Friday, January 25, 2008

Hot times & full-tilt February fiestas

LAS CRUCES — Why is February our most romantic and festive month?
Maybe after lackluster January, which is usually our coldest winter month, we can all use some extra warmth wherever we can find it, and there’s nothing like Valentines and declarations of love to encourage some extra cuddling.
Perhaps surprisingly for a snow-hating person who grew up in frigid Northern climes, February has always been a favorite time of year.
It may be a matter of comparison with January, a month full of my least favorite things. It started when I was a kid, when I first decided that as long as things were cold and miserable, I might as well get all the odious chores over and done with.
So January is the month when I get the tax stuff together, take stock of what went right or wrong in the previous year, schedule household repairs, clean up the yard, visit the doctor to renew prescriptions, weigh in and face the ravages of the holidays, get my teeth and carpets cleaned. Then it’s time to figure out how much home and personal physical repair and maintenance will cut into funds for vacations.
And maybe, research getaways to tropical climes. Because you have to have some fun, or at least some prospect of fun. Even in a month full of my least favorite things.
But then comes February. Red hot with romance and the promise of spring (especially if you’re smart enough to move south from Michigan).
February includes Valentine’s Day and my birthday and thus the start of a new year for me personally, and in 2008, for 1.3 billion Chinese, since Chinese New Year falls on my birthday this year.
February goes by in a flash because it’s filled with things to commemorate and celebrate, all packed into our shortest month.
It’s also the weirdest and wildest and, some might say, the most creative, spiritual and charmingly inventive and delightfully eccentric month, being the native territory of Aquarians. There are more of us in the hall of fame, it is said, than any other sign of the zodiac, and it’s the dawning of our age, as we’ve been reminding you since the harbinger 1960s.
And even in the shortest month there are some surprise bonuses, with a few days left over to welcome the birthdays of our ethereal neighbors, the Pisceans, who may be even more deeply weird and wonderful than Aquarians.
February is, after all, the only month that gets an extra day every four years, and it happens in Pisces season.
We are fortunate to live very close to the “Leap Year Capital of the World” in Anthony, which straddles the New Mexico-Texas border but has always seemed to have its true corazon in the Land of Enchantment. It’s all thanks to Mary Ann Brown, a Leap Year baby who had the delightfully wacky Piscean vision to create a full-tilt fiesta to celebrate those rarest of milagro birthday kids.
February has lots of other special treats and reasons to celebrate in addition to Valentines, Day, Presidents’ Day, Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays, Groundhog Day, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras and Mexico’s Dia de la Bandera (Flag Day) and Dia de la Candaleria.
It’s Black History Month in America, with traditional local observances that have included everything from lectures and films to art exhibitions and music and other cultural events and performances.
And, of course, it’s also For the Love of Art Month in Las Cruces and Mesilla, week after week devoted to enthusiastic celebrations of what too many of us may take for granted: life in one of the richest, most culturally diverse and artistically blessed communities our size in the world.
It’s a great month to look around and enjoy something new. Go to the symphony or one of our many theaters or museums. Catch an art exhibit at galleries or special art month venues all over town. Or consider putting together your own show at the office. Ask everyone to bring in a work of art or sing a song together during lunch hour. Make your own Valentines.
Imagine something artistic and make it happen.
Be creative. Go wild. It’s almost February, the shortest, richest, most action-packed full-tilt fiesta month!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Dancing with roadrunners

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — The forms of my world are fading away…or going full-tilt surreal. Almost every week, it seems, there is something new and strange in the ‘hood.
Nationwide recessions and housing crises are finally having their trickle-down effect on our rampant development, but now that the construction dust is settling, and the winter dust storms are blowing stuff up, up and away, and we’re packing up the last of the distracting holiday decorations, you, too, may look around and notice how much things are changing in your neighborhood.
And there are a few things that don’t seem to be changing enough, due to another force that transcends our fronteras and control: global warming.
It’s January and anything can happen, but by the middle of the month, things were still blooming in my yard that shouldn’t be.
Most of the verbena and lantana bushes have dropped their green leaves and colorful little flowers and gone into hibernation, but two stubborn desperado bushes, one in the front yard and one in the back, are still producing lacy bits of green and bright purple blooms.
And every now and again, I notice a confused looking housefly or butterfly making pseudo-spring rounds.
A lot of the jackrabbits have moved on to wilder desert climes, but I have a new paisano. I’ve christened him Errol Jr. because, like his first roadrunner namesake, he’s a dashing soul. Errol the First established his own cozy condo in the eaves of an isolated home on acreage in Picacho Peak where I lived a decade ago. He was an elegant, laid-back gentleman bird who would complain subtly if I disturbed him at his slumber too early in the morning, but was always in the mood for a fiesta if he smelled albondigas simmering through the kitchen window. He earned his keep snacking on rattlesnakes and sometimes joined me for walks down mountain trails.
Errol Jr. showed up a few months ago. Strangely enough, the first roadrunner to establish regular routes through my neighborhood, turned up after another recent wave of development and human traffic escalation. Not surprisingly, he’s more of a streetwise, hip urban guy than the courtly rural gentleman who was my first serious roadrunner amigo. E-Jay (Errol Jr.’s rap name) seems a lot more hyper, too. Maybe the neighborhood Starbucks is on his rounds and he’s running on a contact caffeine high.
He’ll look me in the eye, but doesn’t seem inclined to share a leisurely amble with me at this stage in our relationship. It’s true that I haven’t wooed him with albondigas. I’m not much into red meat these days and somehow, Boca Burger meatballs just don’t have the same allure. I’ve noticed that his route includes a rock fence that runs through my lot, and if I position a slice of toast there, before E-Jay’s morning rounds, he gratefully snaps it up.
Then he’s off, in a cloud of dust on the sandy trail behind my patio. Without a word. Those of us who have spent quality time with roadrunners know they are more likely to mutter something that sounds like a rachety Louis Armstrong riff, rather than the “beep-beep” of the famed cartoon character.
While I’m hanging with my peeps in the ‘hood, E-Jay may be off to rally with his posse of roadrunner beeps at some as-yet-undisclosed hideaway, maybe one of the last stands of mesquite on this side of the newest subdivision, or a highway underpass.
I just remembered that this is Mesilla Valley Balloon Rally weekend and the fates have been known to stage a landing or two nearby. This could be the perfect Sunday morning to head out to the patio with a camera. With a little luck, I might be able to get a shot that includes E-Jay munching on seven-grain toast in a rock garden full of enthusiastically flowering things that shouldn’t be blooming in the winter, with a few ethereal hot air balloons floating toward the Organ Mountains in the background.
It’s another surreal January in Las Cruces.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at