Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Editor’s Note: Strolling Our Streets is a continuing series focusing on local history and ambience during one-mile ambles in neighborhoods around the Mesilla Valley. 

MESILLA  -  It’s a Mesilla gathering place, a popular parade route and the scene of a lot of activity for the colorful town that is best known for its historic plaza.
Avenida de Mesilla is the town’s “other Main Street.”
The Mesilla Plaza is the place that’s notorious for gunslingers and ghosts, stagecoach stops, political rallies and gatherings for transitions in a place that has been home to ancient Mansos, Pueblo people and Apaches, Spanish Conquistadors and Mexican Settlers. The 1854 Gadsden Purchase made Mesilla part of the United States, where it has remained except for a brief period in 1861-62 when it was the occupied capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory.
After the Battle of Glorieta in March of 1862, being short of supplies, the Confederate troops retreated to Texas. This ended the Civil War conflict in New Mexico,” according to oldmesilla,org.
All those indigenous peoples, cowpokes, stagecoach drivers, modern presidential candidates, and, of course, Billy the Kid, had to find a way into the now-legendary plaza, and chances are many of them set foot (human or horse), wagon wheels or tires on what is now Avenida de Mesilla, also known as New Mexico Highway 28.
“All those people would have had to traverse that way when it used to be the route that ran right next to the Rio Grande River, before it moved three miles to the west and became nothing but a mud bog most of the time,” said Preciliana Sandoval of La Morena Tours, a native Mesillera (resident of Mesilla) artist and educator who has been leading tourists around the her home territory for decades.
Spring is a perfect time to stroll the route yourself, and you may be surprised at all that’s happening along a few bustling blocks.
In a less than one-mile stretch between Calle de Mercado and West University Avenue, you’ll find little shopping plazas, including two with outdoor market areas that will put you in mind of south-of-the-border emporiums: Ristraman Chile, 2531 Avenida de Mesilla, and Casa Bonita, 1900 Avenida de Mesilla. There are two schools: Las Cruces Academy and Rio Grande Preparatory Institute, and some of the territory’s most popular restaurants and watering holes, including Palacio Bar (popular with poets and open mic aficionados), a brewery (Spotted Dog) and a winery and restaurant (St. Clair’s).
A good place to start your walk is right across the street from St. Clair’s in the picturesque Calle de Mercado area, where you’ll find a complex of buildings that look old, but aren’t. The Boldt family commissioned structures reflecting characteristic New Mexico architectural styles by renowned artist and sculptor Kelley Hestir, who created the moving sculpture of a trio of Bataan Death March soldiers in Las Cruces Veterans Memorial Park.
Now, the complex includes more recent additions that sometimes unite for joint art openings: Adobe Patio Gallery, the fanciful RokokoArt Gallery and Las Cruces Academy, at the site of what was once Preston Contemporary Art.
Foodies can also start a tour that begins Paisano’s, known for their selection of savory molé sauces. Other places to linger for coffee, a snack or meals (sometimes with outside tables) include The Bean, Thai Delight, Café de Mesilla, NM Grille & Bar in Hotel Mesilla (formerly Meson de Mesilla), Chala’s Wood Fire Grill, and Andele! Opening soon, according to signs, will be Salud! De Mesilla next to LuLu, 1800 Avenida de Mesilla.
Keep an eye out for entertaining surprises. You won’t find anything to eat at the Old Tortilla Factory, at the corner of Calle Parian, which houses art and crafts shops including the Tres Manos Weaving Studio. But, according to paranormal investigators, you might encounter the ghosts of those who once worked at the factory. (Not to be confused with the ghosts of Christmas Past, presumable more likely to hang out across the street at ‘Tis the Season, which offers holiday décor all-year around.)
As you amble, try to find time to peek in the window of Valley Plumbing, 2800 Avenida de Mesilla, to see vintage models of some of Mesilla’s most famous landmarks, including the plaza gazebo and San Albino Basilica, all handmade by Pedro Peña.
If you feel like stopping along the way, you can pause at benches and enjoy the fountain at a little park near Andele!
“It’s Veteranos Park, honoring veterans from Vietnam on,” Sandoval said.
Just before you reach University Avenue, you’ll find benches, picnic tables, a swing set and a touching tribute “to those who passed away while serving the town of Mesilla” at Parque Commemorativo.
Newcomers, visitors and natives or long- time residents all might learn something new with a visit to Mesilla Town Hall and J. Paul Taylor Visitors Center, 2231 Avenida de Mesilla. It features historical displays and free magazines and pamphlets about attractions in Mesilla and throughout the region. For information, visit the center, mesillanm.gov or oldmesilla.org.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Is April the cruelest month?

April 10, 2016
LAS CRUCES –  “April is the cruelest month.”
Every year I ponder the famous line from T.S. Elliot’s epic poem, “The Waste Land.”
And every year, I come to different conclusions.
About now, I’ m feverishly hoping the winds will diminish and the pollen count will subside. I’d love some April showers to dampen all those swirling sneezy bits. To heck with the May flowers. We’ve been covered in blooming stuff since February. What we need is what we always need here in high desert country: rain, please.

In the meantime, the Doña Anas continue to blow: stirring up dust, pollen, assorted nasty pollutants, and tempers.
At this juncture, as long as I'm crabby anyway, I usually look at my pet peeve file.
This year, the peeve generating the most hits seems to be people who proclaim they are “humbled” when they’re really being honored.
There are many definitions of “humbled” online, ranging from “lowered in dignity and importance” to “decisively defeated.”
I know what some of the genuinely humble honorees are really trying to say: it’s something like the homage star-struck Garth (of “Wayne’s World”) paid to his favorite celebrities when he bowed and repeated “I am not worthy. I am not worthy.”
Maybe that’s how you feel, when you get the Oscar, the Pulitzer Prize, the Heisman Trophy, your Super Bowl ring, the Nobel Peace Prize or your Best Father in the World mug. But to be accurate, you are being honored, not humbled or humiliated. And you could be in danger of insulting and questioning the judgement of those who decided to give you the award … or even veering into humblebrag territory. (The humblebrag is characterized by calling attention to one’s accomplishments and qualities by pretending to demean them. If in doubt about the concept, look for many examples online.)
It would be gracious to say “Thank you.” You might say some nice things about people who were also in contention for the awards, or show a little true humility (while not labeling or bragging about it) by thanking those who helped you accomplish what you’re being honored for accomplishing.
It’s hard to go wrong with basic gratitude.
And it occurred to me this April that my gratitude file is a lot plumper than my pet peeves collection.
After a friend and I discussed my soulmate’s stint as a volunteer doctor in Haiti and her own efforts to help destitute communities in Africa, Afghanistan, and the homeless in her own New York neighborhood, she summed things up: “Most of us have pretty high-class worries here.”
Working on stories like today’s feature about miracle child Hope Elizabeth reminds me of how much so many of us have to be grateful about. Like kids and grandkids who are happy and healthy. And families and friends who join to help us in times of need, and the medical and spiritual resources and support networks we can access more freely and readily than people in so many parts of our impoverished and war-torn world.
During the cruelest month, in a season of some of the most vicious political infighting many of us have ever seen, it would be interesting to see what would happen if all of us worked to be truly humble and grateful and remember what’s really important in life.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Easter memories

March 20, 2016
LAS CRUCES  –  Elders gathering with arms full of desert materials to teach traditions to a new generation. Sweet, spicy treats that warm the heart and palate. Excited kids (including my then-small grandson) scrambling to pick up eggs and candy and break cascarones …
As I talked to people about their memories of their favorite spring outfits this week, I realized my memory banks have garnered some rich deposits during the more than two decades since I moved to the Mesilla Valley. Many of the best center around this time of year.
I’ve been privileged to sit and spend some time in the village of Tortugas, while residents shared stories, prepared traditional feast foods and just before Easter, gathered to make ramos. One of the years I visited, they’d gathered stacks of yucca palm fronds, fragrant cedar branches, stacks of yucca palm fronds, river reeds, Spanish Dagger and other desert plants to make their beautiful organic high desert county bouquets for Palm Sunday celebrations at the Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Some of the people I talked to had been making ramos for half a century and they were a little concerned about passing on a tradition that dates back more than a century here. I hope it’s all going well, and that the congregation has a good supply of ramos for today’s services.
There are some lovely places here to celebrate a seasonal message of hope and rebirth. The Mesilla Valley is blessed with some beautiful churches, from the adobe grandeur of San Albino Basilica in the Mesilla Plaza to the unique and beautiful new chapel at Holy Cross Retreat.
And our multicultural populace finds intriguing ways to add to spiritual celebrations with our own All-American and Southwestern touches. 
I’ve had fun sampling several versions of capirotada, a traditional Mexican bread pudding that’s great for breakfast, lunch and/or supper, and traditionally involves bread, nuts, cheese, dried fruits, cinnamon and other spices. My all-time fave versions are conjured up right here in the Mesilla Valley, with native pecans and green chile.
Everything is better with chile, any time of year, and I’ve discovered it’s also a fine addition to traditional Easter foods of my Midwestern tribe. Anything horseradish can do, chile can do better, and I’ve become semi-famous in my native and adopted homelands, for my fusion specialty: green chile deviled eggs.
I’m willing to share: just use your own favorite recipe for deviled eggs, add finely chopped green chiles to the filling and dust the top of each egg with red or green chile pepper powder instead of paprika.
And speaking of eggs, there are lots of multicultural ways to have fun with a more secular symbol of the season.
I once spent a fun weekend embellishing white, tan and brown eggs with motifs inspired by ancient Mimbres pottery.
Artist and Mesilla historian Preciliana Sandoval first introduced me to cascarones, egg shells filled with confetti which you can throw or break with (or on) friends. Preciliana’s version is a tiny piñata on a stick. It’s made with an egg shell dyed a bright fiesta color on a wand with fringed crepe paper, filled with Tootsie Rolls, as well as the usual confetti. They’ve been an hit with friends and family members from Oregon to our Las Cruces Sister City of Nienburg, Germany.
I love Christmas, but the older I get, the more I have come to appreciate Easter. Christmas is a pledge and promise born and Easter is love, hope and faith reborn, an adult mission fulfilled. It’s the perfect time to ponder what our best selves might be and how great and noble aspirations could be realized.
This is a season to contemplate the best of what has been and what could be.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Valentines offer unique interpretation of New Mexican Culture

Feb., 2016
LAS CRUCES – Festive, colorful little hearts festooned with images of saints and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Cupidos y corazons (cupids and hearts) on bright red papel picado banners. Punched tin valentines, Navajo silversmiths’ sterling heart jewelry, and skeletal brides and grooms cavorting on romantic cards.
Valentine’s Day in the Borderland can inspire unique, artistic celebrations of our culture.
“I collect things all year long and find things that are perfect for Valentine’s Day. I look for things with heart shapes, little metal heart jewelry and other things that fit it with the theme,” said Kirstie Robles, owner of San Pasqual Market/A Hair & Body Shop, 2488 Calle de Guadalupe in Mesilla.
Some of her inspirations come from the Backyard Bones Coalition, a colorful outdoor market with regional artists that she hosts every year during Día de los Muertos celebrations in Mesilla, in the courtyard outside her shop, across from the Fountain Theatre.
Many symbols of death-defying, eternal love, like traditional Day of the Dead skeletons dancing, or in bridal finery, “are just perfect,” she feels, for Valentine’s Day celebrations here.
Robles also orders and commissions special arts and crafts to encourage one-of-a-kind romantic messages, including some original mixed media works from her sister, artist Stephanie Felix, a former Las Crucen who now lives in Gilbert, Ariz. Works by Felix include a framed heart sculpture made from pieces of driftwood and a corazon collage that features metal and paper.
“This year, I started looking around at Christmas time and found things like a sacred heart tray and other things from Mexico,” Robles said.
Holiday sales and leftover décor can be great sources for valentines, gifts and romantic décor, according to Beverly Chávez-Floyd, of Patina Home, 300 N. Main St. in Las Cruces.
“Just look for anything in valentine colors: red, pink and white. There are some terrific after-Christmas sales and you can get some wonderful things for very little,” said Chávez-Floyd, showing a row of red and white polka-dotted metal tins, tied with coordinated ribbons and filled with vintage teacup-and-saucer sets.
Chávez-Floyd’s shop is filled with romantic Victorian and Borderland table settings and vignettes, many spiced up with valentines she made herself from her stock of collectible ephemera that includes old papers and eclectic motifs like birds, flowers and even colorful Mexican oilcloth designs. Her entryway welcomes visitors with large heart shapes she sewed from white fabric with bright red chile peppers.
The owners of both artistic emporiums welcome those looking for one-of-a-kind valentines for their loved ones and say they are happy to consult and help come up with ideas to please significant others.
San Pasqual Market is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is closed Monday and Wednesday. For information call 575-527-1910.
Patina Home is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For information, call 575-642-2207.
More custom, creative gifts for your valentine are available Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Market on Main Street Downtown, where you’ll find everything from heart-shaped red chile ristras to fiery homemade salsas, heart-shaped cookies and pastries, flower arrangements, jewelry and wearable art, including colorful bandanas for your four-legged valentines. Couples who show up wearing red at the Feb. 13 market will have a chance to win romantic dinners for two at Main Street Bistro.
Find one-of-a kind arts and crafts, poetry readings and special performances throughout the Mesilla Valley during February For the Love of Art Month, or take your sweetheart on FLAM Artists Studio Tours to find special mementos together. For information and schedules, visit artformsnm.org or pick up a FLAM Event Guide at galleries, museums and other sites around Las Cruces.
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own special tributes, children of all ages are invited to create their own valentine crafts at a workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road. Regular admission is required for all family members: $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, $3 for children 4 to 17, and free admission for kids 3 and under. For information, call 575-522-4100.
The Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science, 411 N. Main St., will also have some valentine activities as part of their weekly SNAP! program from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday Feb. 13.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.
Find unique, artistic valentines
• Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Market
When: 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday
Where: Main Street, Downtown Las Cruces
San Pasqual Market
When: 10 a.m -4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Where: 2488 Calle de Guadalupe in Mesilla.
•.Patina Home
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a,m.- 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: 300 N. Main St., Las Cruces

SAN PASQUAL Market Valentines


Easter outfits leave lasting memories

Easter 2016
LAS CRUCES – A garden of pretty pastel little dresses blooms in a superstore lobby, awaiting small girls and an Easter parade. A tiny tot in a gentleman shirt with vest and bow tie picks up his bunny basket and  gets ready for an egg hunt.
All over the Mesilla Valley, kids, parents and grandparents are planning family gatherings, meals and church visits on Easter Sunday.
Styles change and customs evolve, but whatever your religious preference, spring is a time for rebirth, new perspective and often, a brand new outfit.
Memories of what we wore on other special childhood occasions, like Christmas, may be blurred or overshadowed by visits from Santa or favorite gifts. Our first memorable fashion statements, for many of us, were made in the spring, and we retain vivid memories of those outfits and the fun of getting dressed up.
Tiger Elliott, assistant manager at Kmart in Las Cruces, surveyed the store’s selection of dress-up clothing for little boys and recalled his own first spring stylish moments, when he was growing up in Gallup, N.M.
“I had a black, three-piece suit, with a blue shirt and tie. I remember it very well. I think I was about 5,” Elliott said.
“I remember a spring outfit with gloves, and I had an Easter bonnet and a little fur muff. I called it a muffin. I was very young,” said Sue Moore of Las Cruces.
Dressing a child for Easter may not take it a village, but it is often a pleasurable process and labor of love that involves fond memories, sometimes for three or four generations.
Memorable history was in the process of repeating itself for Minerva Gabaldon, who checked out a selection that included frilly pink, yellow, aqua and blue dresses as she searched for perfect choices for her granddaughters, Abigail, 4 and baby Sophia.
“I’m trying to find just the right ones. I remember having a beautiful little pink dress. It had three ruffles and little white daisies,” said Gabaldon, glancing over to a checkout line where her husband was guiding the wheelchair of Gabaldon’s mother. There were two, pretty little pink dresses, hanging from the wheelchair’s armrest.
Parental rather than personal Easter outfit memories are dominant for Scott Patterson, Las Cruces Kmart manager.
“I remember dressing up our two girls, or I should say, my wife dressed them up. They were afraid if I got involved, I’d add football cleats to whatever they were wearing,” Patterson quipped.
The quest for the perfect Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, may be a thing of the past, giving way to glittered pink baseball caps or trendy hair accessories.
But chic seasonal chapeaux live on in the memory of Rhona Holden of Las Cruces.
“I remember having the pretty little white hat, and the pretty little frilly dress and the big ‘ole basket to get all the eggs,” Holden said.
A new group of little Millennials are ready to have a say in making their own memories.
“My mother used to make my clothes. My favorite outfit was really simple and I liked it a lot. There was a hat, too,” said Rosa Sandoval, doing some spring break shopping with her grandchildren, Lillian and Anthony Lopez.
“I like this,” said Lillian, 8, plucking a sleeveless aqua dress from a colorful rack in the girls’ clothing section and casting an eye down an aisle stocked with princess gowns and dresses enhanced with tulle tutu skirts.
“My parents are Amanda Sandoval and ‘Big’ Anthony Lopez. I think they want me to get something like these clothes,” explained Anthony, 6, whose tastes seem to run to outfits with long-sleeved shirts, vests and ties with coordinated trousers.
The siblings picked out some favorites and decided they were ready to go outside and play on a sunny spring day and leave the final choices for later.
It’s worth a little thought. It seems that those childhood spring outfits could be something they’ll remember for a lifetime.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.
You’ve scored the perfect spring outfit, prospective Easter Paraders. Now, where do you strut your spring stuff? Here are some ideas
What: SpringFest 2016
What: Egg hunts, hands-on children’s activities, playground, Easter Bunny, entertainment
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday March 26
Where: Young Park, 1905 Nevada Ave.
How much: Free
Info: 575-527-1111
• Family gatherings
• Services and celebrations at your church or place of worship
• Saturday Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Market, Main Street Downtown
• Easter Bunny visits, Mesilla Valley Mall. Noon to 6 p.m. daily.

Jaeda Urbina, in a springy outfit with a polka-dot cardigan, fills her basket at a recent SpringFest egg hunt while her mom Diana Alarcon cheers her on in the background. This year’s event will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 26

Easter in the Mesilla Valley

LAS CRUCES  –  Elders gathering with arms full of desert materials to teach traditions to a new generation. Sweet, spicy treats that warm the heart and palate. Little kids (including my then-tiny grandson), screaming with excitement as they scramble to pick up eggs and candy.
As I talked to people about their memories of their favorite spring outfits this week, I realized my memory banks have garnered some rich deposits in the more than two decades since I moved to the Mesilla Valley. Many of the best center around this time of year.
I’ve been privileged to sit and spent some time in the village of Tortugas, while residents shared stories, prepared traditional feast foods and just before Easter, gathered to make ramos
In the village of Tortugas, elders will be making ramos using fragrant cedar branches, stacks of yucca palm fronds, river reeds, Spanish Dagger and other desert plants, to be distributed for Palm Sunday celebrations at the Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe. It's a tradition that dates back more than a century here.

"About 30 of us get together a week or so before Palm Sunday. Some of us have been making ramos for many, many years," said David Fierro of Las Cruces.

At temples and area homes, the Jewish community will celebrate Passover with gatherings and traditional meals.

Throughout the Mesilla Valley, we'll add to spiritual celebrations with our own All-American and Southwestern touches.

Whatever our personal religious affiliations, many of us will join new and old gatherings that have become community favorites in the region, from egg hunts and fiestas to a multimedia show of music and lights.

Avenida de Mesilla has become part of my family's history

April 3, 2016
LAS CRUCES  -  Exploring a little stretch of Avenida de Mesilla for today’s SunLife feature reminded me how much more you experience when you walk and pay attention, even if it’s a place you think you know very well.
I’ve spent a lot of time on Avenida de Mesilla over the past two decades. It was the first place I landed when I moved back to New Mexico and spent my first weeks with two of the people who bought me here, long-time Mesilleras Elaine Szalay and Lou Ayers.
When daughter-in-law Shannon and tiny baby grandson Alex flew in for their first visit, we headed down the Avenida to the Mesilla Plaza for Cinco de Mayo, where Alex the Great handled his first maracas like a pro.
After he became a Las Crucen, Alex, then 3, attended his first parade on the Avenida, and his parents and I were both impressed with the kindness of local kids, who paused in their own collection of the candy traditionally thrown from parade floats, to share their bounty with smaller children.
Later, when my Alexandria (Shannon’s mom and Alex’s maternal grandmom) moved with her family from the Pacific Northwest to Las Cruces, we all gathered on the Avenida to watch Alexandria’s then-teen-age daughter Tanya march in a parade with her high school band.
The late Ben Boldt was a link in one of the most profound of those synchronistic connections for which New Mexico is famous. After he and his family built the Mercado de Mesilla complex, I met Ben’s grandson Jonathan and, remarkably, discovered Jon, an Oregonian, had produced my son Ryan’s last record album.
Eventually, Jon and Ryan reunited to produce a special entertainment event at the Mercado, another Avenida de Mesilla memory for family and friends.
Strolling on a pretty, blue-skied day, a breezy lull in a week of windstorms, I thought about so many things that are new and different in the last 20 years.
The rustic old village municipal hall moved to the Avenida to become the new adobe Mesilla City Hall, J. Paul Taylor Visitor Center and Municipal Court. San Andres High School is now Rio Grande Preparatory Institute. The bold and beautiful venture, Preston Contemporary Art Center, site of cutting-edge exhibits and photographic seminars that attracted nationwide attention, eventually closed and was reborn as the Las Cruces Academy. And nearby, in at least a mini-realization of Ben Boldt’s vision of an artists’ community of mom-and-pop combined art galleries and artists’ residences, veteran gallery founders Carolyn and Henry Bunch built and moved into the latest incarnation of Adobe Patio Gallery, next door to the colorful RokokoArt, the gallery and sometimes home of innovative traveling artists A.me and Mitch Alamag.
I’ve since put in a lot of hours on and around the Avenida de Mesilla, touring with visitors, eating at restaurants, enjoying Sunday walks. And I’ve had a lot of Avenida adventures in the line of duty, covering everything from parades and historic battle reenactments to art openings.
I’ve seen a lot of Avenida galleries come and go with unique and eclectic offerings: handmade clothing, oriental brush paintings, exotic luxury automobiles and La Casa Rosa’s exotic folk and fine art collections assembled by the well-traveled Alexandra Nason Hall, who passed on in January.
During my little walk, I discovered two pretty little park areas that I’d never realized were there, and was reminded of some restaurants I haven’t visited for a while that offer places to have a drink or a leisurely snack or meal outside on a lovely spring day in Las Cruces, and watch the world pass by.
I think I’ll gather some friends and do just that, and remember the amigos and good times we’ve enjoyed and ponder adventures still to come.
So far, our Strolling Our Streets series has ambled through stretches of Calle de Guadalupe and Avenida de Mesilla in Mesilla, and in Las Cruces, Mesquite from Three Crosses to Picacho,  University Avenue, Las Cruces Avenue and Picacho Avenue’s antique district. If you have a favorite street you think we should explore, let us know.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

A time for new starts

Marcjh 27, 2016
LAS CRUCES  -  January may not be the best time for new starts. If you’ve flubbed a resolution or two, were not as successful at giving up things for Lent as you’d hoped or are ready for some new chances, how about rebooting your self-improvement efforts right about now?
Spring is the right season to make changes, grow and learn.
We’ve all had a chance to adjust to the time change, the weather is very nice most of the time and we have today to celebrate Easter and its messages of miracles, resurrection and rebirth.
After a sluggish, eccentric winter, a killer early allergy season and political campaigns that get stranger and stranger, I feel ready to attempt to brighten the corner where I am and start improvements with the person on whom I know I have the most influence: myself.
I’m not talking Mary Poppins (“practically perfect in every way”) standards, but I think there are a number of reasonable goals within my grasp and I am old enough to know there is wisdom, rather than shame, in admitting what I don’t know and seeking assistance. There’s a lot of good information out there, and more ways than in any time in recorded history to reach out to institutions, websites and good people ready and willing to share knowledge.
I was looking around my little semi-adobe abode and remembering that gardening pro Jackye Meinecke once told me not to start my outdoor planting until Easter. I decided I knew better one year, when we had a long stretch of warm weather, and ended up with lots of dead, carefully cultivated seedlings. This month, I’m looking around and wondering if it’s time to give it another go.
Some of my neighbors and best friends have grown spectacular gardens in Las Cruces, so I have proof that it can be done. Because I’ve written about them, I also know there are many sources that can offer help, from Doña Ana County Extension and Master Gardeners program to Mesilla Valley Cooperative Market, which offers classes and tips for beginners.
This spring, I’ve decided I will venture beyond my usual, tried-and-true geraniums and lobelia in the same old flower pots. I’ve already got some new pots, some roll-out, pre-seeded flower carpets I’ve been wanting to try, and I may even plant some herbs and veggies and consider the wild frontiers beyond container gardening.
I’m going to finally read the instruction manual on my no-longer-so-new camera, and actually check out the instructional website our nice IT guy Jose Ortiz recommended after he graciously set up my new iPhone.
If I don’t understand something, I am going to ask more questions. You are only a stupid old luddite when you decline opportunities to learn more, I’ve decided.
I’m going to tackle new forms of art and investigate yet more tweaks in my diet and exercise plan.
And I’m going to think about the advice of elders who have been telling me for decades that there are many things you can actually get better at, the older you get. Their examples include things like golf, ceramic arts, and many forms of music. My experience has shown there are many “sure things” to add to this list, like compassion, hope, charity, love, humor and patience.
And in recognition of the extraordinary soul whose life, words and deeds we honor today, it’s always a good time to grow and cultivate one’s soul, one’s love and understanding and find new ways to help and heal ourselves and our fellow humans.
May we all enjoy an inspirational and joyous Easter and a spring in which to ponder ways to cultivate and grow our gardens, our lives and our souls.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Progressive spring adventures in New Mexico

March 13, 2016
LAS CRUCES  - By the time you read this, you could suspect that spring is over and it might, for all intents and purposes, be summer. Or there could be frost, or even snow, on the horizon.
Spring in New Mexico is always an adventure, especially if you’re traveling to another part of the state. Even natives, I’ve found, tend to forget just how big our state is. We’re number five in land area, after Alaska, Texas, California and Montana. And since we rank 36th in population, that wilderness can seem even vaster when you get outside our four most populated cities, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe.
Throw in our interesting and varied topography, and within an easy day trip’s drive, you could be experiencing your favorite season several times.
My first years here, when I lived in northern New Mexico, I particularly enjoyed autumn aspen encores. I started out in Santa Fe and discovered I could experience second waves of golden aspens a few weeks later in Taos.
It almost made up for the snow. My first trips to Santa Fe were in late summer and early autumn, and I must admit, I didn’t do much research before I moved one torrid July. Mother nature eased me into my new home with an unusually mild winter that year, and flabbergasted me the next when it snowed from October to May.
Decades before climate change became a generally accepted reality, I realized that life in the Wild West in general, and the Land of Enchantment in particular, meant that there would be some interesting weather opportunities, from monsoon seasons in the desert to weather forecasts we just never heard in the Midwest, like “mostly dusty.”
I’ve come to appreciate the whimsical serendipity of it all, especially this time of year, when my northern New Mexico aspen encore tours have been replaced by Southern New Mexico déjà vu spring flings.
Without consciously planning it, I find that I’m lured to the border, somewhere around Columbus, to see the first fields of orange poppies and wildflowers. If I can manage another getaway, I can usually find those pretty little poppies hitting their prime a few weeks later around Silver City . After spring has sprung in the west, I can head north and east and enjoy another spring a little later, in easy day trips to Ruidoso, Mayfair and Cloudcroft.
I also look forward to cactus bloom tours, waiting for bevies of red, yellow and purple cactus blooms that seem to start in Mesilla (I suspect all those heat-absorbing, thick adobe walls give them a jump start) and stretch on up to the East Mesa. Then we progress into the now familiar, but still spectacular and amazing ocotillo standing ovations, when all those unpromising, dead-looking gray stalks suddenly sprout bright red flags.
Probably, there are sages in groups like the Native Plant Society of New Mexico who know exactly when to expect each manifestation of spring. Some years, even experienced botanists have told me that climate change and rainfall fluctuations can make it tough to pinpoint just what will come up where and when.
For me, a lot of the joy of spring is that uncertainly—finding a bold bloom out of time and space, weeks or even months early or late.
I think of it more as a symphony than a science. Or maybe it a theory of spring relativity. When my favorite willows develop tender green shoots, I know that spring has started and soon my  neighborhood streets will be lined with trees billowing with pink, lavender and white blossoms and it will be prime time for wildflower tours from Palomas to Santa Fe.
It always works. A few years ago, on a very warm May day, I was wistful for spring gardens in the City Different. I headed out with Las Cruces temperatures nearing 80, only to run into snowflakes around Socorro. There were snowdrifts by the time I pulled into a familiar Santa Fe parking lot. I walked over to a sheltered spot by an adobe staircase and there they were: old friends, pansies, poppies, daffodils, columbines and a few very early cosmos, bulbs and seeds who’d kept the faith and generated brilliant blooms, crowing (correct) through the snow with justifiable pride.
“Good show, guys. I heard you all the way from Las Cruces,” I told them.
If you have a favorite spring bloom show, chances are it’s appearing now or soon within a day trip or two. Don’t miss it.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Artists have realized some challenging goals- March 6

LAS CRUCES  -  After the full-tilt fiesta artistic spirit of For the Love of Art Month (FLAM) , I found two comments stuck with me.
Before the 2016 celebrations began, I was reminiscing with Kelley Hestir, who, with Myriam Lozada-Jarvis, cofounded ArtForms Artists of New Mexico, sponsors of FLAM. Hestir noted that one of their goals was to see art in new places in the Mesilla Valley.
At month’s end, I discussed For the Love of Lit with Sin Fronteras Poetry Without Borders founder Michael Mandel.
“When we first started doing For the Love of Lit, I had the thought that it’s something we do all year, but February’s the one month everybody cares about it. April is Poetry Month, but we have poetry every month of the year. More stuff brings more awareness, so it’s good. We should have love of art, poetry and all the arts, every month of the year,” Michael said.
And it’s clear that Kelley, Myriam and Michael have achieved their goals, and gotten their wishes to a degree that even they may not have realized.
The arts scene has grown and changed a lot in the last two decades, something we may not fully appreciate after a year when we saw a lot of once-beloved events and fiestas call it quits or change forms. (It’s worth noting that some, like this week’s Las Cruces International Film Festival, have already been reborn, reportedly bigger and better than ever and the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference plans for a big return this year.)
And yes, we do have arts everywhere. When I first moved here in the mid-90s, I didn’t expect to find art everywhere. Now, I do: in beauty and tattoo parlors, some with their own little expanded gallery sections, in restaurants and tea and coffee shops that have rotating art exhibits, in office and theater lobbies, in dress shops and dressing rooms and even restrooms.
My doctor’s office has original art not only in the reception area, but in each of the exam rooms. Hospitals and clinics pride themselves on their burgeoning art collections.
We’ve discovered that once we have art around, we want more of it, and we want it every day.
Shortly after I moved here, the Doña Ana Arts Council created an annual ArtsHop, and it was more than possible in one evening to get to all the participating galleries (which back then, meant pretty much every gallery) in Las Cruces and Mesilla. Now, it’s a challenge to get to all the openings during the monthly Ramble at just the downtown galleries, let alone manage to make all the gallery, arts organizations’ and artists’ studio tours that have become popular from North Las Cruces to Mesquite Street and Picacho Hills.
It can take hours to do justice to arts and crafts offerings at farmers and crafts markets in Las Cruces and Mesilla and the arts sections of festivals with widely diverse themes. Because we’re here in the land or art lovers, we have come to expect that there will be an artistic component to festivals for everything from beer and wine to cowboys, country music, ducks, rocks and minerals, and even guns and chiles. In the Mesilla Valley, a fiesta is just not a fiesta without art.
And it’s not just the visual arts. We have a symphony orchestra, bands and orchestras formed by retirees, and any kind of musical group you can think of - and many creative fusions you’d never imagine. Most of us know about our remarkable theater companies, and it’s getting hard to keep up with all the new and talented groups that have been formed in recent years. We have amazing and ever-growing dance groups and performances (award-winning NMSU groups, the state’s first ballet company, We Are One Dance and Drum, which attracts folk and Middle Eastern dance aficionados from through Mexico and the Southwest, and even a celebrated aerial dance troop).
And literature and poetry. Sin Fronteras also hosts open mics at 7:30 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at the Palacio Bar in Mesilla, and there are open mics all over town and as part of other events, including the first Friday Coyote Coffee House, and readings by emerging and celebrated authors and playwrights at NMSU and regional theaters.
We find cutting-edge art and places to educate new generations of artists and art lovers in arts institutions, too, from new private galleries and a refurbished adobe theater to arts schools, three city museums, and a multi-million NMSU arts center that did not exist when FLAM began.
This was not spontaneous combustion. Art begets art, and a supportive and appreciative community of art lovers, educators and arts aficionados inspires artists and an artistic ambience that’s 24-7. Something remarkable has been happening and it’s continuing to grow. We are fortunate to live in a place that loves art every day, all year around.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  575-5450, dmoore@lcsun-news.com or @derricksonmoore on Twitter.

Ted Turner Eco-Tours give new perspective on New Mexico

LAS CRUCES  - There’s nothing like getting to know your territory better, whether you were born here or are a newcomer to the Mesilla Valley and southern New Mexico.
I was reminded that I’m somewhere in between, and still have a lot to learn when I went on a couple of Ted Turner Expeditions ecotours. (I wrote about my adventures in Sunday, Jan. 3 Las Cruces Sun-News. Check out what it’s like to roam with the bison at lcsun-news.com.)
I focused on a five-hour tour to the Ladder Ranch. Our guide, as it turned out, was Ken Stinnett, a photographer and biologist I’ve known for years. I was surprised at how much I learned about the nearby territory, even though I’ve spent a lot of time in the area, and did an extensive series on the archeological digs at nearby Cañada Alamosa for the Sun-News and a piece for New Mexico Magazine.
Traveling with others, I also realized that it’s fun (and informative) to see our territory through new, as well as experienced eyes.
As we trekked through isolated territory on a warm December day, we’d hear a flutter of wings and before we could grab our binoculars, Ken had already identified several species taking flight. (We trusted his renowned birder skills: by the time we spotted most of flying critters, they were tiny specks in the bright blue sky.)
If you’re fortunate, as I have been much of my life, you’ll be able to find knowledgeable guides whenever you move or travel to a new territory.
I got a good start with wilderness-loving parents in Michigan. Dad taught us how to spot everything from white-tailed deer to several kinds of snakes, frogs and trout.
Thanks to mom’s botanical skills, before I entered elementary school , I could identify several kinds of pines and other Midwestern trees, and had already started scrapbooks with pressed and sketched examples of my favorite wildflowers: columbines, the hard-to-find Jack-in-the-Pulpit, delicate little white trilliums and trailing arbutus, with its lovely ethereal fragrance.
I suppose an arbutus by any other name, or gone unnamed entirely, would smell as sweet, but there was something about being able to recognize and name each flower that delighted me as a little kid. Each spring and summer, it was like greeting old friends for a flowery reunion fiesta.
I never really felt at home in Connecticut or New York, and I’ve since wondered if that was because I knew so little about nature and wilderness areas there, when and if you could find any, in the densely populated areas.
I had better luck finding knowledgeable nature mentors in other places I’ve lived: my tree-hugging, dolphin-rescuing sister Sally in Florida, Gregg Weston in Jamaica (who knew that allspice is a berry, not a blend?) and a host of wonderful sources in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
On my first visit to New Mexico at a cave management symposium, I met Dr. Milford Fletcher, then regional chief scientist for the U.S. Park Service, who helped educate me on everything from monsoon season to bats, when I moved to Santa Fe.
When I arrived in Las Cruces, I quickly found many friendly souls who taught me bits and pieces here and there and steered me to a source I recommend to all newcomers: The Southwest Environmental Center’s Saturday Back by Noon series of nature hikes. (Check out their hikes and other great programs at wildmesquite.org).
I learned about native plants and medicinal herbs on a tour with Deborah Brandt, R.N., a Healthy U magazine columnist and owner of From the Ground Up. SWEC’s executive director Kevin Bixby educated me about the Rio Grande. Thanks to the efforts of Kevin and SWEC, another wonderful resource is available for nature lovers: Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, where the visitor center offers a great guide to local plants and wildlife, and the trails offer opportunities to experience it all yourself.
Other wonderful sources for me have included state and national parks and the cactus gardens at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, along with programs and exhibits there and at the Las Cruces Museum of Nature & Science.
Keep your eyes open and ask questions: you’ll find a lot of information about our fragile, wonderful, high dessert country, and a lot of people willing to share their knowledge. I hope that the more we know, the more we’ll work together to preserve it and share it with new generations.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.