Dear Readers: This column was written Monday, Oct. 1, shortly before the horrific massacre that took place on the Las Vegas Strip. I was deeply touched by all of you who wrote to check on me and my family. We are fine, thank you, and you are the best. Please pray for the victims and their families. – Sharon

This morning I opened the patio door and grinned like a mule eating briars.

The mountains were shining in the west. The jackrabbits had left us a little of the lawn. And the thermometer on the patio registered a balmy 65 degrees.

That’s the same thermometer that only days ago could climb to 115 or more, a condition also known as “slightly hotter than the hinges on the gates of hell.”

We live in the desert outside Las Vegas. Summer is a neon inferno. But autumn can make you think you’re in heaven.

Readers often write to tell me about fall in their parts of the world. It always reminds me of the autumns I knew growing up in the Carolinas.

Once, when I wrote about how I missed seeing fall colors, a woman back East sent me a box of gorgeous red and gold leaves she’d gathered from her yard.

I wish you could’ve seen them. They were almost as lovely as the kind soul who sent them.

But even in the desert, where color is scarce, fall is my favorite season, if only for the memories it brings to mind. For example:

• When I was 5, I went out to play after days of rain. As the clouds parted, the sun lit up the mountain and I saw for the first time a blaze of fall colors. I ran inside to tell my grandmother the mountain was on fire.

• On Halloween, when I was 10, I made tacky costumes and took my brothers trick-or-treating. I was a princess with a tin-foil crown. Denton was 4. I gave him a banana and told him to act like a monkey. Joe was 6 and had been blind all his life. I threw a sheet over his head but forgot to tell him why.

At the first house, a neighbor lady patted Joe’s head and said, “You’re a cute little ghost!”

Joe shouted through the sheet, “I ain’t a ghost! I’m a mattress!”

• My happiest fall memory is the October my daughter was born. We lived on the coast of California, an easy walk to the beach. Summer fog had given way to autumn’s glory. On my due date, I made a deal with a friend. We each had a 3-year-old. They thought they were brothers. We agreed to take them to the beach every day until I went into labor. A few days or so at most, right?

Three weeks later, when at last I gave birth, my tan was the envy of every woman in the maternity ward. And my baby girl was perfect. She still is. Seven autumns ago, she gave birth to my grandson, Henry.

• The September before my first husband lost his 4-year-battle with cancer, he wanted to go to Yellowstone. He could barely walk. But we flew to Wyoming and rode horses in the foothills of the Tetons, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, gold-leafed aspens and herds of bored-looking buffaloes. I never saw him look happier.

• After years as a widow, I remarried and moved with my new husband to the desert. Our first Halloween in our new home, I put a pumpkin on the fence, bought a lot of candy and waited for the doorbell to ring.

It didn’t. We had zero trick-or-treaters. So we went out back, watched the moon climb over the mountain and ate all the candy. Who knew Halloween could be so much fun?

I could fill a book with fall memories. I bet you could, too. Mine include Butterfly Parades when my children wore wings to march in the street and welcome the monarchs back to town.

Thanksgivings with family, friends, leftovers and so many reasons to count my blessings.

Halloweens where no trick-or-treaters ever come to our door and we get to eat all the candy.

Those and other memories drift across my mind like falling leaves dancing on the wind.

But the best autumn is never in memory. It’s always the one that’s right outside our door, and how we choose to live it.

I put a pumpkin on the fence by our front gate. You never know what might come of it.

Here’s wishing you and yours and all of us together, the best autumn of our lives – so far.

– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.