A Different Kind of Wedding

Now this was a wedding to remember.

The priest in Naco, Sonora, was on a mission: get all those folks living together (in sin) and convince them to marry. He was wildly successful, and fifteen couples decided to wed. All together.

Well, one couple backed out, broke up, or something, so on September 22nd, there were fourteen couples who would marry in a joint ceremony at 4:00. One woman planning to marry was my friend Lupita, and she did it up right, white dress, reception, dancing.
Lupita and Bertín have been together for about twenty-one years and have two children and a grandson. When she invited me to the wedding, I teased her, asking if she thought she knew him well enough to marry him.

I arrived at Lupita’s mother’s house early to photograph her as she prepped and dressed. Then she was driven off to the church in a white car.

Lupita’s sister is doing her makeup.
Almost ready!









The church in Naco has been remodeled, and is lovely. The stained glass windows were open wide, as were the main and side doors. A large painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe hung on the wall behind the sanctuary, and a long mantle hung across the sanctuary. Flowers surrounded La Virgin and were draped on the mantle, and there were fourteen little vases along the mantle. Fourteen somewhat nervous looking men stood around looking self conscious in front of a church so packed that people spilled out the doorways.

The church – before it filled up.

Two Mexican nuns, in habits complete with veils, were in attendance, as well as my US friend Sister Mary Rose who was in what she claims is her only dress.

The priest, Padre Memo, walked down the aisle at 4 on the dot. Then, the processional. It played, and played. And it played some more. After all, there were fourteen women and their escorts headed down the aisle!

Lupita shone, accompanied by her mother on her left and her brother on her right.
There was a full mass, including singing. There are no hymnals in the church, so a PowerPoint presentation splashed the words across the screen as PowerPoint music played either piano or guitar as the song required.

Padre Memo had two acolytes assisting him. Near the end of the service, the boy holding the book for him apparently had the book upside down. Memo had to reach down and quickly spin it around so he could read.

The couples ranged in age from mid-twenties to maybe early sixties. They were married by repeating a simple vow. A microphone was passed from couple to couple, with the man saying his vows first. Then Padre Memo pronounced them all married and everyone clapped.

Next came communion, first for the couples, then for everyone else who wanted it.

Now the part I liked the best: the newly married women came forward, placed their corsages in the little vases on the mantle, and gazed up at La Virgin while “Ave Maria” played.

“Ave Maria” plays while the women look up at La Virgin de Guadalupe.

Then more singing, and around 5:30, the service was over. The recessional played (and played) as the couples headed down the aisle. That’s when I saw a second woman I knew, walking with her new husband. I’d had no idea she, too, was marrying that day.

The newlyweds turned at the back of the church, walked down the second aisle and back to the front for group photos.


Eventually, all the picture-taking was done and the couples and families went out the side door for a little brandy with the priest. The rest of us headed to the reception.

Lupita and my other friend, María, shared the reception – after all, there aren’t that many nice places for receptions in Naco, and fourteen couples wanted those places.
The minute the music started, little kids hit the dance floor. I groaned when I saw girls as young as five wore heels an inch or more high.

Little heels.


Eventually, the adults began to dance, too. First the brides and grooms, then others.
We all had barbacoa, beans, and macaroni salad. Beer and wine flowed.

A great wedding, a wonderful reception, and a beautiful, beautiful bride.


Waiting for Winter

I am not a winter person. That said, I love when winter arrives because it enters on the wings of sandhill cranes.
Each October, the cranes begin to settle in at Whitewater Draw. On a good year, there can be over 30,000 of them, but the record is nearly 45,000 in 2010.
The first time I visited, I filled my thermos and headed out before dawn. I wanted to watch as they lifted off and headed north in search of corn and other grains.

Whitewater Draw, near Elfrida, Arizona

But they fooled me. I stood there in the pre-dawn, shivering in layers of socks and down. I listened as they discussed their day, and then whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh! Off they went, before daylight. All I eventually saw was a few stragglers who took off in their own good time.
Since then, I’ve learned that it’s better to go out in mid-day. First of all, it’s warmer. I don’t have to bundle up as I did as a five-year-old headed out to play in the snow. Also, I can take a book, a blanket, and a small picnic.
I can stay for hours, alternating between sun and shade, reading and walking.

On an especially lucky day, I can also catch an owl or two at the Draw

But the best part, of course, is the cranes themselves. There are six subspecies of sandhills, and two of them winter here. I believe they’re the Greater and the Canadian. The Greater is, well, greater, and can be as tall as five feet. The Canadian is shorter, sometimes topping out at only three and a half feet. But some of the Canadians are a bit taller and some of the Greater a bit shorter, and from the distance I see them, they appear the same.

The cranes spend the morning cleaning out corn fields and begin to return to the Draw in early afternoon – fifty, eighty, one hundred at a time. A distant speck in the north becomes larger, longer. Soon it’s a line of cranes, zig-zagging across the sky, swooping up and down, and eventually circling the water and touching down without a splash.

A line of cranes flies in.

They spend the afternoon chatting, taking off in small groups to cruise the Mule Mountains, and returning again. The sound of thousands of cranes chatting is remarkable.
I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day with the cranes. I’ve gone alone and stayed apart from others. I’ve also gone for lunch with friends and to celebrate a birthday.
Even now, early September, I’m longing for winter days and time with the sandhills.

Blue Moon on a Dune

It was difficult to leave T or C. It always is. But we got up early and took a good soak.

Three of the pools at Riverbend. The first is the hottest as that’s where the water comes in. Oh, it feels so good!

Then we bypassed the Happy Belly Deli and went to a new place called Passion Pie Café.

Downtown Truth or Consequences on a busy Friday morning.


I won’t tell you what I ate, but it contained enough fat and cholesterol for a week. Debbie ordered The Elvis, because she read the name but then read the wrong description. She calls it her Once In a Blue Moon Breakfast: waffles with peanut butter and bananas, topped with whipped cream. Where was Cinda the whipped cream junkie when we needed her? The Elvis looked pretty awful to me, but Debbie said it was actually good, though she might not be ready for another one until the next blue moon.

The Elvis.

Then a sad goodbye to Riverbend and the Rio Grande. We took a back road back down to Hatch where the chile festival http://www.hatchchilefest.com/ was in full swing. We got out fast, bypassing the Dead Kennedy Café and headed into Las Cruces on back roads.
We took a quick visit to the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park where it was too hot to wander the grounds, then checked into a motel. Soon I was off to White Sands.
A detour. Another friggin’ border patrol checkpoint. A major wreck. But I got to the park around 5:15. It was too early, and in a sense it was too late.
Too late, because to get good photos, it’s good to know the park well. I needed a day to explore, find the right dune, and really know the area. Too early, because it was quite hot still, too hot to wander the dunes.
I drove the whole area and finally found a spot that would work. Not many people, not too many footprints in the sand, close to the road. I didn’t want to hike back to the car after dark.
I grabbed my camera, tripod, and water and got set up over an hour before sundown. I walked a bit but mostly hid in the shade.
People arrived. More people arrived. And then still more people arrived. I swear, thousands of people showed up for this moonrise. Streams of cars full of moon seekers came down the road. But miraculously, most drove on past, and almost all who stopped wend the other direction from me.
I began to set up the camera and tripod. DISASTER! The tripod didn’t fit the camera! I couldn’t believe it. A tripod’s a tripod, right? I have used it on other cameras in the past. But without getting technical, just believe me, the camera didn’t fit on the tripod. I had to resort to lightly balancing it on top. The result is lots and lots of fuzzy photos.
I am heartbroken. But then the silver lining: I have to come back!
The crowds of people were talking and laughing, and the whole thing was much too raucous for me.

A portion of the raucous crowd. They were having a ball “sledding” down the dunes.

And then the moon peeked over the mountains. Everyone went quiet. Loud teenage boys, crabby old ladies, and shrieking children fell silent.


She rose golden, slipping into silver as she climbed the mountain.

I don’t have words to capture the beauty and reverence that filled the valley. Truly the best moonrise and one of the best moments (barring tripod disaster) of my life.

Still, I got a few good shots.

And now I know a few good places for photos and as a bonus I have my new free Senior National Parks pass!