Friday, March 8, 2013

Some thoughts about eggs ...

By S. Derrickson Moore LAS CRUCES — It’s the time of year when they’re everywhere. In baskets. Showcased in dining room centerpieces. In seasonal displays, in exotic colors and patterns. Going splat on the ground, after falling from desert nests perched precariously in cactus or fragile bushes. Let’s talk about eggs. They’ve been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, to be technical, quite a while before I can remember, to my very origin, like all the rest of us human beings. My mom, who, of course, contributed the eggs that would become my sister and brother and me, was very fond of birds, which meant that there were a lot of interesting eggs in our life. When it was still conventional wisdom that you couldn’t, mom knew that it was okay to carefully replace eggs in wild birds’ nests. Clumsy birds did okay on her watch and our city, river and grandparents’ lakefront homes were full of wings and chirping. She carefully preserved exotic broken shells for admiring kids in her classrooms and at home, where our very walls were painted in a shade named for her favorites: “robin’s egg blue.” For several years, we had a pair of passionate pet mallard ducks, who produced considerably more eggs that the wild guides indicated they should: hundreds each year, in fact. We confiscated what we could, but Daisy found ever more imaginative places to hide her nests and we raised several lost-egg generations of ducklings. When I think of eggs, a familiar image that often edges out frittatas and omelets and chile rellenos is that of my dad, bending over a pale greenish, frantically peeping egg, performing ducky midwife duties as mom stood by with a heating pad. A couple of decades ago, I begin to see eggs as a potential art form. For several years, I did annual features focusing on Easter eggs inspired by life in the Southwest. I’ve created Mimbres eggs, inspired by ancient pottery designs, and researched and adapted motifs from several other cultures, from the Pacific Northwest to Navajo, Hopi and Apache and assorted pueblo peoples. I’ve made fiesta eggs in bright primary colors with Borderland designs. I’ve even tried my hand at cascarones, dyed or painted egg shells filled with confetti, and sometimes small candies and gifts. My cascarone mentor, Preciliana Sandoval, is a maestro who has added her own innovation, a colorful extension that creates a kind of wand. It makes the tradition of cracking a cascarone on a deserving friend seem more like a blessing than an aggressive attack, a benediction of good wishes. Years ago, when I traveled with the Las Cruces delegation to our German Sister City of Nienburg, I took several of Preciliana’s cascarones along and the festive eggy piñatas were a big hit. These days, Preciliana is busy with her murals and other art projects and is finishing up a degree at NMSU, but if you’re lucky enough to spot her at an outdoor market in Mesilla or Las Cruces, be sure to stock up on any available cascarones. I usually can’t bear to break them, but if an irresistible confetti egg thwacking opportunity comes up, it’s nice to know I’m artistically armed and dangerous. And speaking of eggy artistry, I also have fond memories of the late, great, Leo Dohmen, the last of the Belgian Surrealists, who created some of his last great ouevres here when he lived in Picacho Hills, where his widow Mireille is still a resident. The egg inspired some of his greatest works, from a front yard sculpture to interesting paintings which starred eggs as Wild West desperadoes, with Stetsons and six-shooters. While you’re dyeing and decorating eggs with your kids and grandkids, ponder which came first. The chicken or the egg? My money’s on the egg. S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

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