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Autumn in the San Luis Valley
by Tessa Bielecki


The hay is stacked like huge loaves of nourishing bread. The fields lie harvested and spent, ready to be plowed under to feed the soil and next year's crops. At the higher elevations of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, stately aspens begin to turn from green to red and gold against the cobalt blue sky.

As I drive to Alamosa on Market Day, clouds hang low over the Great Sand Dunes after the night's rare and drenching rain. Wild purple asters line the roadsides, along with the last fading sunflowers, and plump brown cattails in the low wet ditches.

At my favorite vegetable stand I fmd turnips and onions, spinach, peas, and beans, daikon and squash, and the freshest cilantro and dill. Oh, the luxury of eating seasonally, bio-regionally, and organically! I am delighted to see ornamental stalks of quinoa, the sacred "Mother Grain," first raised in the Andes centuries ago by the Inca Indians, and brought to this high altitude valley only in 1982. I will combine the bright stalks in bouquets with the cattails, yellow yarrow and fragrant sage from northern New Mexico.

On the way home I admire an enormous field of quinoa, its russet, maroon, and burnt orange blossoms the perfect autumn colors. In a neighboring field the golden heads of barley rustle in the breeze. I linger, mesmerized by the music. A small herd of antelope races my car along the highway. I manage to capture only the last one with my camera as it dashes across the desert.

This is a magical leisurely autumn day. May you have such rich days yourself this season.

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