By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Lately, I’ve hosted a steady stream of visitors and have been fielding a lot of inquiries from long-lost friends, relatives and colleagues who are suddenly intrigued by New Mexico.
Is it another harmonic convergence?
Or maybe a desire to escape from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, urban flight, urban blight and assorted other disasters rare in high desert country? (Maybe God figures being the birthplace of the atom bomb and a repository for so much nuclear garbage was more than enough.)
I’ve found myself hard pressed to even try to explain why this is my querencia, my favorite spot on the planet.
And frankly, there are some ungenerous days when I don’t want to, when I remember a few years ago, when it seemed I could get anywhere in Doña Ana County in ten or 15 minutes. Heading home at rush hour, I muse whether it’s really a good idea to name a major thoroughfare after an infamous death march ... or could it be a great strategy to discourage faint-of-heart newcomers?
And a weird ditty from my wild youth floats through my brain, from “Do You Believe in Magic,” that immortal Lovin’ Spoonful hit: “I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul... But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ‘bout rock and roll.”
How do you explain, in an e-mail, a brief visit or a column? How do you convey the magic of the Land of Enchantment?
A visit to an adobe plaza or two helps, along with a few scenic churches, a pueblo or the right museum or art gallery.
Chiles must be involved, but it should be a full-spectrum sensory experience. You cannot answer our official state question (Red or green?) until you understand the multimedia implications. The sight of red chile ristras against warm adobe walls and lapis blue skies. The aroma of roasting green chiles wafting in open air markets. The euphoric endorphin high resulting from a healthy diet with all the basic food groups: chile rellenos, chile cornbread, chile enchiladas and tacos and chile-enhanced wontons and teriyaki and molé and sundaes ...
Fiestas are a big part of the equation, too: Heart-warming, pulse-raising festivals that celebrate harvests, fast ducks and slow-simmered giant enchiladas and loving (and sometimes slightly eccentric and whimsical) altars and parades honoring our dear departed and their lives well-lived.
If you don’t believe in magic now, chances are you will when you see how we can infuse entire communities with transcendent Christmas spirit, armed with nothing more than a bunch of brown paper bags, little votive candles and handfuls of one of our infinite desert resources: sand.
The same magic prevails in our visual and performing arts. A hunk of wood evokes a saint. People, places and things come alive with personal meaning though an artist’s investment of insight, time, pigments and brush stokes.
Centuries of passion can be distilled and conveyed in the flash of a folklorico dancer’s skirt, the spirited song of a mariachi musician.
I’ve seen strong—and normally unsentimental— men and women get teary at the sight of a sunrise or sunset over the Organ Mountains, the wistful howls of a coyote chorus, our vast indigo starry nights, double or even triple rainbows and that first bite of a piquant chile pepper.
And it’s tough to explain the drama of lightning and thunderstorms echoing through desert canyons, or the aroma of mesquite and profound gratitude that permeates the desert during a cloudburst after a long drought.
It came as no surprise to me to learn that “Singing in the Rain” was written by a Southern New Mexican: Nacio Herb Brown of Deming.
Explain the magic? Maybe, you just have to be here.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.