Friday, June 19, 2015

The rules of parenthood

June 21 parenthood
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. And a salute to parents everywhere in a world where roles and structures seem to be shifting faster than many of us can cope with, or sometimes, even perceive or understand.
Six weeks with a millennial convinced me it’s not an easy time to be a kid ... or a mom, or a dad.
But, then, I suspect it never has been.
I’ve never forgotten my big sister’s self-proclaimed “two rules of parenthood.”
The first one: “If you get a good one the first time out, don’t tempt fate: quit while you’re ahead.”
As it happened, she and I both heeded that one, and we each have lovely, kind, bright, talented and creative “only” children.
It took many years for it to dawn on me that neither my younger brother Tom nor I would be here had my parents heeded that maxim — but oh, well, I don’t take it personally, Sally.
And it’s clear that her other parenthood rule, untainted by sibling rivalry, is pure and true and dead-on accurate.
“Parenthood never gets easier: it just gets different.”
And that’s true if you’re the 20-something parent of a baby-through-middle-schooler or a 60-something parent and grandparent of kids facing middle-age crises or adolescent angst.
“Making the decision to have a child — it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,” Elizabeth Stone famously said.
And she nailed it. Time and distance might make the connection seem a little less immediate, sometimes, but the truth is that the parental connection can never really be broken or ignored, as long as some sentience remains.
And, maybe, even beyond that. Way beyond. I’ve heard more than a few tales from those caring for elderly parents with chronic, intractable Alzheimer’s or dementia. They may have gone for months or years with no visible sign of recognition from their mom or dad and then suddenly, often toward the end of life, there is a sometimes fleeting, but unmistakable sign, that acknowledges that most profound of familial bonds.
Somehow, in a tangled part or the brain or, some of us might say, the soul, the name of a beloved son or daughter surfaces and is spoken, just in time to say a final goodbye.
And many of us feel those bonds and messages transcend life on this plain. I have amigos who say they feel the presence of parents who have passed at moments of great joy or great sorrow in their lives. Some go so far as to report physical manifestations or affirmations: white butterflies, perhaps, or their parent’s favorite plants or flowers blooming out of season.
For me, it’s more often a triggered memory. I see an old-fashioned wicker creel and my mind goes back to fly-fishing and casting lessons from dad during countless waterfront weekends together. I hear a bad pun and remember how much my dad enjoyed what he always called “the lowest form of art.”
I think of advice he gave me and try to figure out a way to deliver it more effectively to new generations.
Keep communicating. Even when it seems difficult, futile, even impossible. Kids, spend as much time with your dads as you can manage, and dads, do whatever it takes to spend time with your kids. Find a way, even in times of fractured families, tough economies, long overseas deployments, sickness or hurt feelings.
Nothing is as good as being there, live and in person, in real-time huggable form. But when that’s not possible, get as tech savvy as you’re able and find ways to keep in touch via Skype, phone calls, texting, social media and even old-fashioned cards and letters, which still pack an emotional punch worth fighting to achieve.
And most importantly, say, “I love you.” Even if you feel estranged. Even if you’re not happy with the way the relationship has gone or is going. It’s something that any father, any child, in the best or worst of times, always wants and needs to hear. Love is something that has the miraculous power to change everything.
Happy Father’s Day. Our hearts are with you, dads.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Our City as a House

June 14
Our City as a House
What’s your favorite part of our community?
If you think about it, it might resemble your favorite part of your own home.
Fiesta maestro Lalo Natividad once referred to Mesilla as “everybody’s backyard.”
Lalo has been a vital part of teams that revived or established popular and enduring celebrations of Cinco de Mayo, Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Dia de los Muertos and Christmas Eve, all on the Mesilla Plaza. And I think his characterization is apt. After years of down home fiestas with family and friends, most of us do think of Mesilla as a family gathering place, and we do tend to take visitors there sooner or later. With that old-growth shade and a recently restored gazebo, it’s cooler and more fun than most of our personal backyards.
That got me thinking about our city in terms of a house.
If Mesilla is our backyard, I’d say Main Street downtown is our front porch. In recent years, it has become the place where we meet and greet our friends and neighbors, especially Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market, at monthly Downtown Rambles and increasingly imaginative Project Mainstreet events.
And the new plaza should only enhance that trend.
If we see our city house as a rambling mansion, I suppose we could have a parlor or den, maybe Branigan Library, the Las Cruces Convention Center and the Double Eagle. And a conservatory, with indoor plantings and exotic birds, and sometimes musical and theatrical events. That would make La Posta a perfect place, with its plants, parrots and piranhas. But let’s make it an indoor/outdoor patio thing and include all of our parks, theaters, the Center for the Arts and Pan American Center.
Since Pan Am also hosts athletic events, let’s also include it in our home gym, along with all the fitness centers, golf courses, hiking trails, school stadiums and athletic facilities. Does the house have a pool, you ask? If we’re thinking of the Rio Grande, yes, but only for a few months each summer. Better add city and university pools to our inventory and the little pond at Young Park as our favorite backyard water feature.
Most of us don’t have basements here in the desert, but we have had a long-term attic: Picacho Avenue, where our old treasures have been stored for decades, waiting to be rediscovered and admired by new generations. Recent additions may alter our attic before long. This month, The Emporium will open on Griggs Avenue, a new collection of old stuff (reportedly specializing in “mid-century” furnishings) that will benefit hospice programs. We might make a case that our communal attic, in very upscale, well-organized form, includes the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, along with New Mexico State University’s Museum and some of the city museums (especially Las Cruces Railroad, Branigan Cultural Center and parts of the Las Cruces Museum of Nature and Science, which houses everything from fossils older than dinosaurs to Clyde Tombaugh’s homemade telescope).
We are an ever-expanding mansion with many guest bedrooms (hotels, motels, dorms, etc.). Our kitchen has served up everything from giant enchiladas to barbecue and the world’s best salsa festival treats. Our exotic home bar offers house tequila (La Posta) and beer and wine in remarkably diverse and festive settings with pub, vineyard and state fairground themes.
How close up and personal do we want to get with this? Landfills, dumps and sewage treatment plants as bathrooms, for instance? Or should we end on a more artistic note?
Do we have a home arts loggia, a space dedicated to display of our favorite masterpieces? I thought about the University Art Gallery and the Las Cruces Museum of Art. But I think we’re the kind of people who want art in every room of our house, and sculpture gardens outside. So let’s add all the galleries, shops, restaurants and even hospitals, offices and highway bridges that add great art experiences to everyday life at home. Personally, Olin Calk’s giant roadrunner is my favorite in our front yard art collection.
There’s no place like home.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, at derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Wit and Wisdom of Alexander the Great

I know the stereotypes.
When many in my Las Cruces circle of friends began to greet our first grandchildren, we started to joke about the grandparent pod people, our own special cult of card-carrying (and photograph-packing) proud progenitors of the world’s greatest grandchildren.
The thing is, in my case, it’s the truth.
With grandson Alex, it was love and pride at first sight and a boon companionship from the get-go.
When he composed little contrapuntal symphonies in the bathtub as a toddler, I sang along.
When two psychics told me he is the reincarnation of John Lennon (one hedged a bit and said he might have been Stevie Ray Vaughan), I maintained an open mind, and collected his wry, Lennon-esque drawings-with-attitude.
It was clear from the beginning that we are two old souls in cosmic cahoots who can leapfrog over mere generational obstacles.
It’s true that he has occasionally acted like a child or later, an adolescent, but then, so have I.
We are poets and songwriters who sometimes see agonizing truths about the world, but who also dream of better worlds and ask, “Why not?”
During the rare month we just spent together, he continued to astonish me.
We had an in-depth discussion of the benefits of organic remedies and exercise, and the role of serotonin, dopamine and other chemicals in pain control.
“You pay now, or you pay later with that stuff,” Alex said, who feels there are similar consequences when you party too hearty.
“Getting drunk is just a way to try to borrow happiness from the future,” he opined.
I discovered that music and audio engineering are his first career choices, but genetics is running a close third.
He’s excited about the potentials of stem cell research and genetic engineering.
But like many of his generation, he is concerned about the ecology and feels that we should be cautious about the impact of GMOs.
If it’s something that improves life, great, but if the only motive is corporate profits and there are side effects that threaten or damage the ecology, that’s a different story.
“I don’t enjoy genetics for capitalism,” rather than the greater good of humankind and the environment, he said.
My impression is that the millennials are kind of throwbacks to their tree-hugging, protesting, grandparents’ generation, but Alex isn’t so sure.
“I don’t understand people who say they aren’t into politics. Don’t they care who runs things?”
One of his primary pastimes is thinking, another trait we share.
“When I see people, I always wonder what they’re thinking about. I don’t understand people who don’t think,” he said.
We agreed it’s something to think about.
We made T-shirts for his band, >tree, and discussed videos and marketing in these tough times for artists and musicians.
He taught me how to voice-text, shut down unused, energy-draining apps and explained assorted other mysteries of my iPhone. He set up my still-in-the-box-since-Christmas Nikon and got some entertaining shots at Cinco de Mayo.
He assembled my brand-new, super-duper, state-of-the-art-vacuum and used nearly all of its exotic attachments to clean places that haven’t been cleaned in longer that I wish to contemplate, let alone admit.
Groceries that would provision me for weeks vanished in a couple of days, supplemented by frequent trips to his favorite burrito emporium and protein shakes after workouts. But he seemed to grow taller, leaner and more muscular by the day. That was an 18-year-old metabolic trick he couldn’t teach me, alas.
I’m not sure what I taught him. But I hope our visit was a reminder that he has a grandmother who still glimpses the soulful, funny and creative child she has always adored, and admires the man he is growing up to be. And loves him, of course.
A lot.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Sometimes, you just have to be there

Recently, I’ve been wondering why my friends and I don’t spend more time in Truth or Consequences.
By rambling, Wild West standards, it’s practically in our back yard, just an hour away from those of us in the northern part of Las Cruces.
I find myself using some of the same excuses I’ve been offering loved ones for the past decade for my reluctance to leave my querencia. I’ve already seen most of the parts of the world I want to see, some several times. It’s a hassle to make the trip. You can’t count on the weather. I get seasick on ships and flying is irritating, congested and a general ordeal.
Besides, I’ve found most of what I want and need close to home. And with advanced technology, you can tour the Louvre on your laptop or tablet, download a documentary on the Galapagos Islands or Machu Picchu or virtually sail the South Pacific. It’s almost the same as being there.
Except, it really isn’t.
That hit me when a loved one and I decided to beat the Memorial Day weekend’s maddening crowds (another factor that deters me from travel) for a quick little spring getaway to T or C.
I was walking down a marina ramp at Dam Site, after getting lost and feeling crabby on a too-windy day, when I paused, reflecting on the gently moving water, and spotted a hawk, or maybe an eagle, soaring high above me in a clear blue sky. It’s a reflex now, even on a supposed day off, and I took out my iPhone to capture the moment with a short video.
I couldn’t, of course, I’m far from a maestro of the medium, but I doubt that the world’s most skilled photographers or videographers could truly capture what it feels like, to be in the middle of a large body of water in high desert country, on a windy-but-warm spring day, sharing a flight of the imagination with a big bird in a panoramic moment of delight-in-spite-of-myself.
I’m a considerably better writer than I am a photographer, but I don’t think a thousand well-chosen words would do the job any more than a great video could manage.
You just had to be there.
Maybe there’s something about getting out of your familiar surroundings — even, or especially, if they are surroundings you love — that tends to shake up, stimulate and enhance your senses.
The state of rewarding, heightened reality stayed with me for the rest of the day.
The mood continued while I visited Dee Lighthart, who feels like an old friend after decades of visits to her one-of-a-kind, multimedia, multisensory emporium, Second Hand Rose. I did a little video, but you can’t smell the candles and incense, feel the fabrics or fully appreciate her creative juxtapositions of objets d’art. I suppose we could Skype and chat online, but there’s something about sharing the same, real-time space that inspires questions about her buying trips to exotic locales, updates on the talents of our grandsons and news of what’s up in T or C and LC.
I popped into RioBravoFineArts Gallery, which triggered a flood of memories of good times with its late founder, colorful character and talented artist Joe Waldrum. I found my attention arrested by the large-scale, light-filled floral paintings of Dave Barnett. Later, when working on today’s Artist of the Week feature on Barnett, I searched all available online sites and tried to find an image that truly captured the almost electric thrill of standing in front of a giant canvas and seeing his painstaking but transcendently painted blossoms against that vivid, only-in-New-Mexico-blue sky. In a half-century of quests, I’ve found that only a rare few artists can convey that true sense of what is ethereal, illusive and in the end, spiritual as much as it is sensual.
Here was one such work before me, and I’m now savvy enough to stop and enjoy the moment. Online and printing technology continues to improve, but as another attention-arresting artist, Carolyn Bunch, once told me, “You can lose the hand of the artist” in the translation.
Sometimes, you just have to be there.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.