Desert Exposure - October 2017

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20 • OCTOBER 2017 www.deser


Contest Winners

About the Art

“Zia” by Anna Harding The Zia is a recognizable symbol for people in New Mexico, as it is seen on license plates, the state flag and countless products. I became inspired to work artistically with this image after I learned more about its significance to the ancient Zia people and its place in their cosmology. The sun, which the Zia represents, is

a sacred symbol to the Zia, used in ceremonial vessels, drawings and rituals. Four is a sacred number to these people and the rays represent the four seasons, the four periods of each day, the four seasons of life and the four directions. I was especially inspired in my interpretation of the Zia when I learned that there are four sacred obliga-

Richard Ellers is a regular contributor to our Desert Diary section. His poem, “Ghosts,” is an original piece that keeps in stride with that tradition, short, simple, packs a punch.

Jo Isacksen is a newcomer to the Desert Exposure Writing Contest. She has taken the state’s enchantment and conveyed it in a story that easily needs to be read more than once.


September Song



The cast departs The night crew starts; The stage is swept Where ladies wept. A thousand days, A hundred plays; The stage is bare – No one to care.


While Sierra Middle School 6th grader Dhruv Raj Shatoor did not win one of the top slots in our writing contest, his poem, inspired by the southern New Mexico desert, shows much promise to come. It is young people like Shatoor who carry on our creative legacy.


My Favorite Place - City of Sand and Cactus The desert here, is so bright It just feels like I am cooked alive, Sometimes it rains and cools a bit down There are cicadas, hear the sound, Eat the prickle Perry, juicy and sweet On the cactus, just so unique, Las Cruces is so peaceful and calm That even you could come and enjoy a bit long.

hey call this the “Land of Enchantment” for a reason, probably many reasons. First thing that comes to mind for a lot of people is the fabulous light. There’s a quality to the light here that’s hard to describe, except to say that the sky is often gorgeous at dawn and can be even more so when darkness is approaching. But that’s only one part of the story. There’s also the quote attributed to Lew Wallace, the last Governor of territorial New Mexico: “All calculation based on experience elsewhere fails in New Mexico.” A woman I knew in Iowa visited New Mexico and returned to the Midwest so drenched in enchantment that in short order she closed her business, put her house on the market, and moved. Within six months the fascination of this place had worn off and the realities set in. She fled back to the comforts and predictability of Iowa City. For the rest of the time I knew her she, was reluctant to speak of her western sojourn, except to say that New Mexico was just “very unlike” anywhere else. For the story at hand, there’s another facet of enchantment in play. What would be an amazing coincidence anywhere else becomes almost a certainty in New Mexico. And, this element is transferable to other locales, as long as there are New Mexicans involved. For example, a few years ago I was visiting my sister in Wisconsin. As we drove along a lakeside road, an aging passenger van turned in front of us without its driver giving so much as a tap on the brakes. My immediate response was to mutter something about a “New Mexico driver.” Sure enough, a glance at the van’s license plate showed it was the then-common hot air balloon design celebrating the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. You see, enchantment can move an event from implausible to near-perfect intersection. Enough prologue, here’s today’s story. “It’s a matter of conscience”, he said, “not to shoot the damn thing where it lies”. “Bud, you know you can’t do that inside the city limits anyhow”, was her rejoinder. He sighed, “But if ever something deserved that fate,


Stars and footlights Hopes in first nights The curtain falls, The Curtain Calls.


tions represented by these sun-rays: to develop a pure spirit and a clear mind, to care for others and to maintain a healthy body. The world of plants and animals is a gift we enjoy in our lives. As a botanical artist who draws from nature, I wanted to combine artistic images from the natural world with the deeper message of the Zia.

this does.” Beth settled into her calmest voice, “Part of me couldn’t agree with you more.” They nodded at each other as if to say, “Let’s get on with it.” While Bud fetched the shovels from the back of the truck, Beth walked the area and picked out a place for the pit. They’d used this patch before. Tucked at the back of an overgrown lot, they could do what they needed in daylight without worrying about being seen. The sandy soil was damp from the recent rains and heavy on their shovels. It took some effort to shoulder it into piles between the creosote bushes. When they were done with the small ceremony they would use the soil to smother the fire and backfill the pit. The neatness of their work now would save time later. As they dug, Bud grumbled a couple of times. Nothing of any consequence or intention, just a small sound that made Beth and the nearby mockingbird aware of Bud’s discomfort. It had been months since his last surgery and he’d done everything possible in physical therapy, but this was still pushing his limits. Last time the digging had been easier and had required less concentration. Now he had to focus and move carefully just to dig a bit and face the emotions of what they were about to do. Beth was having an easier time of it. In this past year she’d had time to reacquaint herself with her own inner strengths. With Bud in and out of the hospital she’d taken on all of the everyday chores and then some. Her resilience had been a comfort in the midst of so much that was out of her control. Today offered a turning point in the process. She and Bud were taking back their lives and their future together. The repeated motions of digging and moving the soil helped to reassure Beth that order and purpose still existed in her world and were within her reach. The hole was coming along nicely. The two of them had established a rhythm of alternating movements



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