Sunday, October 4, 2020

Autumn Color Redux

If you have been my friend for a while, you likely have heard stories twice ... here is a good one ...


We had been coming out to Santa Fe for about ten years when we decided to look for a house.  I remember saying to my wife that we had experienced this town for about three months of the year and how would we like it in other months. She assured me that I would love all but I was not totally convinced.

You have seen Missives that I have written in the winter months buried in snow, and we have enjoyed all the months so far, but this is the first October that I have been out here.

What a treat it has turned out to be! Now I am not what you would normally call a nature lover.  I do appreciate it, but I do not usually wax lyrical on the subject. But over the last two weeks in the Santa Fe area I have experienced a living work of art.

We live on a dry sandy riverbed, called in these parts, an arroyo.   At the moment it is awash in yellow flowers and looks absolutely lush.  The color comes from the chamisa which is not exactly a flower.  A clinical definition is “a saltbush, Atriplex canescens,  of the western U.S. and Mexico, having grayish, scurfy foliage”.  From that who would believe how beautiful it could be!  But just take a look at some of the images taken in front of our home.  You won’t be surprised to learn that our arroyo is known as Arroyo Chamisa and it runs for miles.

As beautiful as it can be, chamisa does have a downside.  Some people are extremely allergic to it and even leave town during the worst allergy seasons.  Though I have always had allergies and sneeze my head off on a regular basis, the chamisa, for me at least, does not add to the discomfort.

The beautiful color of the arroyo is not the only vibrant yellow that we see from our town.  When we look up into the mountains we see dense areas of yellow which we believed for years was just effects created by the incredible sunlight that has drawn artist to the area since the early 20th century. This year we discovered there is more to it than that.  We have forests of Aspen trees which all turn color at this time of year making the hills into a fairy tale.

Since we do not ski we have never visited the well-known ski basin of Santa Fe which is so popular in the winter months.  I thought that it was a long road trip miles above us.  It turns out that it is only 15 miles and though it is a winding mountain road we can get up close and personal with the aspens in just a little over 30 minutes.  So one day last week we got in the car and went up to Aspen Vista trail and walked into the mountains.

In this part of the world we dread wildfires, which are not infrequent, and the smell of smoke from the controlled fires, like that set by the Forestry Service the day before our walk, fills us with apprehension. Yet, we have learned that clearing the underbrush indirectly benefits the aspens. It allows the sun to shine on the saplings that grow in quickly, regenerating from sprouts. Since aspens need a lot of sun they are found on the side of the mountain that gets the most hours of exposure and that is the side we see from town. It was amazing how a short drive brought to life what had previously been no more than a backdrop to the city we live in.

I will return to New York next week for a month and leave this all behind. When I come back to Santa Fe there will be a new season and a new month to enjoy.

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