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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Welcome Fall!

Today is the first day of autumn. It is also a feast for the senses. Sights, sounds and smells unique to this time of year abound. The brilliant New Mexico sky, always a crisp, bright blue, seems bluer than ever. The nights and early mornings are wonderfully cool, although daytime temperatures still climb into the mid 80s. I can sleep with my bedroom window open, which is wonderful after months of having the house closed up against the searing heat of the desert. The air conditioner remains remarkably quiet much of the day.

I love autumn. Especially in the desert, it is such a refreshing change from the constant heat. If we're lucky, the annual 'monsoon' season will bring us some much-needed rain as well, although that hasn't happened yet. Fall in central New Mexico also heralds the roasting of green chiles, a wonderful smell (although I have yet to buy a 30-pound box of chiles, roasted or otherwise) and the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world's largest. I love the sight of hundreds of hot air balloons gliding overhead, and there is something special about the sound of the propane burners when they light to heat the air and keep the balloons aloft.

Birds have started their migrations, following the Rio Grande on their journey south. On a morning walk along the bosque, I heard the honking of geese and the noises of what appeared to be hundreds of sand hill cranes flying over the river. The cottonwoods and other trees are starting to show yellow in some of their leaves. Sunrise is later, which I appreciate since my bedroom faces east. The down side is that the sun is setting earlier, too.

Fall in the desert brings out a profusion of yellow flowers -- sunflowers, black-eyed susans, chamisa and other plants with bright yellow blooms.

My thoughts also have turned to cool-weather comfort foods such as homemade soups and stews. It's still too hot for soup, of course, but I know it won't be long before the wonderful aroma of simmering soup fills the house.

And after months of wearing shorts and short-sleeve tops, it is a nice change to be able to wear 3/4 sleeves or a jacket early in the morning. It isn't long, however, before I have to change into short sleeves once again.

This is a wonderful, but often unappreciated, time of year. People tend to think of autumn in terms of the end of summer, or the return to school, or as the precursor to a long, cold winter. I think we should appreciate autumn for its own merits: cooler weather; crisp mornings; warm, wonderful comfort foods; perfect weather for sleeping with the windows open; and an opportunity to spend more time outside enjoying the beauty of nature.