Archive for Santa Fe

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FollowTheLeaderThank you so much for following this blog about animals and animal communication! I wanted to let you know, however, that I have moved the entire blog to my main website and that is where new posts appear. I hope you will hop on over there to catch up and sign up to follow me at that location. And if you have a blog too, please put that in the comments there so I can check it out. Thanks so much! LetaSignature


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At Home – Rockin’ in the Desert

The view out my kitchen window

When I moved from Texas to the high desert of Northern New Mexico two years ago, I never dreamed how truly at home I would feel. Not that I didn’t love my old ranch in the magical Texas Hill Country. I did. To be sure. And there are many aspects of it I miss often.

But living here has brought about all kinds of amazing and synchronistic associations and occurrences. And, as it turns out, not only for me, but for my family: my daughter and her husband who migrated back from England and now inhabit the guest house on my property.

When I decided to move to the Santa Fe area 3 or 4 years ago, my brother, who had lived here for 25 years or so, cautioned me:  “Leta, are you SURE you want to do this? Santa Fe is an odd place.  I’ve seen it chew people up and spit them out. It either loves you or hates you.”

I paid him no heed. I was Santa Fe bound, come hell or high water.

And, sure enough, for me and mine it has been truly magical. Everything from day one has gone perfectly. I am part of a wonderfully close community out in the Galisteo Basin where I live; I’m on the board of the Santa Fe Humane Society, my closest neighbor teaches yoga in the nearby town of Cerrillos, only a mile away (AND does massage), I take weekly Spanish lessons with another neighbor in her home for 3 hours each week, speaking only Spanish . . . muchas gracias muy mucho!

The same has been true for my precious daughter, Hannah, and her husband,

A band pic of my rockin' daughter, Hannah. Yikes! Who woulda ever thought?!

James, who have a rock band called Venus Bogardus that originated in the UK. They have not only been well received here but have gotten rave reviews from every quarter, East Coast to West Coast, with the Glastonbury Festival included.  And besides their band, their businesses have boomed and James now has a book contract on his first novel.

So my brother was right. The Santa Fe area either eats you alive or blesses you and fulfills you. Thank God, me and mine are among the latter. We love it here. I feel I am home at last. Pretty weird, huh, having been a born and bred Texan?

And then there’s something about the Native Americans ……….. maybe it’s just a past life thing for me.

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One Dog At A Time

Dr. Jane talking to the teenagers at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.

I had the great honor and good fortune this morning to sit in on a session with one of the world’s most revered and respected scientists, Dr. Jane Goodall.

Probably best known for her early work with Chimpanzees, Goodall now travels throughout the world speaking and inspiring individuals to take informed and passionate action to improve the environment on earth for all living things. She is a UN Messenger of Peace and the founder of the  global nonprofit organization, The Jane Goodall Institute.

One of Goodall’s main areas of focus is youth, and she meets with young members of her Roots & Shoots program all over the world, gently teaching them by example how to be ambassadors for the change they want to see in their lifetime.

That is what she was doing today — meeting with the Youth Board of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, an outreach group of about 10 teenagers that got started four years ago in connection with Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. The kids spoke of their love for animals and their reasons for joining the Board, but also expressed their overwhelm about the magnitude of need for reform, education, and animal rescue.

Jane began quietly reinforcing each child’s experiences by telling them over and over things like, “You just never know how your story or what you say to just one person might make a difference. Don’t give up.” Then, in her modest and rather hypnotic style, she proceeded to tell them a few stories of her own to make her point. Like the one-dog-at-a-time story, which goes something like this.

An acquaintance of hers was stationed in Bombay, India, but after some time felt she had to request a transfer because of the horrid conditions and abundance of dogs on the street in that city. When she went to her senior advisor to request the transfer, he made one request. He asked her to go back and see if she could help just one dog before making her decision.

So she did. She took one dog in off the street, got it cleaned up, healthy and spayed and then found it a good home. Then she took another dog and did the same. A friend decided she could do that too, so she took in a dog. A friend of the friend followed suit and soon there was a very active group saving these street dogs in Bombay. The final outcome? They organized and built a no-kill shelter and basically transformed at least one area of the city’s dogs’ plight.

These ladies didn’t let the fact that they couldn’t save all the street dogs in all the cities in India stop them. They just started . . . one dog at a time.

There were many other stories, and the kids themselves realized they had a few of their own to share, and that maybe, just maybe, their experiences and interludes would have farther reaching effects than they would ever know about.

Before the meeting was over and Jane went on to her media interviews, one of the girls asked Jane if she had a favorite animal.

Jane unhesitatingly said, “Yes, the dog. Everyone always thinks my favorite animal would be a chimpanzee, but chimpanzees are far too much like humans to be my favorite!”

Jane is a legend in her own time and certainly inspired me today. Her work on behalf of our planet is immeasurable, and I felt I should at least help by spreading her message on my tiny blog.

So whether your cause is the near-extinct Booby Bluebill, the rainforest, or your kids’ diet, don’t give up! Just keep doing the work:


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“Cold” Ain’t What It Used To Be

If you look closely, you can see Lopeh's icycle whiskers.

I guess I must be becoming inured to the harsher aspects of my new environment. Is that the right word, “inured?” I just looked it up and I think it fits. It means:

To habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection.

I say that because when I walked out back at dawn this morning in just a robe and slippers to open the dogs’ gate, I thought to myself, “Wow, it’s much warmer today than yesterday.” Then I looked at the thermometer: 20 degrees. And that’s against the house, so that would mean about 15 degrees out in the open. Still, it felt “warmish” to me.

Winter in the high desert of Northern New Mexico is a world apart from winter in the Texas Hill Country, from whence I came almost two years ago now. It’s much colder, all the time. And I’ve had snow on the ground in sunless spots since early November. Many nights are in the single digits, and the large discs of ice I dump out of the outdoor chicken water bowl every morning never melt, and I have so many of them now I’m thinking about various driveway border designs I can make with them. (Don’t worry, the chickens have a heated water bowl 24/7, inside their snug, enclosed, HEATED hen house.)

A Chiwee, Dressed for Winter!

My chiwees* have winter wardrobes, which I pop them into as soon as they emerge from under my down comforter every morning, and I crank up the wood-burning stove twice a day — morning and night.

Copper, my old Quarter Horse, wears a blanket to bed each evening, and the mares’ whiskers hang from their snouts like tiny icycles.

Charlie, my big Golden/Chow mix,

Charlie: "THIS is the life!"

and his two large compatriots, run and roll in the snow like they’ve waited all their lives for it (which they have).

And I LOVE IT! I love winter in New Mexico! The sun shines low in the southern sky almost all day every day, and if you have a passive solar, adobe house like mine, it floods the rooms and negates the need for heat during the main part of the day — and helps the house hold heat all night. Humidity is low, low, low, as it is year-round, so 15 degrees here can feel like 35 or 40 degrees in Texas.

Where I lived in Texas the humidity was so high, and the “blue northers” that swept in so ferocious, that 35 degrees there felt like the North Pole. Literally. When folks from New York used to come to my place of business mid-winter during a cold snap, they were always shocked and dismayed to run into weather that was as miserable, if not more so, than what they had just left.

True, it never froze until after Thanksgiving — sometimes well after — and trees and flowers started budding out by late February, and there were always days in the winter that got into the 80’s and sometimes the 90’s, so winter was just a phenomenon that was interspersed among more pleasant conditions. But when it hit, man . . . I’ll take the New Mexico winter any day!!!

So no, I don’t think “inured” would be the right word after all, because I’ve not “habituated to something undesirable by prolonged subjection.” Instead, I have fallen totally in love with the most heavenly climate I could have ever hoped for.

I was “born and bred,” as they say,  in Texas, but in New Mexico I feel like I am home at last. Oh, and I LOVE wearing all the yummy hats, sweaters, fuzzy boots, and mufflers that sat in the closet forlornly neglected back in Texas.


* A Chiwee is a tiny dog of the Chihuahua or Chiweenie variety. You can read about mine HERE.

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Animal Communication in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ben and His Shy Rescue, "Bear," 2 of Saturday's Participants

Ben Swan and His Shy Rescue, "Star," Two of Saturday's Participants


That’s what this past Saturday felt like to me — like I was caught up in a maelstrom of rushing energy that was taking me for a joy ride.

Saturday was the day I participated in a multi-pronged fund-raising effort benefiting a Santa Fe organization called Kitchen Angels, a non-profit group that has distributed more than half a million meals to the disadvantaged and ailing in the 17 years it has existed. Quite an amazing feat!!

My contribution to the effort was back-to-back, 30-minute animal communication sessions all day Saturday, with all proceeds going to the Angels.

I was so amazed and impressed by the enthusiasm and interest in the event and in animal communication, and each and every session was noteworthy and gratifying. People brought their animals to find out about everything from how they liked their food to why they have seizures. And the best part was that these folks were open and willing to consider new ideas and out-of-the-ordinary suggestions.

Having moved to the Santa Fe area only a year and a half ago, I continue to be awed by not only its  climate, staggering beauty, and history (S.F. is the oldest city in the U.S.), but by the great spirit of those who live here. There are over 400 non-profit organizations in this city of only 70,000, and many of  those are dedicated to animal welfare. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter itself is cutting edge and has become a model for many other shelters throughout the country.

Frankly, I had no expectations about the future of my animal communication practice when I moved to the Santa Fe area from Texas, where I had lived all my life. It was a major transition so I wasn’t even sure I would keep the practice alive. I viewed the relocation as a time-out phase I would use to pause and take stock of my goals, my passions, and my future while getting settled in my new home.

But as you can imagine, landing in a community that is so open minded and altruistic has caught me up in its own cycle of activities and made it obvious to me that my animal communication work is still at the top of the list in terms of my life work and my personal priorities.

In this new setting I am able to focus more on giving back to the animals and the community and less on a daily, one-on-one consultation practice — an unexpected but refreshing change and one that I hope will have a much greater impact over all. Participating in fund-raisers like Saturday’s, giving talks for other non-profits like Kindred Spirits (that’s next weekend), and even writing this blog, which I began after the move and is intended to impart useful information to animal lovers, have all been inspiring and uplifting new elements in my life.

Of course nothing can substitute for working directly with the animals, so Saturday was a joy. The spirit of the animals, and how they are there for us at every turn, will always be the greatest high and at the same time the firmest anchor for all of us animal lovers. As one little fellow adamantly proclaimed to me, about the couple who brought him:

“I want you to know that these are my people!”

Doesn’t that say it all?

Thank you, Santa Feans, for rising to the occasion and nurturing peace and abundance among all species. I feel very blessed to live in such a magical and welcoming community.


Once I decided to move to the Santa Fe area, the magic began:

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

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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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Penelope Smith Comes to Dinner!

Penlope (l) and Leta (r) in front of one of Susan Hertel's paintings

Penelope (l) and Leta (r) in front of one of Susan Hertel's paintings

Yesterday was a great day. In many respects. Not the least of which was the fact that Penelope Smith, the preeminent forerunner of animal communication in our country, came to dinner! At my house! In Cerrillos, New Mexico!

There is a story here. But first you should know that Penelope is one of my teachers; I studied with her many years ago to learn how to become an instructor of animal communication. I learned then that she is unique in all the world and an incredible leader and figurehead in this profession. Ever since that time I have maintained a listing in her directory of animal communicators around the world and am a regular subscriber to her quarterly journal.

Second . . . and this is the most amazing part: Penelope stayed here, at what is now my home, and walked this land, 18 years ago. Here’s the first part of the story, in brief.

In the early 90’s Penelope taught a class in animal communication in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was attended by a renowned artist named Susan Hertel.  Susan invited Penelope to stay with her at her newly-built pueblo home in Cerrillos, just south of Santa Fe. They became great friends and spiritually bonded.

Counterpoint: In 1987, just before my first trip to Santa Fe, NM, I saw a small print of horses in a snowstorm on the bedroom wall of a friend. I was spellbound and asked who the artist was . . . . Susan Hertel of course. So when I got to Santa Fe I sought out the gallery that represented Susan and went and gazed in awe at her work. I did that every time I visited Santa Fe in the following decade. Susan painted horses, on a life-size scale, as her most primary subject, and, being nothing if not a horse devotee and lover, these paintings left me speechless. Besides which, I had always wanted to paint and wished I could be like, and could paint like, Susan. And I always felt like I knew her.

How I ended up buying Susan’s property is the next part of the story, but the lovely thing right now is how Penelope ended up here last night, for dinner, and for a re-walk of Susan’s sacred land. It was fabulous. We all loved it. And I feel the land and myself are all the more blessed because of it.

Glory be to those powers that be that somehow bring together all the magical synchronicities of life! (Also called “coincidences” — NOT!   Read: “CO-incidences” —- don’t you think that word really means things that are supposed to happen together, not that happen by accident? I sure do!

Ciao Bella . . . to a beautiful day!


For the NEXT part of the story — the amazing way I ended up here:

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

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