Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . .

This was Susan. Always on the back of a horse or with her children when she wasn't painting.

This book cover captures Susan's style and spirit. She was always on the back of a horse or with her children and other animals when she wasn't painting.

Once upon a time, in the middle of the 20th century, a beautiful nature spirit was born, in the form of a human woman. This woman was named Susan Hertel and she spoke to all of nature and painted it as well, and became quite famous for her art. Robert Redford, who was a collector of her work, in his tribute to her upon her death put her in the “irreplaceable” category and said she was a source of joy that was unforgettable. I never met Susan, and don’t have a picture of her, but this self-portrait captures her essence and her art beautifully. Susan has been my ideal for many years, and I think it’s more than the fact that her paintings go deep into my heart. I think it’s also karmic. Here’s the story.

In 1987 I saw a very small print of one of Susan’s paintings at a friend’s house. A very simple image: two horses in a snowstorm with their rumps turned to the viewer. I was spell-bound and inquired as to the artist. As things turned out, Susan lived and painted near Santa Fe, New Mexico, where my brother had just moved, and was represented by a very famous gallery there. I made my first trip to visit him just weeks after seeing her painting, so of course visited the gallery and stood in awe in front of her actual paintings, which were huge, life-size canvases, mainly of horses and animals. I read her bio and learned that she lived and painted in the hills of Cerrillos, N.M., 25 miles south of Santa Fe. I had always wanted to paint, my entire life, but for some reason suppressed the desire. Seeing her paintings inspired me to perhaps, some day, begin painting in the way I envisioned, which just so happened to be similar to what I saw on her canvases. Needless to say, every time I visited my brother during the next few years, I went to the gallery and viewed Susan’s latest works. How I wished I could have one on my wall! And how I felt I would never be able to. They were VERY expensive!!! But then, in the early ‘90’s, her work seemed to disappear.

Fast forward to the Fall of 2008. I had decided to move from Texas to Santa Fe and had looked at properties there for over a year. I owned horses and lots of animals and lived on a 200-acre ranch in Texas, so I needed property outside of town appropriate for my lifestyle. Although I had made an offer on one place, it was really too small, and nothing else was turning up, or was out of my price range.

Long story short: One day in October my brother, Robin, called me to say he had run into Kevin, a realtor and friend, someone I also knew and who had visited my ranch and knew I was moving, and Kevin said he had the perfect place for me and that it was not on the market yet. Robin went to see it two days later and called me from his cell phone on the way home, very excited. He gave me a description of the property (a pueblo-style adobe home plus an artist’s studio and barn, on 40 acres, and the price was right), and then added as an afterthought: “Oh, and it was built by an artist who painted horses, maybe you’ve heard of her, Susan Hertel.” I was driving when he called and almost went off the road.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

I hopped out to New Mexico to see the place just a few days later. Susan’s daughter, Clare Hertel, owned the property, 120 acres, and was subdividing the improvements on 40 acres to sell and keeping the rest. She and her husband had a 4-year-old child who was starting pre-school, and they simply had to move closer to town. Clare was in torment about having to sell the property and had shown it to no one else, and she and I spent a few hours together, alone, on site, me in tears a good deal of the time simply because that’s the way anything having to do with Susan has always affected me. From Clare I learned why Susan’s paintings had disappeared from the gallery in the early 90’s: she died around that time of breast cancer complications in what is now my bedroom. In fact, in her mother’s last few days Clare brought her favorite horse, Santo, into the bedroom so Susan could tell him goodbye.

Although Susan was 14-15 years older than I, she has always felt like a sister in spirit to me, and still does. And Clare and I have become the best and dearest of friends, and our families visit frequently. And . . . the icing on the cake? Clare and her husband had no room to hang one of Susan’s large paintings in their new home so chose to loan it to me, where it now graces my dining room!

My dining room Susan Hertel painting -- part of a diptych, the other half of which is coming soon!

My dining room Susan Hertel painting -- part of a diptych, the other half of which is coming soon!

My dream has come true. Not only do I have one of Susan’s paintings in my home, but I live in the enchanted space she built and share in the love of her family. And yes, I paint now and have for several years, so painting in Susan’s studio is the unbelievable culmination of something I would never have dreamed could happen.

Now do you believe in miracles?

*******************************************************************

To read about what happened next . . . :

The Other Shoe Drops

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9 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    mrred said,

    Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

  2. 2

    unitary said,

    I love this blog!

  3. 4

    […] of Santa Fe. If you haven’t read about the divine way this all happened, you can by reading Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me … That’s Susan to the left, in a self portrait. Susan loved horses and painted them, […]

  4. 5

    […] Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . . […]

  5. 7

    […] It’s been a year and a half since I left my home state, Texas, for good, and hauled 17 animals and myself to our new abode in the revered Galisteo Basin, on 40 acres just south of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’d been looking at properties  for over a year when our new home practically fell in my lap through a series of what I can only call miracles. But you can call them syncronicities if you are more comfortable with that  (and, if you care to, you can read about what happened HERE). […]

  6. 8

    […] Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me . . . September 21st, 2009 | Tags: Animal communication, animal lovers, life transitions, New Mexico, non-profits, Santa Fe | Category: Animal communication, Interspecies Communication, Leta's Blog, New Mexico, Personal Stuff, Santa Fe […]

  7. 9

    […] of Santa Fe. If you haven’t read about the divine way this all happened, you can by reading Miracles Really DO Happen — at least they do to me … That’s Susan to the left, in a self portrait. Susan loved horses and painted them, […]


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