haiku · My Thoughts · poetry

A Hummingbird Party: Let’s Attend!


A hummingbird party continues to rage at our house on the deck where the feeders are. The birds arrived late this summer—first or second week of July. We lamented over their absence in June, but they’re here now and chugging the nectar Lin puts out daily! And what a stunning spectacle!

Our hummingbirds at three feeders - day of leading meditation
Hummingbird Party

On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, I selected our deck to lead a meditation group I’m in. Why the deck? So the participants could see the massive amount of hummingbirds we have and join the party. Those tiny birdy rebel-rousers came out in full force.

Our group time together began with: I read my favorite poet, Mary Oliver’s poem, Hummingbirds, for the inspiration part of our time.


By Mary Oliver

The female, and two chicks,
each no bigger than my thumb,

in their pale-green dresses;
then they rose, tiny fireworks,
into the leaves
and hovered;

then they sat down,
each one with dainty, charcoal feet –
each one on a slender branch –
and looked at me.

I had meant no harm,
I had simply
climbed the tree
for something to do

on a summer day,
not knowing they were there,
ready to burst the ledges
of their mossy nest

and to fly, for the first time,
in their sea-green helmets,
with brisk, metallic tails –
each tulled wing,

with every dollop of flight,
drawing a perfect wheel
across the air.
Then, with a series of jerks,

they paused in front of me
and, dark-eyed, stared –
as though I were a flower –
and then,

like three tosses of silvery water,
they were gone.
in the crown of the tree,

I went to China,
I went to Prague;
I died, and was born in the spring;
I found you, and loved you, again.

Later the darkness fell
and the solid moon
like a white pond rose.
But I wasn’t in any hurry.

Likely I visited all
the shimmering, heart-stabbing
questions without answers
before I climbed down.


At first, my reading of the poem featuring them chased off all of those hummers. They flee from any sound we make. During the meditation part and the quiet, they came back in full force—dipping and diving. One vied for a position near the feeder, then another ran him off—probably an ornery rufous. I love the collective sound they make—probably their wings flapping, “10-15 times a second. Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, and even upside down.”

Is all the sound from their wings flapping or do they sing? “While most birdwatchers can identify a Hummingbird by the furious buzzing of their wings, they also have a series of calls, songs, and vocalizations to communicate with each other.”

The herd of hummingbirds and Oliver’s poem inspired me to write the following haikus about hummingbirds and tree climbing:

My Haikus

You are the Lord of

The dainty hummingbird gift!

They make me laugh so!

Climb a tree at my

Age? Why not? Discover life!

Nature heals my heart!

Come and sit on our

Deck to see hummingbirds feed.

Sweet nectar lures them.

I can visit the

Whole world, sitting in a tree.

My deep concerns melt.

Clouds hang over the

Sandias. Hummingbirds dance.

  1. A picturesque scene!
  2. New Mexico True!

(I had trouble deciding on the third line. Which do you like?)

Jesus orchestrates

The hummingbirds’ migration.

Thanks for stopping here!

The thirsty crowd has

Arrived! Hummingbirds party!

Be quiet and watch!

Yes, living in the mountains has many blessings, but these fanciful little hummingbirds have to be the best. They continue to come—hopefully for the rest of August. Yesterday, Lin prepared two gallons of nectar which according to some formula he uses, means he fed 1000 hummingbirds yesterday—wow! Also, he only plants flowers and plants in his garden like penstemons, to feed and attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies!

Finally, yes, when they gather to party and drink the nectar, the hummingbirds disturb the quiet, but naturally. As I sit and type this, those hungry little lovelies gather at the feeders I can see. Two feeders need filling, but there are ten spread out on the deck, and Lin has a schedule of keeping them full.

Hummingbird feedings I see from my laptop

I love to sit outside and watch their maneuvers and marvel at their speed and antics. Do hummingbirds party at your house? Do you feed any? many? Let me know! Join the hummingbird party!

I’d like to leave you with a treat—a video Lin took last week! Let the party begin!

Hummingbirds Party!

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Pre-order my new book, Hair on Fire: A Heartwarming and Humorous Christmas Memoir, ahead of the Christmas rush. To be released in September for your early shopping pleasure!

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Vacation with my book and heal!

Listen to my twenty-three minute interview on Masterfesto Media Podcast with Isabel Elias about my book Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/6uRX60sDFWbejTg7rZAiLn

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Find some shade with a cold drink & enjoy Flippo!

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My Thoughts · Nature · poetry

Nature Speaks Through Poetry

Nature speaks through poetry—a tree, a butterfly, and a blackbird! Sometimes gently, other times it screams at me, in a loud attention-getting voice I have to listen to! Notice me, it says! Here’s a poem I wrote about that topic. Enjoy!

Along the Way, Nature Screams at Me!

May 1995

Along the way, nature screams at me—

look and see me here—

A butterfly, orange and black

dancing in a circle

sucking sweet nectar and life.

A red rock half buried

but screaming at me to see

its bright color,

its lasting character.

A woodpecker pecking hard

at life.

A pine cone, dry and brittle

once the hope of new life.

A stick, simple

dry and cracked

wanting to be noticed–

to be touched and admired.

A bone—life given up

dry and bleached.

A coyote, killed its prey,

cleaned it of meat and                                                   



Artifacts, pieces of life

things here in the woods

no value

trash to some people,

but to me–

life as it is–

colorful, dry and lifeless at

times, yet teeming with life.


Tall trees bow to the earth,

the weight of their existence

dragging them down,

the pain,

the misery,

closer and closer to the earth,

mother earth

who nurtures and gives life.

A silent stance of prayer

of renewal, commitment

yet deadly–pulling

the life out of them–

pulling, dragging, relentlessly

and death

a cycle of life

strength and overkill

too much though

much like life.

The light through the trees,

shines bright,

but it’s the shadows that call me.

The long profile of trees melt into one

and shadows take over–

dim, dark, cool,

blackening the view.

Like feet the roots of a tree grow down–

supporting and balancing its

tall counterpart.

Sounds abound

the quiet, gentle breeze whispers

come see, come hear, come listen.


A pesky fly bothers me–

at my elbow, my thigh,

my wrist, my ear,

my hair

buzzing, circling,

demanding then gone.

The sun peeks through the top of the tree

Just a minute ago shining full force

on me.

Now only a hint–like a light slowly

going out.

A mosquito bite on my hip itches,

demanding attention and care.

Bird racket echoes in the quiet–

someone’s not happy.

She’s demanding her way.

Her children are late in coming home,

and she wants her male partner to form

a search crew. He refuses to listen, so

she continues to screech.

Wind, swaying the tops of the trees,

in a gentle rhythm to and fro–

a soft hand moving through them.

The sound is gentle yet strong.

A power moves them

but only the tops.

Pine cone, rock, bone, tree

connected to life and earth.

All a product of–

laying there ready to be seen.


Energized with power and strength.

Self-confident and knowing who you are–

but what about  the trees

no question,

no doubt.

Strength connected to your creator.

The busy insane life I left

melts into peace and serenity.

I want to be a tree,

standing firm in a forest,

serenaded by the birds, bees, insects,

the rocks and leaves.

The serenade of the forest–

a tune that ears can’t hear–


Yes, you can hear the birds

the dirt,

the grass,

the leaves.


A sweet melody of love,




A jazz beat, a samba, a slow luxurious waltz.

All these sounds unite in nature

and play if you’re listening,

not with your ears,

with your heart!

The smells touch me–fresh and clean and green.

Not artificial, contrived,

but powerful,






a sharp contrast.

Deep meaning–

This is peace–

this is serenity!

Void of structure


letting my heart listen,

receive the message

and  alter my negative energy!

I feel it–

I’m being altered

right now.

The lump in my throat is gone,

that anxious twitch in my stomach

that dry, cotton mouth

the urge to run and do something–


Nature heals,

but I have to be here,

sitting outside

away from cities,



And I have to leave that behind!

Then nature heals!!

Nature screams at me sometimes igniting my soul. I must listen. And poetry comes out!

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Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy Flippo!

~FREE TO YOU! A Fifty minute audio recording of “Highlights of My Conversations with Flippo.” Learn how he started calling, how he recorded “The Auctioneer,” and a bonus: which caller did he sleep with? Click here for easy access!

family · My Thoughts

Celebrate Women This Month!

March—Women’s History Month! Did you know that? What a thrilling discovery! So, over the next four weeks, I plan on celebrating four women in my life and history. Some are dead; some are still alive! It doesn’t matter because they still have had an intact on me!

First, here’s a great resource with pictures from Dr. Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress to Sojourner Truth, three-quarter length portrait, standing, wearing spectacles, shawl and peaked cap, right hand resting on cane. What a wide variety of pictures of women in our history. Look at: https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/

Now, more focused for me—where else would I start the celebration of women? My Mom—Elva Marie Dickerson Horner. Celebrating her this month has a poignant ring to it—she died March 23, 2013, ten years ago! In so many ways, that’s hard to believe! It seems longer; yet it seems like yesterday.

On March 23, 2013, at 5:10 pm, Dad and Jesus won—Dad had waited up there for seventeen long years to dance with the love of his life again. Jesus agreed with him, and the pull towards heaven won, and Mom passed from this world to the next.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

Elva Marie Dickerson Horner was born on September 24, 1928 to Virgil and Tresia Dickerson in Des Moines, NM. Mom joined her 9-year-old sister, Willa Lee.

Aunt Willie and Mom - women
Aunt Willie and Mom

Being the youngest child in the Dickerson home, Willa Lee tells a story about Mom: “when we went to the post office she would lie down on me—on the ground and throw a fit. I reached inside the fence and got me a switch. (Pause) She didn’t do that again.”

Living through the depression, Mom endured a hard life, living in a shack with dirt floors. Grandma would wet the dirt down and pack it hard, and Mom got in trouble for digging little holes afterwards.

Her Marriage and Family Life is Coming!

Mom loved to dance her whole life. A certain cowboy caught her eye at a dance. She noticed his unique dance style. At the Robin Hood Bar in Raton, New Mexico, he crossed the dance floor towards her. She knew he was going to ask her to dance. Then she panicked, and the romance of a lifetime started with Harold Horner, my dad. They dated; they danced!

Dad and Mom on their wedding day - women
Dad and Mom on their wedding day

Then, Dad and Mom were married on August 28, 1951 in Raton, New Mexico. Their married life that would span 45 years had begun. Mom immediately became stepmother to three small children and faced the trials of being a stepmom, but the children lived with their mom in Denver. They visited Mom and Dad regularly.

As newlyweds, they moved in with Dad’s parents in Branson, Colorado, and experience a small-town tradition—chevarier. Friends short-sheeted the beds, removed labels off all the canned goods, and Mom, the bride, had a wheelbarrow ride around town. Dad’s parents had the joy (and despair) of sharing this country tradition and all the effects.

Then Dad and Mom bought their own first home from the Stephenson’s a few months later—lock, stock & barrel. After the birth of my brother and me (thirteen months later), Mom’s family was intact! Her family grew with marriages, then nine grandchildren came, and then fifteen great grandchildren. She celebrated each addition to our family, so I witnessed a woman dedicated to her family.

Mom cherished family get-togethers and holidays. Her father-in-law, Laurence, loved to have family get-togethers at our house because of Mom’s cooking and hospitality!

Her Life in The Community

Lots of life happened in Branson through the years. Mom enjoyed not only her own children, but my brother’s and my friends in the community. She was happiest when her kitchen and adjacent dining room were full of young people. Mom maintained close relationships with many of these children into their adulthood.

After Granddad Horner died, Mom became Dad’s right-hand man, able to do anything on the ranch. She worked hard! In fact, in 1989, she fell off of a haystack and broke her wrist when I was teaching in Raton, New Mexico, right before shipping time. So, several rancher’s wives and I stepped in and helped cook and serve the meal to the shipping crew.

As Dad’s health worsened, I watched Mom lovingly cared for him until the end. What an example of dedicated love!

Mom’s Interests

Mom had a variety of interests:

She was an avid sports fan of all Branson sports. When Bub played, she yelled loudly at basketball games, drowning out other parents. For many years, Mom sat in the same place every game with a dear friend.

In the 70s, Mom got interested in genealogy and researched both the Dickerson and Horner sides extensively. In 1999, we traveled to Eastern Europe because of her genealogy interests, looking for connections to her granddad, who immigrated here as a castaway with no records of entry into the US. Today, I cherish her black ledger with all of her records. I joined her in this interest and have entered her data into an app on my computer, Family Tree Maker.

Girlfriends have been a part of Mom’s life forever: Ellen Berry in high school; Clara Warner, Nancy Salas & Mokey McMillan years ago; Helen Waldroup; Betty Clark and Rose Ward.

Learn More About Mom

Mom had an abiding faith and became baptized and a faithful member of the Des Moines, New Mexico Methodist church, attending every Sunday with her niece and her husband. She looked forward to the time after church when a group went to a local restaurant for lunch—and a little gossiping! Her faith lasted until the end.

All of us have evidence of Mom’s beautiful handiworks: afghans, quilts, Christmas ornaments and more.

I remember Mom as quite the prankster—she loved a good practical joke. If you fell asleep at her house in the living room, a good chance you would end up with whipped cream on your nose! That is just one of her many tricks!

Often when I was with Mom, I enjoyed the privilege of hearing her laughter, so rich and inviting, seeing her eyes twinkle and her joy for living.

Mom and I in our matching Christmas Outfits - women
Mom and I in our matching Christmas Outfits

As you can see, Mom touched my life and many others. She formed me and others to be the women we are today, and I will be forever grateful for my mom! So be sure to celebrate the women in your life this month by doing something special for them.

Mom’s Purple Bear

Recently my husband, Lin, went through our house collecting things for a rummage sale for the Garden Center in Albuquerque. I had a purple bear on the bed in our guest bedroom I gave Mom in her dying days. Somehow the purple bear ended up in a stack of stuffed toys, and he took it to the rummage sale to sell.

Afterwards we were in the guest bedroom, and I looked at bed and realized the purple bear had disappeared. Then I looked at the top of the bookshelf where the other various stuffed toys had ended and they were gone. I realized our house cleaners probably put the bear up with the others innocently.

When I told him where I thought the precious purple bear ended up, he returned to the sale before it started, went through bags and found it. He received cheers from the workers there because he had told them, “I have to save my marriage. I have to find that bear!”

Mom embrace that bear tightly in the hospital after I gave it to her, and we kept it near her until her dying day. Lin blessed my heart with his extreme effort to retrieve it!


What women are you celebrating this month? Have you even thought about it? Which woman has influenced you? Why?

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All available at my website: laradasbooks.com or Amazon.com

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a chapter!

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet? Vist my website: laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

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A relaxed time with a latte and Flippo!

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been three years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

Christmas · My Thoughts

Give Away a Christmas Tree?

Christmas tree--giveway

Give away a Christmas tree? Why would anyone do that? When I first came to Albuquerque, NM in 1991 as a classroom teacher, I started a tradition in my classroom. Each year, I put up a Christmas tree, then gave it away to one of my students before our Christmas vacation. Early in December, I’d have them put their names in a hat, and we’d draw the lucky winner. I taught in a low-income school and many of my students’ families struggled with the basics. A Christmas tree was a luxury and a fresh cut one was a novelty.

In 1991 and throughout the time I taught, we had no problem putting up a Christmas tree in our classrooms and I dressed in my Christmas outfits, starting the first Monday after Advent. Today, I know that teachers can’t do this, which is really sad for me!

I will never forget that first year of seeing the lucky student whose name I drew. He was the winner! Several students helped me un-decorate the tree, and he convinced friends to help him carry the tree home. As I looked out the window, the smiles and excitement that the group exhibited warmed my heart. After that first year, I knew I had found a grand tradition to continue!

How did I come about having an extra tree each year to giveaway?
Cutting Down a Christmas tree--giveway

My parents had a family ranch in southeastern Colorado and northeastern New Mexico. Growing up, we went out to the ranch and cut our own tree each year. What memories I have! My dad always wanted a tall one; Mom wanted one that sit on the coffee table! So, during the year, Mom and I scouted out where the “good” Christmas trees were. Then my parents filled the actual trip with lots of good-hearted bantering, but Dad won—always!

So when I moved to Albuquerque, I went home for Thanksgiving. During that weekend, we went out to the ranch and cut down two trees—one for my home and one for my classroom.

I loved those trips out to our ranch, cutting down a fresh tree. Dad, Mom and I made a great excursion out of it. On previous trips out there, we had already decided where the best pinon pine trees were. Dad started the sawing, but because of his breathing issues and his age, I usually helped. And yes, we always got sap on our hands—what a delicious smell, but sticky mess!


I felt privileged to giveaway a Christmas tree to one of my students. What a rewarding experience it was!

Is a Christmas tree giveaway something special? I thought it was, especially after seeing my students’ smiles. Have you ever given a Christmas tree away? If so, what was the effect?

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~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet? Vist my website: laradasbooks.com

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~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

Christianity · My Thoughts · Recovery · Spirituality

My Spiritual Father: A Priest and a Friend!

Father dancing with little girl - Spiritual Father

My spiritual father? Does that sound strange? I would say it’s a man who contributes to the growth and nurturing of my spirit, someone who touched my life deeply. As I thought about Father’s Day this week, I knew I’d already written about my dad and other key men in my life. So, I wanted to share about my spiritual father!

I met Fr. Tom Weston, a recovering Jesuit priest, thirty years ago. Here it is Father’s Day 2022 and I want to honor his work in my life. He contributed to my spiritual growth over the last thirty years in a variety of ways. I attended many retreats in Albuquerque after the Mesilla retreat identified below. After hearing him the first time, I have bought eleven recorded cassette tapes then CDs of his teachings. Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, Fr. Tom offered monthly Zoom retreats since April 2020 (or that’s when I started).

My First Experience

In the spring of 1993, I attended my first Serenity Retreat for recovery. A new friend in the program invited me to go with her to Holy Cross Retreat Center in Mesilla, New Mexico, outside of Las Cruces for the weekend. She had raved about Fr. Tom often, and I needed a shot in the arm. I had been dealing with some heavy-duty stuff.

So, we took off at noon—both of us taught our morning classes and away we went. From the first talk on Friday night, I saw Fr. Tom’s amazing talents. He had me laughing one minute and crying the next, then laughing again. He provided a refreshing picture of recovery and Christianity that I needed.

On the drive down, my friend forewarned me Fr. Tom held ten-minute private counseling sessions on Saturday and sign up early because he filled up quickly. She knew the woes I had been going through and felt I needed an extra boost, so I signed up.

When my time came on his packed Saturday schedule, Fr. Tom suggested we walk around the pecan orchard next to the retreat house. I shared my current trauma that had my life topsy-turvy.

Calmly, he said, “I have no experience with your issue, but how about finding a tree here to connect with and something might come up.”

So, I followed his instructions and parked myself under near a tree with my journal. Immediately, memories flooded my mind, and I knew Fr. Tom had known my God and the trees would help me. This became a pivotal point in a deep healing for me.

Fr. Tom Grew to become My Spiritual Father

From then on, I became a follower of Fr. Tom, attending multiple retreats at the Dominican Sisters Retreat House in the South Valley and then off of Coors Boulevard in Albuquerque. Every retreat, I signed up for the one-on-one time with Fr. Tom, keeping him updated with my current life, and I loved the connection we made.

Over the years, listening to his teachings, Fr. Tom expanded my belief in my God from a punishing, judgmental white guy sitting in robes on the clouds to a peaceful, accepting personal God I could talk to and have a personal relationship with. And he did this through a variety of instruments: through an inclusive Mass on Sunday at the retreats and reading part of the Mass in Hebrew to connect me to our Jewish roots, through Rumi’s delightful and resounding poetry, through simple Buddhist reminders to stay present, through Fr. Anthony de Mello’s humor and stories and through Mary Oliver’s nature-focused poetry and especially her blue iris poem about prayer, “Praying.” With each retreat, I looked forward to his literary references peppered throughout the weekend.

Once, while listening to one of Fr. Tom’s recorded retreats, on one of my hundreds of four-hour trips north to Colorado to visit my folks or my southern trip to return home, he shared a very risky prayer. Immediately, I pulled over and jotted it down, shivered at its possibilities and put it away for many years. I felt if I prayed that prayer, the world would turn upside down.

Then he shared it again recently on one of his monthly Zoom retreats, and I embraced its truth and now pray it daily. Here it is:

Father Robert Egan’s Come Holy Spirit (Pentecost) Prayer

  • Come, Holy Spirit! We pray
  • Rattle our cages
  • Break into our locked houses
  • Water our parched land
  • Undo our bends and twistedness
  • Awaken our hearts
  • Help us overflow with kindness and
  • Give us unending joy.
Marked up Bible - Spiritual Father

Fr. Tom gave me the freedom to open my heart up to a larger God than I had ever known before and, with that, I have returned to my Christian faith and my religion of choice with a deeper acceptance and renewal.

In conclusion, your spiritual father may be the father that raised you. Mine wasn’t. My dad had little interest in spiritual matters. My spiritual father came many years later in life, in God’s time, and I am so grateful.

Do you have a spiritual father? Was it your dad? If not, who was he? How did he affect your life?

Fr. Tom’s website: https://www.innerlightproductions.net/fr-tom-weston

~NEW INTERVIEW on Chat & Spin Radio, Friday, June 24 at 1:00 PM. Join us for a lively discussion of my books!

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story. I’m working on Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? but have gotten stalled with shingles.

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

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~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~What happened to you in 2020-2021 during the coronavirus pandemic? Do you care? Are you on a spiritual path? Do you want to heal from the horrible effects of the pandemic of 2020? Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

My Thoughts · New Mexico

A Pilgrimage to Chimayó —A New Mexico Tradition!

El Santuario de Chimayó
El Santuario de Chimayó

Many New Mexicans take part in a pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó on Good Friday. Mostly are Catholic and here’s my experience with this amazing tradition.

In the late 80s, I moved to Raton, New Mexico, to teach. I had grown up on the northeast border of New Mexico, but had toured little of the state. When I moved to Raton, I spent many weekends doing day trips to different parts of the northern part of the state. I fell in love with Taos and visited whenever I could.

As I talked to many locals, I learned about the Good Friday pilgrimage to Chimayó. Yes, people as far away as Raton knew about the pilgrimage, and some took part. I’m Episcopalian and share some traditions and rituals with the Catholic church, so it appealed to me. That Lenten season, I sought a unique experience during Holy Week and went to El Santuario de Chimayó, which was the goal of the Good Friday pilgrims.

So, I had the day off from school. I loaded up my ten-pound poodle, Windy, in the car, some snacks and water, and off we went. It was a 200-mile trip, taking us about three hours. I left early in the morning so I would have ample time to look around—before that trip I had only been to Chimayó once with a girlfriend, and we stopped at Ortega’s Weaving Shop, but we didn’t stop at El Santuario de Chimayó. At that time, I did not know the significance it had in New Mexico Christian heritage.

Inside the gate at El Santuario de Chimayó
Inside the gate at El Santuario de Chimayó

“El Santuario de Chimayó is a Roman Catholic church in Chimayó, New Mexico, United States. (Santuario is Spanish for “sanctuary”.) This shrine, a National Historic Landmark, is famous for the story of its founding and as a contemporary pilgrimage site. It receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called “no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.”


I remember enjoying the early spring morning ride up I-25 to Santa Fe, knowing this part of the road from trips to Albuquerque to visit my aunt and uncle when they lived there. Then I turned off I-25, and the world changed.

As soon as I drove through Santa Fe, the pilgrims appeared—some with large wooden crosses on their shoulders, many in a small cluster. Then I turned onto Road 503, which is the “High Road to Taos.” I had only been on that road once before, with my girlfriend on our previous trip to travel the High Road and go through Truchas, New Mexico, where The Milagro Beanfield Wars was filmed. Before the release of the film in 1988, I had read the book by John Nichols, howling at some of its hilarious situations and crying at its message about land and water rights. We had a great time on that trip.

The further I went with sage and pinon pines covering the mountainside, the number of pilgrims increased. As I motored by in my car, I glanced at serious faces on a mission. At one point, I felt a little ashamed of being in a car, but then I stopped and applauded myself for the effort.

When I arrived at the small village of Chimayó, I immediately knew the direction of the church. The masses walked towards it. I parked off on the side of the road, rolling down the windows for Windy and providing him with water.

I joined the crowd as it moved towards El Santuario de Chimayó. As we neared the gate in the adobe wall, a line formed and waited. Many people had told me about this part of the attraction to this place: holy dirt that heals.

The Gate into Sanctuario de Chimayó - pilgrimage
The Gate into Sanctuario de Chimayó

So, I waited in line, marveling at the size of the crowd and the age of the attendees—many faithful people ready to receive something special this holy day at this sacred place. Upon entering the church, it had wooden ceiling beams, white-washed walls, with a few pews. The altar area captured my eye—a wooden depiction of Jesus and the crucifixion.

How respectful the people in line were—a reverent silence canopied the church as we made our way to a door on the side of the sanctuary where the holy dirt was. When I entered the small room tucked away, crutches lined the walls from healings. I saw the hole in the ground where the dirt came from. Then I grabbed my bag of holy dirt and left. As I walked out, pictures lined the walls of people who had been healed. I have kept some dirt from Chimayó in my home in a variety of spots ever since.

When I got outside, I returned to my car, put Windy on a leash and we wandered around the area. I soaked up the peaceful, reverent atmosphere and found a shady spot under a tree to relax. Windy curled up next to me and we noticed blissfully the pleasure of being with worshipping people. I hadn’t gotten into the habit of carrying a journal with me yet, so that day never got memorialized in a poem, but what I took away from it has lasted for over thirty years in my heart. Today, I still feel the serenity in that church’s courtyard.

In the following years, I returned once during Holy Week on Good Friday in the early 90s when I moved to Albuquerque and on other occasions to share this New Mexican treasure.

In the summer of 2009, I returned to Chimayó after a divorce. After moving into my townhouse, I remembered the holy dirt and realized I had misplaced it. I knew I needed some to heal my broken heart. This time I went alone because Windy had passed away. Again, a line formed but shorter and wove its way through the church. I gathered a bagful of dirt and brought it home, placing it around my townhouse, believing in its power to heal. This time I spent time with a notebook in the courtyard recording my experience.

Lin leaning against the gate into Santuario de Chimayó - pilgrimage
Lin leaning against the gate into Santuario de Chimayó

In 2015, Lin and I vacationed in the Santa Fe area in the spring, and I showed him around Chimayó and El Sanctuario. We had a delightful time and the grounds surrounding it had changed a lot during my absence. We brought home a fresh bag of dirt to replace the old. All the pictures included here are from this trip.

As I face Holy Week this week, I remember my pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó from Raton—every year I am reminded of my experience, still savoring the time there. It still blesses my heart in a special way!

If you are interested, here’s this year’s Holy Week schedule there: https://www.holychimayo.us/holy-week. Have you visited Chimayó? If so, what was your experience? Have you ever done a pilgrimage or something special during Holy Week? I’d love to hear about it!

~Celebrate spring with 20% off select book bundles at my Etsy Shop, Larada’s Reading Loft until April 30!

~NEW PODCAST to be released Thursday, March 17, 2022, discussing my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? : Live on Purpose Podcast at https://liveonpurposeradio.com/category/podcast/

~MY FIRST AUDIOBOOK IS AVAILABLE: Go to Audible to buy my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story

~Do you listen to podcasts? Here are three podcasts with interviews about my new book & some Flippo stories:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~Are you on a spiritual path? Do you want to heal from the horrible effects of the pandemic of 2020? Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

My Thoughts · poetry

Coyote Encounter in My Poetry


Coyote in Native American folklore is a trickster, and I had my experience with this illusive scoundrel and recorded in a poem. My ex-husband and I lived near a Native American burial ground where we walked.

Coyote is a major mythological figure for most Native American tribes, especially those west of the Mississippi. Like real coyotes, mythological coyotes are usually notable for their crafty intelligence, stealth, and voracious appetite. However, American Indian coyote characters vary widely from tribe to tribe. In some Native American coyote myths, Coyote is a revered culture hero who creates, teaches, and helps humans; in others, he is a sort of antihero who demonstrates the dangers of negative behaviors like greed, recklessness, and arrogance; in still others, he is a comic trickster character, whose lack of wisdom gets him into trouble while his cleverness gets him back out. In some Native coyote stories, he is even some sort of combination of all three at once.


This poem came after my personal sighting of a coyote one morning.

Spirit Coyote

Larada Horner

September 20, 2000

One velvety quiet dawn

I see you and my heart knows.

We know each other deeply,        

beyond time and space.

                        Where did we first meet?

On the prairies in southeastern Colorado?

Your eyes haunt me

            following my every step.

Your home, a sacred Indian burial ground,

separated from the world by a chain link fence.

Ancient ones honored!

I walk by daily on the outside—

you and them today on the inside.

Are you coyote?  Are you spirit?  I can’t be sure!

            This is Albuquerque,

                        The city

                                    People everywhere.

I question as you mesmerize me.

            You turn away from me, and        

                        I recognize your lean frame.

You are coyote!

Death has captured them

            and you, too.

Are you captured?

Are you free?

You follow my action,

            you sneak towards me.

I gulp worried you will charge,

            but your movement stops towards me.

Now you progress with me, alongside me.

I feel comfortable in your presence–

            no fear,

            a companion that knows my heart.

You rise up on a small mound

            then you’re gone—gone forever!

A chain link fence separates us.

            You locked in with the dead

                        me alive outside,

                        walking free,

            yet skirting you and death everyday.

At times, I hear the chains in the fence rattle in the breeze,

            yet I know it’s not the breeze–

                        the sound is too severe.

            I know it’s spirits, like you caught in that place,

                        that place between the unknown,

                                    a place I know so well!

We are one; I see it!

Death, spirit coyote and me

            roaming through this life!

Those ancient ones inside me clamor to be

            free, to be put to rest!

Your spirit sought me out

            with a message.

Some Natives see you as the trickster,

            the predator by ranchers.

Others see you as the tourist symbol of the Southwest

            and place a red bandana around your neck.

What a shame!

Your spirit is larger, filling the arroyo

            and canyon of my heart.

You roam free—

            So, take me along!

I yearn to roam free with you,

            to howl at the moon,

                           at my loneliness,

                           at my aloneness,

                           at the other spirits walking my same path.

This surreal experience happened twenty-one years ago, and magic realism took over my poem—wondering about mysterious disappearance of that coyote. So what do you think? Where did it go? (Scroll below & make a comment about this mystery!

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

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How Did “The Auctioneer” Affect Flippo’s Career?

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Coronavirus Reflection: Bitter or Better? Coyote

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released in Augusthttps://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdJNjMivaCzk2YcNWHGMoxG4FPsfVEqEQEzYbcYr4tX9cDPVQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo. Coyote

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A


~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Coronavirus · Life Lessons · My Thoughts

Waiting for the Vaccine?

Photo by destiawan nur agustra from Pexels

Are you waiting for the coronavirus vaccine? I am but not very gracefully! I want it NOW! My nerves feel frayed. I vacillate between understanding the delay and wanting mine now, no matter what!

Because of a suggestion of an older friend, I registered at the New Mexico website and received my number several weeks ago. My husband drug his feet, thinking he’d wait for the Johnson & Johnson one shot treatment.

Then he had a phone call with his primary care physician on another issue, and the doctor quizzed him, “Have you gotten the vaccine yet?” He questioned him because Lin has been reluctant to take any of the vaccines until this doctor convinced him of the importance of the flu shot, specifically.

In response, Lin said, “No, I’m going to wait for the Johnson & Johnson shot.”

Our doctor responded sharply, “New Mexico has bought the two vaccines. There’s no guarantee they’ll buy the third one. Sign up!”

When he got off the phone, I signed him up. He’s eighty years old and within a few weeks he received a text to set up a time. He did and has taken the first shot at the Pit, the basketball court for the University of New Mexico.

When he went to get vaccinated, I rode with him, just in case he had any reaction. He didn’t and was really impressed with the efficiency of the operation there. They set up his second shot for mid-March, so he sees a light at the end of the tunnel!

As always, I turned to poetry to express my exasperated feelings:

Waiting for the vaccine
Photo by Serkan Göktay from Pexels

I Hate Waiting!

February 28, 2021

 Here I sit
                                                 For the coronavirus vaccination!
 I’m 67 years old
             Old enough you’d think
                                     In a nebulous zone
 Caught between
             Not old enough
                         For the first priority group
             Not young enough
                         Not to worry
Shortly, we face a year’s anniversary 
             Since this pandemic started.
Quickly the talk of the vaccine began
             Questions arose
                         Too soon?
                                     Too quick?
                                                 Too everything?
 Tests held
             Thousands of willing guinea pigs
 More questions
             More waiting
 Then the day came!
 The vaccine roll-out started
             In the UK
                         December 14, 2020
             In the USA
                         January 14, 2021
             Yet I had some misgivings
                         At first
             Total acceptance
 And I keep waiting!

 I’ve been obedient
             Watched my P's and Q's!
                         Social distance
                         Wash hands religiously
                                     After trips to Colorado
                                                 To safeguard Lin 
At first,
                         Against my gregarious nature
             Tired and exhausted
 I see the vaccine
             As the pathway
                         To normalcy
             As the pathway
                         To perhaps
Instead I sit here
                         Is it tomorrow
                                     I get the long-awaited text?
                         Is it this week?
                                     Or the next?
 Waiting to go back
             To go forward
                         To do something proactive
                                     To undo what’s been
                                                 Ongoing a year!
 I realize
             The vaccine is not a panacea!
 We still have to be cautious,
             But when we both are vaccinated
                         We can think
                                     Of possibilities
                         We can dream
                         We can stretch
                                     Our shrunken imaginations
                                                 To venture forth.
 Will the new world
             Demand I show
                         My vaccine card
                                     At dances?                 
                         For sure on airplanes
                         For sure to travel
                                     To foreign countries
 Is this new sought-after card
             My entry
                         Back into life?
 I’m waiting
 A possible silver lining
             For my wait!
                                     Johnson & Johnson
                                                 Will be available
                                                 When my time comes—
 That means one shot
             Instead of two!
 So, the waiting
             Once again,
                         As is so often,
                                     Maybe the reward!
 I’ll wait and see! 

Right now, in New Mexico, I have to wait for Phase 1A and 1B, because I’m in Phase 1C—60 years old and older. When I look at the list of people in the two phases above me, I shudder, because there’s many crucial people who should receive it before me. See the document: https://cv.nmhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/2021.1.28-DOH-Phase-Guidance.pdf

So I will wait!

In closing, my turn will come. My life will change when it happens. Will yours? Are you getting the vaccine? Have you got it? Are you impatiently waiting like me right now? I’d love to hear from you.

Did you miss one of my blogs in February? Here’s a chance to see them:

Just Another Square Dance Caller

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for all my books:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft


~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Holidays · My Thoughts

Valentine’s Day 2021! So Different Yet So Good!

Valentine's Day
Photo by alleksana from Pexels

Valentine’s Day 2021—a snowy frigid winter day in New Mexico! We’ve experienced a different celebration today yet so good! How have you spent your day?

Still we face coronavirus restrictions, so we had no choice of eating out to celebrate this day. Our marriage has spanned ten years, and Lin and I have been together for eleven. As the years rolled by, this celebratory day of love has changed.

Early in our relationship, Lin filled it with memorable times of special gifts and memorable nights. Now we comfortably celebrate in much less dramatic ways, yet know the depth of our love grows each year. Now, we exchange cards, flowers and nominal gifts.

As I pondered the whole impact of the holiday today, I found some really poignant and fun memes I’d like to share with you:

Valentine's Day
This is for Jesse, my cat!
Valentine's Day
That look!
Valentine's Day
Again those eyes!
Valentine's Day
Did it find you?
Valentine's Day
For my writer’s heart!
Valentine's Day
Another one for my writer’s soul!
Valentine's Day
The place where love is!
Valentine's Day
Oh, those precious memories!

Years don’t lessen the love in a relationship—it doesn’t have to grow stale. In fact, we have deepened our relationship, especially with the intense togetherness the pandemic forced on all of us. As we went through this unsettling time mostly 24/7, I found a deep-rooted respect for Lin and his work ethics. His humor delights me every morning when he serenades me and Jesse, my cat, belting out a rhyming ditty he created on the spot. His deep care and commitment to me still leaves me breathless!

The routine we created during this time together comforts my soul: a leisure morning of Lin reading his current history book and me doing my Quiet Time then Cribbage and breakfast. We go our separate ways then lunch together and a thirty-minute comedy series where we laugh together. We spend our afternoons separate on our own endeavors. Then after his workout and my walk, we head towards the hot tub for warmth and again a leisure time to talk over our world’s matters.

After a shower and dinner, we sit shoulder-to-shoulder watching our favorite British detective solve yet another crime. Before the finale, we share our choices of the villain!

Then off to bed we go! Quite a different routine for us than our usual busy lifestyle of constant dancing and traveling. And the benefit yielded—wow!

Right now, Lin naps on the loveseat downstairs waiting for the Nascar race to restart after a rainstorm. This last week, he has worked hard in the yard, preparing for spring planting, so he needs the nap and refreshment.

I write at my laptop in the loft and I hear only his soft snores—the heartwarming music of my Valentine’s Day with a dear, dear man for many years, still so, so good!

Finally, I love the reward of time together in a relationship, and I value Lin Miller as much today as I did ten years ago—maybe more because of what we have experienced.

What’s your routine? How has your relationship grown during the pandemic? How did you spend Valentine’s Day?

Did you miss one of my recent blogs? Here’s a chance to see one from the last three weeks:

Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR PERSONALLY AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me & my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~My Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~ HURRY! ENDS TODAY! Visit my Etsy Shop for all my books for a Valentine’s Day discount of 25% off select books and bundles:   https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft

 ~HURRY! ENDS TODAY! Enter the $400 Valentine Giveaway & WIN a $400 Amazon eCard! Only One Lucky Winner – Why not YOU? ~> http://ow.ly/L7Vn50DkYGN

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Christmas · My Thoughts

Enjoy Three New Mexico Christmas Traditions!

A traditional New Mexico Christmas differs from the rest of the world with three amazing traditions: tamales, bisochitos and lumanarias. The first two add delicious flavor to any meal, and the last one lights up our towns!


“Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn based dough mixture that is filled with various meats or beans and cheese.  Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they are removed from the husks before eating. Try them served with pico de gallo on top and a side of guacamole and rice.”


I’m lucky because I have a dear friend in Branson, Colorado who usually gives us tamales when she makes them. When I grew up, I had a delicacy: sweet tamales that had fruit inside instead of meat. Growing up, I had these more often than the meat-filled tamale.

My husband’s Costa Rican ex-wife gives us each Christmas Costa Rican tamales, wrapped in banana leaves and some secret additions that are yummy!

When I went to Mexican as a young married in the 1970s, we ate dinner at a buffet featuring Mexican food. I saw “tamale” on one dish and grabbed one not reading closely, remembering the sweet tamales I had as a child. I choked as I swallowed the first bit of the tamale, thinking it would be sweet, but it had meat inside! So be prepared! There are two types: meat-filled or fruit-filled.

If you’re interested in fixing your own, here’s a YouTube video on how to do it:


One of the Three New Mexican Traditions: Bisochitos

Bisochitos became the official state cookie of New Mexico in 1989, and if you’ve had one, you will know why! They melt in your mouth!

“There are several variations of this recipe, but the flavors are the same… cinnamon sugar and anise. Some people use shortening instead of lard. Some people use anise oil instead of the real thing. Some people use brandy or rum instead of white wine.”


Albuquerque’s own Pastian’s Bakery tops my list for bisochitos: absolutely scrumptious! We square dance with Sheri Pastian, and normally we have the pleasure of eating Pastian’s bisochitos at any holiday dances.

Visit Pastian’s Bakery for the best and tell them Larada sent you: https://www.pastiansbakery.com/biscochitos


Albuquerque and any town in New Mexico lights up at Christmas like the rest of the world, but traditionally we enjoy a different type of lights, lumanarias.

“The glowing brown sacks that adorn Albuquerque walkways, churches and homes each holiday season are called luminarias and date back more than 300 years. The New Mexican tradition began when the Spanish villages along the Rio Grande displayed the unique and easy to make Christmas lanterns, called luminarias to welcome the Christ child into the world. A traditional luminaria is a brown paper bag, which has been folded at the top, filled will a couple cups of sand and a votive candle.”


Starting December 1st, we see big displays in many stores of stacks of paper sacks and votive candles to make our own lumanarias. Then all is needed is sand to put in the bottom of the sack to stabilize the bag.

If you don’t want to do it yourself, Boy Scout troops offer great deals and deliver luminarias by the dozen to your home.

Traditionally we put lumanarias out on Christmas Eve. In fact, there’s a great lumanaria tour to do around the Ole Town area and surrounding neighborhoods. I love the golden glow created by the lumanarias all lined up a row.

In 2008, my Mom and I drove down to Old Town on Christmas Eve and saw lumanarias decorating the plaza and the church, San Felipe de Neri Catholic church. The church also provided a live nativity scene. Here’s a chance to visit this inspiring church: https://sanfelipedeneri.org/

Tamales spice up a meal. Bisochitos end any holiday meal with the delicious anise and cinnamon flavor! Lumanarias light our path! Yes, a New Mexico Christmas enjoys these three local traditions.

I’m sure I’ve missed a favorite New Mexico Christmas tradition of yours? Let me know if I did. What are your local unusual holiday traditions? Share them with me!

~Visit my blog post from last week:

Merry Christmas - Just Another Square Dance Caller cover


~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo and Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A


~Visit my web site for all the information you need about me and my books:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

~ Visit my Etsy Shop for 25% off individual paperback titles. Good until December 20, 2020. Here’s the coupon link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LaradasReadingLoft?coupon=25OFFSANDIA1220INDIV