Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Portales Season in the Southwest

LAS CRUCES — It’s been a long time coming in this torrid, sometimes tortuous year. Another bitter, destructive freeze and an all-too brief spring quickly blazed into a scorching summer of triple-digit temperatures, widespread drought and record wildfires.
But it’s coming. Relief is almost here.
You can feel it already on a starry night, an early morning walk, and, if you’re alert, sometimes even in a maverick marine breeze that leapfrogs over the Rockies and arrives with a hint of Pacific ocean freshness.
In Florida, we used to call it “magic day,” that long-awaited time when you could walk a block without getting muggied (mugged by heat and humidity).
In Las Cruces, it’s that wonderful day when you realize you’d rather linger another hour outdoors instead of rushing into the shelter of A/C or the laboring swamp cooler.
It’s prime time for portales, that nice Borderland term that could refer to whatever your portal to the outside world might be. It could be anything from a doorway fronting a patch of grass, a rock slab or concrete big enough to perch a chair on, to sprawling verandas that stretch around your home with sheltered loggias, elaborate arches or rustic vigas and latillas.
In between are patios (some covered, some not), gazebos, tables with umbrellas, free-standing summer houses, outdoor balconies or screened porches known in some parts of the world as “Florida rooms.”
Outdoor rooms have really caught on during the two decades I’ve lived here. Upscale incarnations can be almost indistinguishable from their indoor counterparts, with upholstered furniture, lamps, giant flat screen TVs, sound systems and complete kitchens with all the usual appliances, from fridges to pizza ovens and even dishwashers.
The infinity pool concept has expanded to encompass infinity walls of glass that open completely to blur the line between indoor and outdoor living.
Whether your lifestyle is modest or ornate, in the Land of Enchantment, fall is the time to get out there and live.
There’s a reason why our fiestas start this time of year, when we find ourselves looking at rich warm adobe against lapis blue skies and remembering why we love living here.
However I’m tempted to hike and fiesta, I’ll make a date with myself (and friends and family) for some prime portales time, too.
If things are looking a little shabby, I’ll spring for a new chair, bring a comfortable rocker outside, run a broom or a hose over the premises and maybe look for a few pots of annuals to pop in a pretty planter.
Humming at my door reminds me to refill the hummingbird feeders. It’s been a tough year for birdies, too, and many will be migrating soon and looking for food, water and shelter along the way.
But don’t waste too much time on gardening, cleanups or repairs — you can get to that later when the leaves have fallen and blown in with tumbleweed components and assorted Halloween candy wrappers and desert detrius.
If you’re longing for some alone time, (or avoiding free-ranging politicians and their advocates, out in record packs this election year), head for the back porch or close the front gate, if you’ve got one.
Have a private picnic. Do some power lounging. Curl up with a good book, contemplate nature and the sky or ponder an al fresco nap.
If you’re feeling sociable, sit out on the front porch and greet your passing neighbors and their kids and dogs (keep a stash of cookie bones handy). You might want to exchange a few words with some favorite old friends, or meet intriguing new neighbors and get to know them. Invite them over to “sit a spell,” as my great-aunt used to say, or share a cool drink or cup of tea.
No need to make a production of it. Relax and enjoy. Portales prime time is its own reward.

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

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