Thursday, February 24, 2011

Adios Agaves

By S. Derrickson Moore
The spring weather the last couple of weekends has been delightful, give or take a 50 mph dust gust or two.
But the pre-spring euphoria has been bittersweet, as I’ve wandered through my favorite neighborhoods, watching my amigos mourn their lost agaves and assorted other bushes, trees and shrubs.
I saw a friend say a sad “Adios” to the beautiful variegated agave in the courtyard of his Mesilla adobe home.
“It’s time had come,” he sighed.
I checked out the giant saguaro that survived a move from the old city hall to the Branigan Cultural Center. It rallied to delight us with big waxy white blooms for the last couple of years. The tough old beauty looks like it has one slightly sprained arm, but it appears to be hanging in there.
What can you say about the devastation of a February that will go down in the record books — literally — as we recorded some of our biggest highs and lows, from zero and even subzero in some parts of the territory to almost 80 degrees within a couple of weeks.
It’s a twilight zone step beyond the usual suspects. What do we blame?
Global warming? Global climate change? La NiƱa phenomena? Solar flares? In a February of extremes, what triggered what? Why did millions of Egyptians, after more than 5,000 years of pharaohs and assorted other dictators, decide this was the perfect month for a Facebook-induced freedom fiesta?
It’s global weirdness of cosmic proportions, humanity and nature busting new moves in this strange surreal pre-spring.
And speaking of surreal, back home on the high desert range, all of my cacti are still assuming the molten poses of Salvador Dali watches, but they seem likely to survive.
I’ve been having heartfelt talks and cheering them on, but I’m not as hopeful about my now-giant agaves, nurtured since puppyhood, victims of the record freeze siege.
To be accurate, agave are not cacti, but succulents, and they seem to agree with me that snow sucks.
I planted them when I moved into my new semi-adobe abode over a decade ago. Like my burgeoning collection of Facebook friends, they keep growing and multiplying in mysterious ways, and (also like the Facebook gang) they have a tendency to deliver a bumper crop of sometimes irritating pokes when I least expect them.
I can be innocently pruning my pines and tending my petunias when I feel the prickle of a stealthy spike that I could swear was not there yesterday, or even a few minutes ago.
Though my assertive agave occasionally draw blood, I still feel they’re just trying to be friendly … agave adolescents, feeling their oats.
They’ve never really hurt me and their sculptural beauty always seemed a fair trade-off for a little territorial encroachment.
My agave amigos and I have been through a lot together and it’s hard to see them dying. I wonder if there is some kind of plant Viagra that will lift their spirits, their sadly sagging leaves, their joie de vivre.
Some of their puppies look like they have a chance but the dowager queen and king parental units seem to grow sicker by the day.
Should I wait until April as some experts advise, before I decide if they are ready to go to that great desert in the sky? Can anything be salvaged? Could I coat them with adobe or paint their skeletons lapis blue to form some sort of lasting sculptural tribute?
This could have been the spring that four or five of them sprouted those remarkable Godzilla asparagus stalks that seem to grow several feet almost overnight. It wouldn't seem quite so sad, if they’d been able to flower and go out in a blaze of glory, instead of departing just as they were reaching their prime, before their time.
Adios, agaves.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

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