LAS CRUCES — Whatever the breaking news, the most vivid, standout moments of 2007 for me were spiritual and artistic, and often both.
There were talks with hundreds of artists, and, for our new collectors series, with discerning souls who collect everything from mice and military memorabilia to lutes, butterflies and dollhouses.
There was a spring trek through Tularosa, with former Las Cruces Jean McDonnell, who showed me a new cultural center, and how one of my favorite little communities is on track to become one of the world’s leading centers of Tibetan culture and healing traditions.
There was an afternoon at the new Temple Beth-El, seeing the just-installed Ark of the Covenant beautifully crafted by Melvin Kirschner and his son Bob and painted by Debbie Levy.
I discussed Geronimo’s life and legacy with his descendant, Harlyn Geronimo.
There was a bright fall day, wandering through what is reportedly North America’s oldest continuously inhabited community, Acoma Sky City, with my soulmate Dr. Roger and a friendly dog, and a friendly guide, Waya Gary Keene, who seemed familiar. It wasn’t until I got to the Acoma cultural center and saw his art that I remembered he’d been artist of the week years ago, after I met him at an NMSU powwow.
Doc Severinsen was another familiar face...we’d last met years ago in Palm Beach, when I was promoting his concert for a benefit for the Palm Beach County Arts Council. He was charming and fit as ever. He didn’t seem to miss a beat or a breath, bounding up and down the aisles at Pan Am, for high-energy numbers with Mariachi Cobre and the Las Cruces Symphony.
I keep telling amigos that if you stay in one special place long enough, much of the rest of the world will come by. Who would think Doc would choose Las Cruces for his farewell performance with a symphony, or that I would end the year hanging out on the Downtown Mall waiting for Charlese Theron, who, with fellow Oscar actress Kim Basinger, was in town to film a major motion picture?
Remarkable things seem almost routine in synchonicity city. When I peered into the pool blue, old soul eyes of “The Burning Plain” director-screenwriter Guillermo Arriago, and he told me he loves the Organ mountains and wants to buy a house here, I wasn’t surprised. He won’t, of course, be our first Oscar-nominated screenwriter: Mark Medoff settled in many decades ago and has gone on to make several films and take two plays born here to Broadway (his first won a Tony Award).
Another great moment in theater came with the premier of Bob Diven’s fun and moving dinosaur musical “Extinction.” It was nice to see what has happened in the decade I’ve been watching Isaac Quiroga and Jessie Medoff Bunchman. They’ve grown into amazing talents. So has Bob. I enjoyed a metaphysical morning with him, sitting on a bale of hay before RenFaire opened, discussing where we came from, why we’re here and where we’re going.
Later, we joined several other Las Crucens for NMSU’s Great Conversations dinner and benefit, which those who attended hope will be an annual event. I left feeling blessed, because I live in a city where people love great conversations, and my vocation allows me (in fact, requires me) to have hundreds and sometimes thousands of great conversations every year.
Still, sometimes, a dance or a meatball or a tamale is worth a thousand words. I love the Tortugas pilgrimage, and the day of dancing that follows and was happy to share it with dear amigos, newlywed Santa Fe childhood sweethearts reunited. Thanks to David Fierro, who snuck me “backstage,” I also finally managed to overcome deadlines and enjoy my first official Guadalupe fiesta albondigas, plucked from a pot of steaming meatballs...like the fiesta itself, a sagey, spicy, spiritual experience.
So was my first Tamalada. I planned to just dash in and cover the workshop at La Cocina Restaurant, but sponsors, members of Grijalva family and Denise Chavez of the Border Book Fest Foundation, insisted I get hands-on experience, and I built at least 60 veggie, chicken and green chile and desert tamales. I am now a licensed Tamalera and I have the certificate to prove it. Nice to know I have another career to fall back on, if journalism pales.
But events are popping there, too. Our Web site reached a monthly peak of 1,300,000 visits. I started a blog and embraced our future as mojos: mobile journalists transcending print media to download audio and video online.
And speaking of new generations, art and spirituality again combined for one of my most moving personal moment of ‘07, sitting on the back patio watching son Ry and grandson Alex composing and playing duets on their guitars as the sun rose over the mysterious Organs, mood ring of our querencia.
I thought of all the conversations I’ve had with newcomers who said they saw our Shangri-la mountains and knew this was the place, and remembered talks with spiritual, artistic souls before I decided to move here, who concluded that Las Cruces is the place where great souls of the planet have come to circle their wagons, pitch their tents and make their last American stand, to preserve and rekindle what is best and brightest of la raza cosmica in portentous times.
May you find creative adventures in our querencia in 2008.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com