WELCOME to CASA O’LEARY, my home for the next 5 weeks.

Early every morning I pour a mug of coffee, stand out on the balcony and get my first glimpse of SMA through this oval non-window (located to the left in the above photo).

Seventeen years ago in April 2001, when Michael and I were driving home from an early AM yoga class, we followed a moving van turning into our Silver King Drive neighborhood. As it pulled to a halt at the vacant house near ours, we spotted a cute little guy, standing patiently with his parents, waiting for that truck to spill out the life he’d left behind in Houston, Texas.

We were smitten. And, dear Readers, that’s how I’ve ended up spending 5 weeks of this winter with the O’Leary’s in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Every February 2nd families and communities dress up their image of Niño Dios (Child Christ) with brand new clothes and take them to the church to be blessed. It falls forty days after Christmas, and is celebrated by Catholics as the “Feast of Purification.”

The priest is blessing all the babies brought to the altar.

Everyone picks up their babies after being blessed.

That little 4-year old is now a junior at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. As our lives and the O’Leary’s became intertwined we were able to participate in and celebrate the many milestones of his journey. After Michael died Blanca and Cavanaugh were among the friends who quietly tucked me into their lifestyles and families.

After the ceremony families get together for a delicious tamales feast. We sat down with the whole staff and had homemade tamales and hot chocolate for breakfast.

That evening for my first dinner, Señora Trini, the O’Leary’s talented cook, made me a flan.

More than ten years ago, they bought a hacienda in Mexico and now spend 6 months of the year in SMA. Generous with their hospitality and skilled at entertaining, their home is a revolving door as friends come and go. Although Blanca has often invited me to visit, nothing meshed until this year when I asked to visit for ‘a week or so.’ But five weeks? Who does that?


These cactus pads are called Nopales in Mexico. We brought some from this woman and brought them home to S. Trini. That night she made a delicious vegetable that looked much like green beans!

Over the years Blanca, who grew up in El Paso and I, Iowa born and bred, have created a unique friendship. Although I can’t speak to what I bring to her party, I am well aware of what she brings to mine. Strong-willed and intuitive, her passions and gusto for life run deep. Because our cultural experiences were so divergent and my ignorance and naivety about Latinos so great, we’ve never lacked for spirited conversation.

Since Blanca is on the board of San Miguel Pen, the worldwide association of writers with centers in 104 countries, we attended a evening author’s presentation. Later author Sandra Cisneros, who in 1995 received a MacArthur Genius Grant, joined us for dinner.

During our weekly hikes last summer, we discussed this upcoming visit. “If I’m coming for that long,” I said, after remembering that ‘guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ “ I want it to be about learning.”

“Of course,” Cav and Blanca agreed, suggesting that was already a given.

Just a casual Saturday afternoon in downtown San Miguel. Actually these two fine people are headed to a wedding.

After spending one week in SMA I’ve already taken a deep dive into grasping the importance and significance of Mexico, our south-of-the-border friend and neighbor. For the next 5 weeks, with shorter written posts, I’m letting my photos tell the story of meals shared, celebrations observed, activities enjoyed and people encountered.

And yes, after a week of enjoying the O’Leary’s bounteous hospitality, I’ve begun mainlining my multivitamins.

I joined an early morning San Miguel Audubon birding walk at El Charco del Ingenio-Jardín Botánico. Besides seeing this Vermillion Flycatcher I viewed many birds species including the Great Kiskadee, the Chachalaca and the White-faced Ibis for the very first time.

On most mornings we take an early morning hike up to the El Charco preserve near the O’Leary’s home with our neighbor Christina.