Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter in the Land of Enchantment

Like every other celebration I can think of, Easter has its own distinctive flavor in the Land of Enchantment.
There’s something spiritual, subtly beautiful, yet larger than life about spring in high-desert country. The soft colors of new spring growth blend gracefully with the beiges, browns and grays of rocks and soil. Mesquite is dotted with pale leafy chartreuse. Birds and their nests seem to slip in overnight on delicately camouflaged wings.
Then again, there are splashes of vivid color as exciting and flamboyant as the swirling skirts of a troupe of folklorico dancers. There’s nothing subtle about the blooms of cactus: crimson, fuchsia, magenta, neon oranges and yellow.
Steely gray branches of octotillo, which many newcomers presume to be dead, literally burst unto fire engine red blooms, as if to alert, wave to and flag down passing pollinators: “Hi, there, sailor bees. New in town?”
Agaves known as century plants can lead uneventful lives for years. Then, one special spring, they’ll decide to go for broke. Suddenly, the plant will sprout what eventually looks like a giant asparagus, an appetizer (or maybe even main course) fit for Godzilla or King Kong. At times, it seems like you can actually see it grow before your eyes: a few feet on Monday, and towering over your adobe abode a few days later.
Survival and procreation are serious matters in the desert. Birds and bees and prickly pears are all ready to get the job done when the conditions are right.
We Borderland desert creatures have our own ways of celebrating the season of renewal.
Artists and craftspersons add their own Wild West twists to traditions that have origins in other parts of the world. Red and green chiles spice our spring feasts and Easter dinners. Bright cactus blooms sometimes find their way into centerpieces of darling, pale pink buds of May, which usually show up in March or April here.
Though we live in a land the unenlightened may consider basic beige, especially during sandstorms, our souls are anything but pastel.
Given a choice, even our Easter eggs are likely to be dyed and decorated in bright fiesta hues.
Take cascarones, for instance. These are not your Midwestern mother’s pale pink, anemic yellow or whispery lavender hard-boiled future deviled eggs, or fragile blown-out shells with intricate decorations. These are FIESTA eggs, in vivid cactus bloom colors, filled with confetti and meant to be broken in a blaze of colorful glory.
I consider this a milestone year, because it’s the first time I’ve been able to go into a couple of local chain stores and buy cascarones by the dozen in nearly stacked cartons. It’s a benchmark, a harbinger — sort of like the year salsa finally overtook ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. (No matter what your cultural background, I think all sane and thoughtful souls could recognize this as triumph of good taste and All-American progress over outmoded tradition.)
Of course, the best cascarones are still hand-crafted by talented artisans. You can learn a little more about the festive eggs in today’s Artist of the Week feature on page E4 of this section.
I learned that Carmen Lopez has been creating her blingy little glittered beauties for as long as there has been a Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market. I’ve been a fan of Priciliana Sandoval’s pinata-cascarone-wand hybrids for two decades and even took some to our sister city of Nieburg, Germany, where the citizens were amazed and thrilled.
If you get a chance, pick up some handmade cascarones, or make them yourself and have some slightly messy (but worth it) adventures today after you bite off the ears of your favorite chocolate bunnies.
And if you take a desert hike, watch for jackrabbits and roadrunners who look like they’re on a special quest.
Who knows? They might be bearing baskets of treats.
Holidays usually come with a few surprises in the Land of Enchantment.
Happy Easter!
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

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