KRWG

Nurturing Community In Las Cruces

Nov 17, 2019

Commentary: Our hens are taking a break, so for Sunday brunch we bicycle to Nessa's. It's a peaceful ride on quiet streets. We pass some small but appealing houses that have seen better days. I always wish I could save them. They're like stray cats I want to feed.

Nessa's is small and welcoming – and nearly empty, because everyone's out back, where musicians are jamming and drinking coffee. Inside, at the table next to ours, two state legislators are discussing energy. After ordering, we briefly discuss with them New Mexico's overly restrictive cottage-industry laws. Then they get back to working, and we start eating. 

Nessa's daughter turned two not long ago, so we've brought along a children's book written by our friend Yosef Lapid. Retiring from his NMSU professorial duties (government), he revived an old dream of writing children's books. After ten successful books starring an adventurous and mischievous snowman named Paul, he's written this one about Yara, a young girl who wants to save the Amazonian rainforest she lives in.  (see www.snowmanpaul.com)

Leaving, we pause out back. Musicians creating, others drinking coffee and listening. As we unlock our bicycles, enjoying the music, we resolve to come back some Sunday when we've time to linger and listen.

Today, we have an appointment to pick apples. “Apple Days,” at Burke's U-Pick Mesilla Valley Apples have ended, but LuAnne Burke has agreed to let us pick the season's last apples and gather free fallen apples for the hens. We want the fresh apples for snacking, and baking in the solar oven; but it's also a delightful outing – particularly for Foxy, a dog (Red Heeler mix) who is living with us while her person deals with medical issues. Foxy loves to run, and discovers nearby fields where she can really open up her canine throttle. Does she dream she's herding Australian cattle, as her ancestors did?

We also like talking with LuAnne about the great pies she makes and about her family's decades of farming here. Once the valley had many apple orchards. This is the last one of any size, and LuAnne is the last of her family farming here. We want to see her family legacy survive. And thrive.

Picking apples is a diverting task. Fallen apples in various states of decay cover whole areas like a slippery rug. Few apples are left on the trees, mostly high up. Some are rotten, or look fine until closer inspection reveals that a bird has absconded with a chunk. Others are beautiful. We use a fruit-picker – a very long pole with a small basket at one end. The orchard envelops us. We can't even see the mountains. Wandering from tree to tree, I lose my sense of direction. 

At dusk we water trees in Oddfellows Cemetery, having signed up for this task as part of the Las Cruces tree steward program. After nearly two years, “our” trees are almost ready to fend for themselves. We marvel at their growth.

No single part of the day is earth-shaking. It's just another quiet Sunday in a modest city in the Southwest. But it's home. It's our community. Community, which folks once took for granted, is increasingly rare. We're not strangers to nature here, or to each other. Most of us care about this land that provides for hens and cafes, music and friendship, writing and dreams, farms and foxes, and silence. 

Works for me!