Friday, August 21, 2015

Hidden treasures in Las Cruces



Aug. 23, 2015
When I was a little girl, I loved stories about hidden treasures, mysterious quests, lost continents and secret gardens.
Truth to tell, there are phrases that still intrigue me and draw me in: “off the beaten path” and “the naked truth about ...” and sometimes even tourism bureau campaigns promising to reveal [insert city’s name here] BEST-KEPT SECRET!
Actually, I’ve been a travel writer for long enough that I’m rarely roused by that old chestnut these days. If something is the focus of a tourism promotion, the truth is out and it’s not any kind of secret, well-kept or otherwise.
There was a time, after my first decade here, that I started to think I had a pretty good handle on most of the most interesting and original people, places, and things in my corner of the Mesilla Valley,
Now, well into my second decade as Las Cruces Style columnist, and features and arts and entertainment writer, I know, to borrow Shakespeare’s famous line, that “There are more things in heaven and earth, (and specifically in Las Cruces) than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Or mine.
In the last couple of weeks, there have been many reminders of the richness and beauty of treasures I’m just discovering in some of my favorite neighborhoods, and even on the street where I’ve worked for more than 21 years.
Holy Cross Retreat Center, for instance, has been a favorite of mine since I first arrived, in the days when a talented artist, Father Marcos Reyes, presided over creative arts workshops and a flock of big, angelic dogs roamed the pastoral grounds and communed with visitors.
But I hadn’t visited since last year’s Franciscan Festival of the Arts, and though I’d watched its planning and progress with interest, I hadn’t been back since its new chapel was completed. This month, when I visited for stories for Healthy U magazine and our SunLife section, Father Tom Smith took me on a tour of the new friary and chapel. They’re some of the most beautiful structures I’ve seen in New Mexico or in travels throughout the Southwest. The chapel is a revelation, filled with light, spirit and lovely art and surrounded by gardens, a rosary walk and a new labyrinth. It’s still a work in progress (watch for stained glass alcoves coming soon) but it’s already on my list of Top Five New Mexico places of worship.
I’ve actually known about Joe Soebbing’s Wild West town for many years, though I’d never seen it. Friends who got a glimpse would pass me Joe’s contact information and I’d periodically call him to see he was ready for an interview. But Joe preferred to remain anonymous, even when stories I wrote about his Billy the Kid and Dan Dedrick tintype went viral, eventually attracting the attention of the History Channel’s “American Pickers.”
After the “Pickers” show aired this month, he decided it was finally time to go public with projects he’s been working on since he arrived in Las Cruces in 1992. I was surprised to realize his five-acre frontier town is tucked away in a wooded area I’ve been driving by for many years to visit good friends and colleagues. I suspect his pasture may adjoin the farmlands once owned by some of my all-time best friends, when they lived in Las Cruces.
You can discover more about his Wild West town in today’s SunLife, along with news about some intriguing new treats for antiques aficionados that he’s planning to bring to Picacho Avenue in September.
I found Ron’s Southwestern Treasures and today’s Artist of the Week, Ron Schade, one maverick day when I decided to take a new route home. I pulled out of the Sun-News parking lot and followed Las Cruces Avenue to Solano. After all these years, I hadn’t realized there was a little shop complex there, let alone a gallery of Spanish colonial artifacts, some of the most spectacular molas I’ve seen in a lifetime of collecting textile art, and, at the helm, a genuine treasure hunter who really helped discover some legendary gold in them thar hills.
For me, August has been a life lesson in the rewards for paying attention, even when you think you are travelling very familiar territory.
You never know what hidden treasures you might discover.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

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