Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prime time in New Mexico

It’s the best time of the year — at least in New Mexico.
It’s the golden Goldilocks season: usually, not too cold, not too hot.
Just right.
If we’ve had a monsoon season, it’s likely to be over.
Most years, though, let’s not place any serious bets in the climate change era, the blustery, season-changing winds (we’ve named them the Doña Anas) won’t be along for awhile.
Hot-air balloonists rely on this ideal little perfect weather oasis in high desert country, which is why the Duke City hosts the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest such festival, in mid-October.
Balloonists have told me about a New Mexico phenomenon called “the box,” pockets of perfection in which you can reasonably expect to launch and come down in predictable areas and conditions.
I think there’s a nice space for living now that’s like that, too.
Let’s add Mary Poppins to the Goldilocks equation. Around this time of year, life can be practically perfect in every way.
Especially in the Land of Enchantment.
By the time you read this, if all goes well, I’ll be finishing a getaway to some of my favorite spots at my favorite time of the year.
If I hit it just right, I’ll get to see the first golden waves of Aspens start their annual gentle but dramatic tsunami cascade over the Northern New Mexico landscape. If you’ve never experienced it, make your plans. I’m a veteran of some spectacular fall color shows in Michigan and New England, but this is my favorite stage for turning a new leaf.
There are vibrant hues and color combinations that seem other-worldly, or visible no place else on the planet. And they include ethereal shades of Aspen gold and warm adobe, against the fall and winter lapis blue skies of New Mexico.
If spring represents new life, autumn in New Mexico reminds us that there is something to be said for maturation, too. Growing old gracefully — and beautifully. Our state’s falls evoke the patina of fine art, the glory of vintage wines, the wisdom of experience and the lovely, life- and soul-affirming possibilities of inevitable change and transitions.
Even when I’m convinced that the best days of the City Different are in the past, this time of year, I’m drawn to my first homeland in New Mexico. I miss my amigos y amigas there and understand why they put up with the rest of the year to be able to enjoy leisurely fall strolls down Canyon Road, around the plaza, the winding little former burro trails, through the hills and mountains, up to the vistas of the ski basin and Museum Hill.
When I can’t make it up north to Santa Fe, the Pueblos and the canyons of Taos, I’m also happy to stick closer to home and walk the shores at Elephant Butte State Park, or explore the quirky corners of Truth or Consequences.
I never tire of my favorite hike around Mesilla Plaza, down the little side streets and farmland acequias. I like the fall gatherings there, too. Mesilla Jazz Happening, this year on Oct. 5 and 6, is an especially nice time to bring and lawn chair and spend as much time as you can, kicking back and enjoying mellow sounds.
And it’s fun to walk around the New Mexico State University campus, see what’s new, enjoy what’s old and appreciate the art and landscaping.
Pick your own favorites, and see if you can find time for a little trip. Or budget time for a walk with friends, kids, grandkids and/or the dog. Plan to do your workouts outside, if you’re overscheduled.
There’s a reason this is FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season). Enjoy the fiestas by all means, but along with the music, art and activities, reserve some time for human being as well as well as human doing. Stop and smell the green chiles. Have an al fresco picnic. Open a lawn chair or spread a blanket and lean back to savor the moment.
That old cliché — It doesn’t get any better than this — could have been coined for here and now.
This is the (prime) time and New Mexico is the place.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter or call 575-541-5450.

Are you too old for Halloween?

 By S. Derrickson Moore
What are you going to be this year?
Like most Baby Boomers, I once thought that I’d heard that Halloween query for the last time sometime back in the Jurassic Age — or the 1960s, which is roughly the same time period to some of the whippersnappers whose conversations I caught while visiting local costume shops for today’s SunLife story.
“There are all these old people in here. Why are they doing anything with Halloween costumes?” muttered a shopper who appeared to be in her late teens.
Though I’m not of the fan of ageism that may have motivated her protests, my natural inclination is to agree with her.
In fact, back in the day, she and her companion would also have been considered way too old to get involved in Halloween activities.
Maybe we were in too much of a hurry to grow up, but we Protest Generation kids were ready, maybe even eager, to abandon all the Halloween accoutrements — costumes, parties and trick-or-treating — long before high school. In fact, if we hit the streets beyond grades 6 or 7, it was probably because our parents ordered us to babysit our younger siblings on their candy quests.
I can’t recall any major Halloween festivities in high school or college. And the few adult costume occasions my contemporaries got involved in had nothing to do with Halloween. I remember concocting outfits for spring croquet tournaments, Octoberfests, medieval feasts and summer Renaissance festivals. Every now and again, there would be some ambitious adults who would transform a front yard into a Halloween attraction and maybe dress up in matching costumes to delight trick-or-treating kids.
But when did the big kids and adults take over Halloween itself?
Tour any costume emporium and it will be pretty obvious that at least half, and sometimes a lot more, of the Halloween acreage is not devoted to kids’ attire.
Some of it is very adult — you’ll find everything you need for sexy, or even stripper-caliber, incarnations of school girls, policewomen, bombshell Wizard of Oz characters and more. What isn’t aimed at titillation often has scatological or double entendre appeal that even today’s savvy tots would not likely understand.
Then there’s the gore. In the olden days, a few decades ago, most of it would have been seen as too frightening for tots or grade-schoolers. After a generation or two of hard-core horror and video games, the fear factor seems to have evolved into something else.
Various gory special effects at a local store that delighted a little girl elicited jump-caliber shock for her mom, and me, as I passed by.
It’s probably too late to put the living dead and vampires back in their crypts. But I still have wistful moments when I wish crowds at my door on Oct. 31 would be composed of pretty little princesses, teensy superheroes and cuddly animal costumes.
There will still be some of those, I’d guess, but we’ll also be seeing a lot of teens and parents, all in costume.
Carolyn Dye, who owns La Vieja in Mesilla, which stocks Borderland and historic costumes, thinks the Halloween celebrants may be trending downward in age again. The economy and crackdowns on drunk driving, she opined, have curtailed some of the wilder adult Halloween celebrations.
Maybe so. I don’t want to discourage anyone from creative self-expression. And it may be healthy to live out some, if not all, of our fantasies and experiment with new personalities.
Still, it would be nice to let the kids have their day and be its focus.
And luckily, since we live in Las Cruces, there will be many other opportunities to dress up and celebrate cultures living and dead. Días de los Muertos and the Renaissance ArtsFaire are right around the corner, the first weekend in November.
Choose your outfits. And bring the kids for an encore.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or 575-541-5450.