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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Glimpses of Autumn

Tomorrow is the official start of autumn. And although daytime temperatures still reach the low 80s, there is a definite feeling of autumn in the air here in the high desert.

I live in the high desert, and this is a wonderful time of year. Nighttime temperatures are dipping into the upper 50s and low 60s. Some nights I can sleep with my bedroom window open. Daylight hours are shorter, but sunrises are more beautiful than ever. Clouds hovering just above the horizon reflect the beautiful pinks and oranges of the rising sun. Leaves are showing just a hint of yellow. And for central New Mexico, one sure sign of the approach of autumn is the reappearance of dozens of hot air balloons in the crisp blue skies over Albuquerque.

This summer has been especially hot and dry, so I am looking forward more than usual to the coming of fall. The chili crop has been harvested and chili roasting is under way at many of the major grocery stores in the area. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is just weeks away. The fall rains, the last of the 'monsoon' season, have arrived, bringing much-needed moisture to parched yards and plants. Even the native desert-dwelling plants have struggled to survive a serious three-year drought, so these rains are very welcome.

To really get a taste of autumn, I recently drove to Durango, CO, to ride the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The 45-mile route is lined with creeks and beautiful aspens. Because of all the recent rains in Colorado, the rivers and streams are overflowing their banks, churning and angry. Terrible floods have hit parts of the state. And the aspens, except for a few in the higher elevations (even higher than the 8,000 feet where I was) have not yet started to cloak themselves in gold and yellow.
I was disappointed that the leaves hadn't yet turned, but it was an enjoyable trip nonetheless. And the autumn chill definitely was present.

So in a week or so, I will fly to Vermont, where the fall colors should be glorious, for some time spent hiking and photographing nature's beauty. 

Even here, in the desert southwest, there is a distinct and welcome feeling of fall in the air. My thoughts once again are turning to the pleasures of a hot cup of soup, or the aroma of chili or stew cooking in the slow cooker. I am looking forward to being able to wear different clothes than the hot-weather shorts and tops I have worn for months. Long sleeves and light jackets will reappear from the closets where they have waited the past several months. Soon, tens of thousands of birds will make their annual migration through central New Mexico on their way to their winter homes. The honking of geese and the unusual calls of the sandhill cranes will soon fill the skies.

I never look forward to winter's cold and darkness, but the coming of autumn is always  welcome. What's not to like about this time of year? It brings cooler temperatures, crisp nights, glorious leaves of many colors and awesome azure skies.