There are other, often better, ways to measure time than clocks and calendars.
One of my favorites is the green chile harvest. When you see those bushels of green heading for the roasting sites you know that the autumnal equinox is just around the corner. With the harvest comes one of the most pleasurable food aromas in the world, that of flame-roasting green chiles. Advocates of fresh-baked bread aroma have a point, but their favorite lacks the subtle pungency of the roasting chile.
At this time of year I like to take the back roads and linger near the chile roasters, savoring the scent and dreaming up new ideas for using green chile in cooking.
The aroma sharpens other senses as well. Yesterday I spotted half a dozen "new" sandbars in the Rio Grande. I think the water-release guys at the upriver dams ration the flow a bit more cautiously at this time of year. When winter arrives, of course, they turn it off completely. This year it was mid-May before they turned it on again. Everyone dependent on that river hopes and prays for more snowfall on the southern San Juan Mountains in Colorado in the coming winter.
Hoping and praying for water is a year-round sport in the parched southwest, one that so far hasn't affected the record drought. Hope and prayer are impotent weapons against the ignorance of man, who manages the precious resources of his home planet with reckless abandon.
But our Mesilla Valley is fortunate. It still has enough water to get by. On yesterday's meander I passed a field where it seems that only yesterday fresh rows of pecan seedlings had been planted. They're trees now, soon to mature into crop-yielders. One more season, perhaps. That field is an important landmark.
Across the road, when one generation passed the land on to a younger one, the heirs sold out to developers. Times were good when they sold but the Bush depression came and Obama did nothing to end it, so nobody's building these days. Two or three nondescript homes sit rather desolately in the far reaches of the plot, but the ground closer to the road is just another place for the late-night drink-and-drive cowboys to pitch their empties, used condoms and dirty sweat socks.
The heirs to the land where the pecans are growing decided to plant trees that provide an annual yield, rather than rotating three or four crops a year as their forebears did. Probably not as sustainable, long-term, but better than selling out to a developer who would plant little boxes made of ticky-tacky that all look just the same.
My back-road meander doesn't take me all the way home. I have to travel a mile or so on a main thoroughfare. It's littered these days with political signs. "Keep Judge Hoozit." "Elect Sam Friendly!" The World's Worst Congressman, who represents our district, has more signs than anyone. He's a drilling multimillionaire and his even richer pals in the awl and gez bidness keep him rolling in campaign funds.
A neighbor whom I know well, a good lawyer who will be a fine judge if she's elected, has a lot of signs, too. Hers somehow seem less offensive than the congressman's. Well, she's prettier for one thing. Smarter, for another. And a lot more honest, I believe.
On the last lap homeward I noticed that the sun is taking on its autumnal angle, creating beautiful late-afternoon light.
Where the heck did I put the camera gear?