John Larson

Next Monday is the official first day of fall, or if you’re one for correctness, the autumnal equinox. And if you’re one for astrology, it’s the first day of Libra, a time of reflection, understanding, and balance. If you’re not a Libran just try to remember, “Serenity now!”

After a spell of triple-digit temperatures, I’m looking forward to the autumnal equinox, when the tilt of the Earth makes the southern hemisphere closer to the Sun and where we live it’s … well, farther away, and we can cool off for a while.

It’s the time when we start thinking about bringing out those winter clothes and thicker socks, but of course in Socorro winter clothes also include the shorts and island shirts some folks wear all year round. And if you’re in Walmart, yes, you can start shopping for those Christmas decorations.

Everybody celebrates the first day of fall their own way. I suppose the Druids did their thing at Stonehenge to welcome the change of seasons, and other cultures everywhere else have their own traditions. Up north in Santa Fe, they had their Zozobra a couple of weeks ago, which normally draws a massive crowd, and I’m guessing that number was even greater for the virtual burning this year.

Speaking of things virtual, last Saturday the Very Large Array kicked off its monthly virtual tour of the facility. Even virtually, it was a pretty comprehensive look at the place, but not as mind boggling as walking up under one of those radiotelescopes in person. It’s been closed to the public since the pandemic started, so that’s the best look at it you’ll get these days.

Under normal circumstances, I’ll take the 15-mile drive from Magdalena out there a couple times a year and marvel for the umpteenth time at the dishes. That whole installation is impressive, not only for the sheer size of the dishes but for the science coming out of there. Last time I got so wrapped up in just looking, I almost forgot to take pictures. Of course, all the new pictures look very similar to the ones I took the time before, but I’m always compelled to take another one because maybe, just maybe, I can get a shot that captures the awesomeness of the place. But alas, it’s not to be. You have to be there in – dare I say it – reality.

Frankly, if I had my way, the VLA would be one of the Seven Wonders of Socorro County. I mean, back in school we learned about the Seven Wonders of the World — you know, the Giza pyramids, the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, Chichen Itza, the Great Wall of China, and so forth.

Why not our own Seven Wonders of Socorro County? The VLA would certainly be on that list, along with the Trinity Site, and Magdalena Ridge Observatory and Interferometer. And why not the Socorro rodeo complex? It’s pretty impressive. To round out the seven, I’d add the Magdalena stockyards, Garcia Opera House, San Miguel Church, and Isidro Baca Park, with its wall of fallen service veterans and commemorative pyramid.

Runners up could be Hammel brewery building, the ginormous El Camino Real sculpture down south off Interstate 25, or the Juan José Baca House. And just for fun, I’d add the flying saucer at the tire shop across from Circle K. Is that something tourists would ooh-and-ah at? Yes? No? Maybe?

But I digress. Autumn’s on the way, and the aroma of chile roasting is wafting in the air.

Although in Socorro we have sort of the basic four seasons, which are pretty much divided equally, autumn is not like most of the rest of the country. In our little corner of New Mexico fall is quite different from those scenes we see in the media of falling leaves in states to the east of us that have all those deciduous trees. We have none of that nonsense of spending an entire Saturday raking leaves up into a huge pile that kids and dogs love to jump into and spread them out all over again. Instead of red, green, gold and brown, our “color season” is pretty straightforward. Green to brown.

Head’s up. The forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict average temperatures through November, but as far as winter goes, La Niña could have something to say about that.

Before I forget it, today is Citizenship Day, established in 1940 to commemorate the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. In 1952 it was officially changed to Constitution Day but is known by both names. Whatever you want to call it, remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: “All the Constitution guarantees is the pursuit of happiness. You have to catch up with it yourself.”

And sometimes it seems I’m always playing catch-up.