Friday, June 29, 2012

Wistful for a grander Rio

By S. Derrickson Moore
dmoore@lcsun-news.com
LAS CRUCES — Once, it was a raging river, wild and free.
These days, it’s often nothing more than a dry strip of sand, awaiting the carefully-controlled trickle that will fuel what seems to be its chief modern function, as an irrigation ditch.
It seems that no serious dribbles start until after the big Memorial Day holiday, especially in drought years like this, when tourists flock to Elephant Butte and Truth or Consequences to enjoy the largest water recreation areas in the state.
But finally, come June, patient farmers and river aficionados finally get their watery reward … or a bit of it, at least.
Early summer is a time the Southwest Environmental Center asks us to remember and enjoy the Rio Grande. That was the motive for creating the wild and wacky Raft the Rio Races 15 years ago.
It’s fun with a serious motive: “to get people down to the river — and enjoying the Rio Grande, and thinking of the river as an asset and resource,” said Southwest Environmental Center executive director Kevin Bixby.
Again this June, the races lured hundreds of participants and many more to cheer on colorfully costumed desert sailors in creative vessels concocted from mostly recycled materials.
It’s also a clever bit of counter-programming at a time when many people seem overwhelmed with never-ending disasters: wars, famines, pollution, nuclear accidents, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues, economic collapse …
In 2007 the World Wide Fund for Nature put the Rio Grande on its international 10 Most Endangered Rivers list, the only waterway in North America to be so “honored.” American Rivers ranked the Rio Grande as the seventh most endangered river in the United States, citing both toxic chemical pollution, overpumping of water and raw sewage dumping by cities across the border.
As someone who lived near the Rio Grande for a few years, I’m amazed that any water still makes it that far. And after several years of walks on its banks, I’m also amazed — and horrified — that so many here consider the Rio Grande a dumping ground for noxious waste... paint, used motor oil, dirty disposable diapers.
And that’s why I’m a big fan of Bixby and SWEC, the driving forces behind the fun annual race and the year-round Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park.
They’ve started the Herculean effort to remind us of what the Rio Grande once was, a beloved community gathering place, a spot where you could go for a solitary reflective walk or an afternoon of family fun.
Native Las Crucens have told me they remember when it was all that and more: a refuge and THE place to be when they were growing up, for a swim, a walk, a picnic, private time with a girlfriend or boyfriend, a hangout for teens.
When I moved to Las Cruces almost two decades ago, I came with memories of relatively wild Michigan streams, the mighty Columbia and Willamette rivers in Oregon, beaches along the Great Lakes and oceans on both coasts.
The wounded Rio Grande broke my heart and I avoided it for a long time.
Now we have a history together. A memorial service for a dear friend. Stories about wacky races and the La Llorona festival (and a mural of the Weeping Woman under Picacho Bridge). A blue heron sighting. A magical morning walk through the surprisingly varied Mesilla Bosque park terrain with my soulmate that turned out to be a highlight of our last staycation.
It’s over-wrangled and wounded and there’s a lot to do. But there are signs of hope, that once again, the Rio Grande is valued and loved.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Return of Alexander the Great

By S. Derrickson Moore
dmoore@lcsun-news.com
LAS CRUCES — He’s back.
But you might not recognize him at first.
Inside, grandson Alexander the Great is the same bon vivant who helped me cover the weekend A&E beat from ages 3 to 10.
He’s always been a good sport, admiring budding artists and musicians at openings, graciously sharing an impromptu dance at a downtown street festival, curiously sampling the kids’ instrument petting zoo at the symphony, and even gratefully accepting Lonnie Klein’s baton to conduct the orchestra for a moment.
As a tot, he was never shy about greeting his fans … or recruiting new ones: “Hi, I’m Alexander the Great. You may know me from such Las Cruces Style columns as …”
Now he’s a wise, well-traveled 15, topping 6 feet, and a bit more subtle about engaging his fan base, but still too cool for school … or high school, at least. If all goes well, he hopes to start college this fall in the Pacific Northwest, finishing up the first two years toward an audio engineering degree by the time he’s 17.
Maybe it’s something in the water in the state where Bill Gates — and Alex — were born, where tots design their first websites in nursery school. By the time Alex moved here at age 3, he was already a computer whiz, educating his grandmother on everything from computer games to online research and design.
That trend has continued. While I try to convince myself that I’m ahead of my peer curve on Twitter and the social networking front, as soon as Alex hit town, I realized I am barely leaving the Jurassic exit on the information superhighway.
He’s been keeping up his on-line composition repertoire on Soundcloud. As his grandmother, ahem, I understand the seminal influences in his budding career, but you don’t have to know the artist to have fun at http://soundcloud.com/lasarexproductions. (I’m particularly partial to “Ocean,” and “4clubber-vs-bassnectar,” plus “Lavender City,” which features a guest chirp shout-out from Pikachu, the fierce yet cuddly little dude that was my favorite of his Pok√©man buddies in his wild youth.)
Within a few days, he’s coaxed my relatively-new-but-neglected home MacBook into whole new worlds, setting up Skype for his college admission interview, thrilling my barely-touched GarageBand with exciting new sounds, all the while, skillfully and unobtrusively texting and sharing photos and audio with his parents and friends back in the Pacific Northwest and his cousins in Las Cruces.
(Three minutes after I made the decision to stop at the Mesilla Valley Mall and mere seconds after I picked an entrance, there were his cousins and their friends, greeting us. I’m still not sure how they pulled that one off. )
He’s almost talked me into chucking my Neanderthal cell phone and smartening up. Yes, I’ve been impressed by watching friends and colleagues around the office, but I’ve mainly thought of androids and iPhones as a mandate to sacrifice the last remnants of privacy and extend my work responsibilities into a relentless 24/7 siege.
Alex is showing me how the iPhone can be our benevolent friend, streamlining a variety of tasks and enhancing the quality of our everyday lives. He asked for my favorite song at dinner the other night, and I was pretty sure I could stump him with a melody that’s even before my time. Soon the dining room of my semi-adobe abode was filled with the poignant World War II ballad, “Long Ago and Far Away,” and he’d chosen a lush version by Johnny Mathis that I’d never heard before.
He’s at a life stage when most of his time is shared, appropriately, with his peers, but we’ve found a lot of common ground, sharing fond memories of our shared six years in the 20th century and current and projected decades of hopes and visions for the 21st. We’ve been amigos for a very long time, parts of two centuries already.
Times change, forms pass away. Kids grow up and grandmas get older … and discover there can be a timeless constant in love, life’s adventures and soul’s substance.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Can we transcend our generation?

By S. Derrickson Moore
dmoore@lcsun-news.com
LAS CRUCES — I’ve had some interesting calls lately about the state of the world from a G.I. She continues to valiantly wage battles for what’s right and deserves the highest medals, but as far as I know, she’s never served in any branch of the military.
Some of the best conversations of my life have been shared with my Silent BBF, an eloquent soul who always has a lot of helpful and inspiring things to say about just about everything.
Then there is the amazing soul who has contributed so much to my life since the day he was born. It seems strange that it is proper to refer to him as X, when he has a perfectly good name ... in fact, I named him myself.
He and another X are the parents of a Millennial, an already-innovative example of the best of the new millennium, though he was born a half dozen years before we reached the year 2000.
If some of this seems a bit confusing, even contradictory, it’ll probably help clear things up to tell you I’m a Boomer.
I’ve been following PBS’s “America’s Generations With Chuck Underwood.” Underwood, author of “The Generational Imperative,” offers some interesting insights and definitions of what constitutes a generation.
Here is the timeline Underwood offers: G.I. Generation: 1901-1926, The Silents: 1927-1945, Baby Boomers: 1946-1964, Generation X: 1965-1981, Millennials (first wave): 1982-1994, (second wave) 1995-present.
It’s an interesting starting point for conversations in your own multi-generational circle of family and friends.
Not everybody agrees on the names, or even the time spans for generational definitions. When I was taking psychology and anthropology courses, back in the 60s and 70s, the standard contemporary definition was about 30 years, based on the time it took one group to grow up and give birth to the next generation. That gets tricky, since there have been eras and societies in which teen parents are the norm, in contrast to recent definitions of adolescence that extend to the late 20s.
Even if they agree on the timelines, many I’ve talked to have their own ideas about naming their generations. Instead of “G.I.,” those who lived through the Great Depression and World Wars I and II, understandably prefer Tom Brokaw’s homage: “The Greatest Generation.” I agree, though we should remember that generation produced Hitler, Stalin and the other super-villains their generation battled ... including the racists and racist policies that the so-called “Silent” generation took the lead in fighting. Consider the accomplishments of a few of the most famous “Silents”: Martin Luther King Jr., Gloria Steinem, the Beatles.
I’ve yet to meet a Gen-Xer who was happy with that generic term, or the equally deprecating “Slacker,” or “Me Generation” monikers. The newest generation seems equally irked by labels like Gen Y or Z.
Maybe we should identify generations with less emotionally-charged labels. While there are admirable motives — to help us study and understand generations and bridge generation gaps — some think we should not label them at all.
It all goes back to the nature vs. nurture debates.
After long experience with five of the “officially” designated groups, I’d say that we are all profoundly influenced by the times we live in, but our common humanity trumps our vintage.
We all have the power to learn, evolve and grow. I wish we put more energy and resources into studying (and emulating) the stainless steel souls who manage to preserve the best and transcend the worst of our worlds and times.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

What dad really wants

By S. Derrickson Moore
dmoore@lcsun-news.com
LAS CRUCES — What do dads REALLY want for Father’s Day? It’s just a week away.
I surfed online for awhile before giving up. The dad’s day gift sites were all over the place and mostly seemed interested in selling stuff to our dads, or to us, to give to them.
The truth is, when it comes to material goodies, that there are as many answers as there are dads.
And, though the gap is closing, dads still tend to earn more than moms. Chances are, if it’s a reasonably-priced something he really wanted, he may already have purchased it himself.
According to Jenna Bromberg’s Block Talk Infographics, we’ll spend $9.4 billion on dad today, compared to the $14.6 billion we drop for Mom’s Day. That includes the $123.89 we’ll invest in the “perfect gift” for mom, vs. a still hefty but lesser $90.89 for dad’s dream present.
But again, dads make more and can spring for their own dream gifts. And the same survey indicates 91 percent of dads think Mother’s Day is more important than Father’s Day and an even greater majority — 94 percent— agree with the statement that “small gestures are more important than buying expensive presents.”
The truth is — and always has been, I’d say, without benefit of surveys — that it’s the thought, and the creativity behind it, that really rate with our fathers.
Those of us who have settled the estates of our dearly departed dads and granddads know that it’s the little things that show up decades later, framed on an office or den shelf or squirreled away in cherished personal treasure troves in frequently perused bureau and desk drawers.
It’s the cards that dads save for a lifetime, especially the handmade early school creations, or funny or moving cards with equally funny or moving personal notes. Photos are keepers, too, and drawings and anything handmade: handprints, sculptures, woodworking projects.
Most dads will love anything with a great personal backstory they can share with others, too. For years, my dad proudly wore an ugly green tie I’d given him. Not because ties are a well-loved gift — they really aren’t — but because he loved telling how his daughter, a teen exchange student, had almost missed her plane home waiting in line at a duty-free shop at an unexpected layover in Ireland to purchase the tie for him.
Most dads love adventures and would enjoy an outing more than a gift. A meal, a sporting event, a movie, a concert, or some other way to spend some time together will mean a lot.
There’s something about action and dads ... even those who seem to prefer couch potato mode. A trip is always nice, but it doesn’t have to be a world cruise or a week at a posh resort. A camping trip, a fishing expedition, or even a hike and picnic at a nearby park always seem to be dad-pleasers.
Chances are, there’s something you’ve always meant to do with your dad. If there’s any way you can manage it, make this the year you actually do it. Life is unpredictable, and you never know. It could be your last and only chance.
No matter what’s on dad’s bucket list, I’ll bet it’s the everyday things that are most likely to loom large in life’s end reels: a child’s first smile, first steps, first “Da-da” greeting. The soft and sticky little hand clutching his, a discovery hike in a neighborhood park. You in your mom’s arms. You in your first prom gown or tux.
The poignant sight of can’t-possibly-be-that-big you in uniform, be it scout, band, football, dance team, or military.
In fact, you will always be the most significant gift on Father’s Day: he couldn’t be a dad without you.
So honor him with the best present of all: you, telling him he’s a great dad and you love him.

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

School's out! School's out!

By S. Derrickson Moore dmoore@lcsun-news.com LAS CRUCES — Summer’s always been my favorite time of the year, even here in blistering high desert county. Some, including me, like it hot … and sunny. I’ve been wondering, therefore, why I always feel a little blue this time of year. Recently, I think I finally figured it out, while I was writing about happy graduating seniors and watching euphoric younger kids frolicking in local parks and malls. There’s no dispute that humans, like other critters, are affected by circadian rhythms, 24-hour cyclical patterns that impact our mental, emotional, physical and behavioral states. There’s a lot of evidence that shows we’re affected by seasonal changes, too, and I think there’s a crucial one that occurs just about now every year. I call it the vacational rhythm, which may be a profound form of what my mom used to call “I don’t want-to-go-to-school-itis.” Mom, who was a teacher, admitted that she suffered from this ailment every now and then, too. Naturally, we were all immune to this dread avoidance compulsion malady from June to August every year … because there was no school! Who can forget those blissful first mornings in June (or late May for most kids here) when you start to wake up and realize you don’t have to yet, because school’s out. No school today! And you don’t have to put up with snow, or the flu or any of the usual hardships and trade-offs for a day off. There’s no school! A free pass! And the weather’s probably gorgeous. If it’s too hot, you can sleep in and stay up late and play when it’s cooler. Even if you have some sort of commitment like summer camp or a vacation trip or an early morning fishing expedition, school’s still out! If you’ve stayed up late watching TV or reading a good book or playing games, and you’re a little groggy, it doesn’t really matter. It’s summer and there are no pop quizzes or essays due or final exams or deadlines. School, after all, is out! How sweet it is, that sense of freedom and possibility. Especially those first few days and weeks. Maybe later, you’ll get a little bored and restless, and the prospect of seeing more of your friends, getting new clothes and fresh new school supplies and taking classes you really like … well, actually, it doesn’t seem so bad and you may even be looking forward to a new school year, whether you’ll admit it or not. But that will come later. At this stage, the years that I enjoyed those magical, euphoric vacation seasons constitute under a third of my life … maybe even less, when you figure in a college summer term and several demanding summer jobs. But somehow, if you’re in your teen years, and are lucky enough to have a summer job, that’s okay, too. You’ll be earning money, and maybe you’ll be able to spend some of it on something fun, so the work’s okay. It’s probably not as hard as school. And besides, summer days are longer and you’ll have more free time anyway, for summer romances, fun with friends, hanging out and goofing around. Because “real” school is out! It’s logical to have long since put such childhood rhythms behind me. But bear in mind that since I had a teacher mom, she got the summer off, too, and it seemed reasonable that the vacational rhythms could continue into adulthood. Now that many of my best friends are retired, the expectations that I should be free to stay up late to play and still sleep in are reinforced. My day will come again, I muse, as I plow through the usual round of deadlines, even though it’s June and my nature rebels. In the meantime, enjoy it while you can, mijos y mijas. School’s out! S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to www.lcsun-news.com and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.