Thursday, March 26, 2009

Alternative occupations: kites & celebrations

Alternative vocations for professional wordworkers
By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — It has been said of baby boomers that we are the first generation to reincarnate repeatedly within a single lifetime.
Sometimes it’s called “reinventing ourselves,” as Baby Boomer Madonna has exemplified over the years.
Photographer John Flannery, recently summed up my work history this way: “veteran wordworker.”
Personally, I’ve been pretty happily settled into journalism from age 13, when I had my first paying gig for a Michigan daily, to the present, though I admit there are have been some jaunts into other fields over the decades.
I was a vice president for a couple of Florida’s largest advertising agencies and headed my own public interest public relations firm in metropolitan Portland, Ore. I’ve been an arts council executive in Palm Beach, Fla., coordinated a network of public, private and academic libraries, handled media relations for Michigan State University and Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, planned fiestas and concert series and even set up permanent and rotating art exhibits and musical performances at an international airport.
Believe it or not, all these,—and pretty much every gig I’ve had over the last half-century— have involved writing in some form.
No matter the job, the clients and situations, it has always fallen to me to tell the stories. I’ve written newspaper and magazine articles, media releases and public service announcements. And newsletters, display ads, radio and television commercials, headlines, billboards and even a few political buttons and aerial banners.
I’ve written three books: a biography, a novel and a mystery, and contributed to several other volumes over the years. I’ve written a documentary and several poems and songs (as you might expect, I’m stronger on lyrics than music).
When I worked with Ballet Florida, I was not leaping and hovering around en pointe, I was writing librettos, little summaries of the stories that inspired various ballets so the dancers would have some insight into characters like Salome.
I’ve collaborated on titles and phrases for medical abstracts and names for new restaurant chains and upscale housing developments.
Even on occasions when pictures should have been worth more than a thousand words, I’ve been asked to contribute a few well-chosen mots. Once, when I was gallery-sitting for a friend in Santa Fe, I got bored and rechristened a few of her paintings with some more poetic descriptions ... and was treated to lunch and a signed original when the renamed works all sold that week.
It’s been a life full of words for me, all right.
But sometimes, when I’m having a rough day, I reflect on that old Monty Python segue line: And now, for something completely different.
Stories in recent weeks have introduced me to vocations I didn’t know were out there.
Recent artist of the week Peter Miche told me about being a certified celebrant: which, according to the Celebrant USA Foundation Institute, involves “Creating, designing and facilitating ceremonies and rituals marking those important transitions in life, such as coming of age ceremonies, home blessings, house warmings and baby naming/blessings.”
Sounds cool, and I’m sure many of my festival planning and promotion and Palm Beach party planning skills would come in handy. But I suspect lots of words are involved in all those symbolism-rich ceremonies.
While interviewing Bruce DeFoor about the Ruidoso Kite Festival, I learned there are actually professional kite fliers who are sought-after for festivals throughout the planet.
So now, come what may, I am a wordworker with an alternative life style plan.
I can always turn pro on the international kite circuit.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Easter Creativity around the world

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Creativity and traditions make Easter special all over the planet.
I still have fond childhood memories of Easter in the Midwest, where family celebrations included Technicolor hard-boiled eggs and bunnies and maybe a new Bible with a white cover. A brand new robin’s egg blue dress with a matching little purse and shoes. Clove-covered ham and hot-cross buns.
As a New Mexican, my memory repertoire has expanded.
Ramos and condoleros. Savory capirotada. Colorful cascarones, egg shells filled with confetti and small treats.
If you’re new to the Southwest, some explanations might be in order.
Some native New Mexicans look forward all year to capirotada, a traditional bread pudding that is made with toasted, day-old bread and a syrup of water, brown sugar, cloves and cinnamon. Other crucial ingredients include raisins, peanuts and/or pecans, honey, coconut, and lots of cheese ... preferably cheddar from what I’ve been told.
In Las Cruces, I’ve enjoyed watching members of the Tortugas Pueblo collect desert materials to make ramos and condoleros for Palm Sunday. Watching the camaraderie of those who create the ceremonial Easter decorations is a joyful and moving experience in itself, rather different from the harried Sunday school teachers I remember in Michigan, trying to gather and hand out enough dried up imported pond fronds for a respectable church ceremony. Sometimes we gave up and made our “palms” out of cardboard tubes and green crepe paper.
On a cruise through the Caribbean with friends, I woke up one Easter morning aboard ship to find a colorful fleet of kites rising in the winds on shore. In the island nation of Grenada, kite flying represents the resurrection of Christ.
Since then, kite flying is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my own family Easter celebrations.
This year, I’ve enjoyed hearing about some other seasonal traditions.
Karen Swaney e-mailed me about her Good Friday Easter Flamingo Brunch, now in its ninth year, which attracts up to 26 people, including fans who drive in from Arizona.
“It’s neighbors, relatives and friends. The whole house and yard get decorated with flamingo attire, the guests wear pink, get a flamingo silly gift of some type and for fun we have a Flamingo Basket Hunt in the back yard. We also have a Flamingo Queen and Flamingo Lady In Waiting — some years new people are crowned and other years we just ‘re-Flamingo’ them. They have tiaras, the Queen has a pink boa and I have a big pink silk piece that we put in the back yard so they can walk the Pink Carpet. We have hors d’oeuvres (I provide mainly shrimp as that is what Flamingos eat to keep their pink color) and a potluck type brunch,” Swaney reports.
She notes that it’s “silly and fun” and enjoyed by guests both old and young.
Trish Higdon is part of a group hoping to start a new Easter bonnet decorating tradition here this year.
“We’re inviting women to bring hats and glue guns and join us from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 4, in the parish hall at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 518 N. Alameda Blvd. We’ll have materials to help decorate the hats and then the ladies can all wear them to Easter services,” said Higdon, who stressed that the Easter bonnet decorating fiesta is free and open to everyone.
“We heard from a parishioner about doing this and decided it would be something fun to try here,” she said.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Desperados at large

LAS CRUCES — It’s the dark side of curb appeal.
I spent an early spring afternoon painting a four-foot pot my favorite color, lapis lazuli blue.
Then I epoxied a matching gazing ball on top and carefully positioned it in my front yard.
A few days later, I came home to discover the ball had been chiseled off.
Within 24 hours, the chiselers had returned for the matching pot, and ambled up to my front porch patio table to collect a bonus, a pretty little silver-colored pot filled with geraniums.
It was a gift from friends who no longer live in Las Cruces, and I thought of them every day when I saw it. I miss my amigos.
And the planters: I love the sight of silver and bright blue against adobe.
I guess the thieves did, too.
Though the sentimental value was a lot greater than the monetary loss, I decided I might as well report the thefts.
A kind and funny police officer called me right back.
“The sun is out and people are shopping for gardening stuff,” he told me, adding that on that first, unseasonably hot, springy day, there had been a rash of reported thefts of similar items in neighborhoods around Las Cruces.
It’s one answer to economic tough times, I suspect: Cruise the ’hoods to assemble a wish list, go home and plot your garden and dream patio.
Then, instead of heading for your favorite gardening center or superstore, wait until it gets dark and just pick up what you like from the most vulnerable looking neighborhood yards.
Part of me hopes people that desperate will at least enjoy my things as much as I have, but I suspect the police officer is right in his final conclusion that they probably swiped things to try to sell, and people desperate enough to risk jail for a few bucks are probably mired in a pretty deep maelstrom of misery.
Pundits are now saying we may have been a recession for as long as two years.
But for many, I think, the realization of the depth and scope of the economic crisis is finally being acknowledged as a daily reality … and part of that reality is that desperate times evoke desperate actions, and increasingly desperate reactions.
A post-theft walk around my neighborhood revealed things I hadn’t noticed before: more lights on early in the evenings, front yard benches chained to fences, pots and containers replaced by permanent plantings. We are moving from open porches to secluded patios, iron fences and padlocked gates.
Often, when people feel out of control themselves, they try harder to control others.
I’ve pretty well figured out my missions for this part of my life: to warn and heal, mix the medicine with a bit of joy and comic relief when possible, fly the occasional kite. And offer handy-dandy survival tips garnered in more than a half-century of a challenging life, during which I have often been blessed to meet and learn from some very wise souls.
One of them was prophet, philosopher-psychologist and author Tenny Hale, who talked a lot about the principle of spiritual vaccination. When there is sickness, you rush to help. You could well develop an immunity in the process, or if you act promptly and well, are more likely to find the resources for treatment and cure if you or your loved ones get sick.
Or, Hale said, if you learn of a fire, rush to help fight it. If we all pitch in and allocate some of our own resources, the fire may be out before it hits our neighborhood. If the fire does come near, we’ll know more about it, including ways to prevent its spread, stop its destruction, survive its aftermath.
I warned my nearest neighbors about the pilfering. We discussed locks and security systems and neighborhood watch programs. I thought about a big adobe wall and gate for my front patio.
But I’d rather have the bright light streaming into my living room and my porch, which again has a pretty pot, a heavier one now, filled with geraniums.
And I noticed my garage and back bedroom are overflowing with things I almost never use. Instead of a garage sale, it’s probably time to round them up and donate them to charities. Times are tough and there are a lot of desperate people out there who need help.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at