I should have packed eye drops, but I forgot that Colorado air is dry enough to suck out all your eyeball juice. In Colorado, no one says, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” like they do in Baltimore. In Colorado, when it is hot it is dry hot. Sweat doesn’t stick to skin like a wet blanket. No, the air in Colorado is like a hot towel fresh from the dryer. Perspiration wicks right into that hotness, tricking one into thinking it isn’t happening at all. At dinner, I chug two tall glasses of water and realize that I am just as dehydrated in the Dry Land as I am in Sauna Land.
By Day Two, my sinuses are disgustingly crusty, reminding me of a visit to Spain where tour group members from Las Vegas complained about the humidity while Baltimoreans were discretely dealing with dried up bloodied boogers. Ah, but on a brighter side, the tiny persistent patch of maybe-poison ivy is drying up. Too small for a prednisone cure but too stubborn to succumb to over-the-counter cortisone, it seems to have met its match with 20% humidity.
Day Two is also when my body notices that there is hardly any oxygen at 5430 feet. I was born at sea level (ok, maybe fifty feet above, if you allow for whatever floor of the hospital I was on). The altitude of my hometown is 6.9 feet above sea level. I currently live a whopping 689 feet above sea level. I forego hiking today. Instead, I ponder the mysteries of the universe at the planetarium.
By Day Three, I can enjoy the low humidity and oxygen-deprived hike trails all at the same time. I think I am adjusting. I overhear a clerk at McGucken’s Hardware telling a co-worker that she had to move “back down” because her oxygen levels were too low. “Down” in Baltimore refers to “Downy Ocean, Hon” where we rinse our sticky sweaty skin in salt water. In Boulder, it means to come down off the mountains. Yeah, the struggle is real.
I think my eyeballs are drying out. I miss my eyedrops, the ones I use to treat excessive screen time. They are in my other purse, the bigger one, the shoulder breaking one, the one I downsized because I do not need to constantly carry with me stuff for every possible contingency. But dry eyes is a contingency I forgot to plan for.
I did plan for my usual skin care. Still, the little tubes of moisturizer in the hotel that I usually stash as souvenirs in my suitcase to keep in my desk at work? Gone. Every day, my skin soaks up the whole dang tube.
By the time I get semi-used to Rocky Mountain air, it is time to come home. Reentry to Sauna Land is delayed by a band of thunderstorms in Baltimore that prevent our departure from Denver International Airport by an extra two eyeball-sucking hours. We emerge from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport into a slap-in-the-face literal 100% humidity. As we drive home, steam rises from the highway. Closer to rural home, puffs of low lying clouds hover barely overhead, and as we drive through the cornfields on our road, we see that the cloud puffs emerge directly from the field. Rainfall is evaporating but there is no room in the air for it.
The air, full of oxygen and saturated with water, is heavy to breathe. I understand now how my (few and far between) houseplants feel when I finally relieve them of my neglect (all the more desperate since they often sit right by a sink). I am like those dehydrated toy sponges in a capsule that come to life in a bowl of water. Hydrating and blooming, I will be bloated again by morning.
I think of the family from Austin, Texas, that sat next to me on the plane, who had vacationed at Yellowstone and were now visiting friends in Baltimore. They must think they are drowning.
Ah, but they won’t need eyedrops.