. The wind had shifted and was driving the smoke North (sorry), keeping it to the West side of the Rio Grande. For the first time in a week, Tijeras Canyon was not hazy with smoke, and there was actually blue sky to the south. As I drove down out of the canyon, I was struck by the strange dichotomy: the great cloud ahead, all gray/yellow/pink/umber, with an amber sun shining through -- and the blue sky to the left. So adaptable is the brain that, after days of gray-yellow haze, the blue actually looked odd, unusually vivid and almost alien. I kept glancing at it as I drove, in an attempt to re-accustom my brain to the idea. The cloud was for the first time distinct rather than pervasive -- it was a great mass looming over the city, with pseudopodal streamers that reached out toward Albuquerque but were bent to the north by the wind. With its many and varied hues lending it a seeming of internal structure and the "nucleus" amber sun showing through, it looked for all the world like a Star Trek energy-cloud creature threatening the city. This perspective did not last long, however; the wind shifted again and the smoke returned with a vengeance. I have a sore throat and a cough this morning, from the Sleep Of Smoke. Campfire. Hah. When the sun was showing through alarmingly red the other evening, I called my neighbor out to look at it. "That looks sorta apocalyptic, doesn't it?" said he. To which I could only reply, "Yup."
Tengland June 9, 2011 at 10:25 pm
We're seeing some effects even here in KC Mo, with the odd-color sunlight, especially in the morning and evening. The haze here often softens the sun so you can see the ball, but this ash is giving it a different hue. Let it burn out? Now they're saying some large power lines are threatened. You guys could be on rolling blackouts soon. We have the opposite problem here: we're waiting for the river to rise and wash everything away. Residents of the little town of Parkville near where I live with my sister has been filling & piling sandbags to try and keep the mighty Missouri River in check. The river's already high, the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water from reservoirs in Montana and ND, so it's on its way. The real problem is no one can say exactly how high it will rise. Some estimates day as high as the flood of '93, in which case a highway will close and some businesses in town will have wet merchandise. I don't thin it's going that high, but the riverside park will be under water for most of the summer, probably. And I might have to find an alternate route to work in the highways flood. What I find fascinating about all of this is in watching a slow-motion disaster.
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