Autumn is my favorite time of year. The cooler, yet still-warm days, the crisp evenings...it marks the change of seasons as well as relief from a long, hot summer, and promises relief from sagebrush allergies. It also happens to be the most beautiful time of year here.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has been underway all week, bring untold hundreds of thousands of visitors to town, along with the colorful panorama of floating splendor. Every morning we hear the distinctive whoosh of the propane burners overhead, marking fall as surely as the cooler air in which they float. To us it is a typical, yet unusual and somehow comforting sound. It's one of those "only in New Mexico" things, that makes us reflect, now this is something you don't see and hear everywhere. Each morning we have looked out the window or stepped onto the back patio to watch the gentle giants as they march up the Rio Grande Valley, a colorful awakening. Today is the last day of Fiesta and rare rainful has snatched away their last mass ascension. Local balloonists will continue to fly over the next month or so, but the brief week of splashy hues completely filling the skies is now over.
But nature's autumnal array is just as showy. Driving into Santa Fe, yellow radiates out of the valleys and bowls in the upper reaches of the mountains as the blazing gold aspen shine forth their annual emblazonment. We drove into the mountains to see the dazzling display.
We walked along a trail surrounded by trees - pines and aspens - the mountain air cooler at the higher elevation. The leaves are intensely yellow this year, the entire mountainside brilliant golden, punctuated by small patches of red, all radiant against the huge, bright blue sky. The wind blew occasionally, sending the leaves into their classic quaking and fluttering. The resulting sound was one similar to gently flowing water. Beautiful.
The trail was glittery with flecks of mica, making it appear that the path had been strewn with gold dust glinting in the brilliant sunshine. We walked hand in hand, breathing in the pleasant, brisk dryness, greeting others we encountered and petting their dogs. Santa Fe is a dog town, and we were the only locals without one in tow. We could, thus, easily tell the out-of-towners.
The trees at the higher elevations are already beginning to shed their leaves. In another week, the beautiful display will be nearly complete, the straight stands of aspens will reach heavenward without their ornamentation.
The beauty of autumn is brief. But it is a stupendous beauty while it lasts.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider