I was wrong about Valentine’s Day.


There are moments when unexplainable connections occur. There are gifts that go well beyond words. My friend, Char, and Dakota.


Double love with a friend in the middle. Some serious horse medicine occurred today. Char with Colorado and Dakota.

I thought that Valentine’s Day was going to be miserable. I was wrong. Instead, it has been filled with love and goodness from top to bottom, left to right, inside and out. There are moments when unexplainable connections occur. These are gifts that go well beyond words. Sometimes I feel like Carl’s love for me has magnified and multiplied itself many times over and in all directions.

God is good.

{originally published Feb 14, 2015}




I feel sick today. Last night there was a huge, startling KABOOM that shook the house and sent the dogs running to me for protection. I didn’t know what it was. I decided that it must have been snow sliding down from the roof. Although I did not make the connection at first, it wasn’t much later that the road outside began filling with the sounds of sirens. We don’t get much siren traffic on this road and, when we do, I think all of us begin to worry what might have happened. It is one of the blessings of this somewhat rural neighborhood: we care about each other.

Police cars, fire truck, ambulance…my God. This must be what PTSD feels like. I’ve never known it before, but since Carl’s accident, it seems that I know it now. Before Christmas, I was pulled over for speeding. The police officer was nothing but nice, but as I sat in my car waiting for him to run my driver’s license, I nearly came undone. Those lights flashing in my rear view mirror. Flashing, pulsing, unrelenting in their consuming brightness. For the first time, I imagined all the lights that must have been on the scene of Carl’s wreck. My mind screaming, mentally pleading with the cop to PLEASE turn off those flashing lights!!! Pleading with myself to pleasepleaseplease hold it together, the edges of a full blown panic attack growing imminent. I’m let off with a warning. He thanks me for being a good driver. The cop has no idea of my crushing brush with panic until he hands me a Random Act of Kindness and I burst into tears. Will you be ok, he asks with kindness in his voice? Yes, yes…I will be fine. I thank him and I mean it. I drive the rest of the way home, crying my eyes out. The trauma, the kindness, the wanting Carl, for just…everything. And so it begins again last night. My quiet little world fills with flashing lights and sirens. Again, my imagination takes me to the scene of that horrible night that I wasn’t there to see. Then it loops over on itself, back to the present. I begin to worry if I might know people where all these sirens are headed. Is it my dear friends next door? Where is this dire emergency that requires so much attention? What has happened? Is anyone hurt? Dear God, has someone lost their life?

Meanwhile, Carl’s sister is on her way to pick me up. She is seeing all the flashing lights and having a similar experience of anxiousness and worry. She doesn’t yet know if they’re going to my house or somewhere else or what is even happening. When she pulls up to my cabin, I get in the car, we exchange thoughts and, for a moment, I become grateful that I am not as crazy as I feel. I’m not the only one struggling with some of these startling ways that life keeps happening around us. I become extraordinarily grateful that we have something soulful and good planned together for the evening.

I question whether I should even write about this here. It is too raw. I would prefer to reach towards optimism and hope. I want to contribute something positive to this world. Instead, all I’m capable of this morning is worrying about the house down the road. It exploded, completely obliterated. There was a man who was injured. I don’t yet know who it was and I probably don’t know him, but I worry about him and his family, too. I worry about the blizzard out east and all of the good friends I have who live there. That storm is both beautiful and ugly. I worry about the homeless people. I worry about the elderly and the sick. What will they do if they need help and can’t get it?

I feel traumatized. Like I am disintegrating.

But my spirit won’t let me stop here. I attempt to lift myself out of this. And I am hoping that it will have the circular effect of helping to lift you up, too. Over and over and over…this is perhaps the best thing we will ever do for each other. We’ll take turns. Here is my hand.

I step off my downward spiral of worry, back onto solid, snowy ground.
I take a deep breath.
I realize that I am not alone.
And neither are you.

Suddenly, the path becomes a little bit easier again.

The horse photo? Well, that is just a little gift to you and to me. A reminder that all is well, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

I love you, Carl. You pull me thru…in ways that I sometimes don’t even realize.

{originally published Jan 27, 2015}

my sentinel.


Yesterday I filled the water trough for the horses, a simple job requiring Herculean efforts, a laborious blessing. My two horses, Colorado and Dakota, have a way of dragging me out of the house in a way that nothing else can. The water is on the other side of this 30-some acre property and so that means I need to drag my tired sad self down the horse trail between my cabin to the water spigot and trough near the barn. This, of course, makes the dogs happy. Especially Louie and Ella who are used to going with me and saying hi to all the neighbor dogs in the process. Henry, he has fun, too…but he stays closer to me than he would have in the past. I’ve somehow been adopted by him in ways that I would have never expected. We’ve become each other’s safe zone. Henry, although small, is bit of a renegade, Carl’s perfect match. But despite his toughness, I also see the vulnerability that’s emerged through this experience. He snuggles in tight. He listens to me better than he ever listened to Carl. We keep an eye on each other. We both understand, all too well, the hugeness of what we’ve both lost.

We get to the gate near the barn and are met by 3 of the neighbor dogs, 2 yellow labs and a big strong mutt. Henry jumps into my arms until he’s decided that he’s big enough to outnumber them all. 6 dogs total. Enough to start a gang. They play for awhile, but then I take them back home and return to filling water for the horses. The trough is full. I am empty.

I walk back down the trail through a forest of pines and am a little bit awed by the flatness of everything. Since being in a relationship with Carl, the trail between the barn and cabin had taken on a new life. It had started to SPARKLE. With possibility. With love. With partnership. I’ve never owned horses before. When I took on their care, I really had no clue what I was doing. All I knew is that I loved them and that I needed them as much as they needed me. I’ve been figuring it out along the way, little by little by little, and still am.

But then came Carl and suddenly there was someone in my life who the horses loved as much as me and who loved them as much as I do. Colorado and Dakota fell in love with Carl instantly. They trusted him completely. The realization that I had found the perfect companion in life was, well…astonishing. There was nothing we loved more than schlepping hay bales together. Carl and I spent many a morning, afternoon or evening brushing, loving, feeding, and working with the horses. He was good at it and, together, we were really a good team. It was Carl that finally made the first step to ride Dakota for the first time and then helped me to do the same. She hadn’t been ridden in over 4 years and she responded beautifully. Colorado let us blanket him. We planned on working up to the saddle later. My big, skittish gelding. It was a beautiful accomplishment and he was so pleased with himself, too.

In all that time of our relationship there was an almost other-wordly glow to these woods. I imagined a long life together. I imagined a love-filled, work-filled, outdoors-filled, animal and family-filled life…together. I imagined us, side by side, making even the hardest of physical labor seem like something fun and enjoyable. That’s the kind of person Carl was…and he brought that out in me, too.

But yesterday and, really, every day since Carl’s been gone, these woods haven’t held the same luster. I’m still glad I’m here. These woods, even in their flatness, are still holding me in exactly the way I need to be held. After filling the trough, I walked back home and simply started to weep for the enormity of all these lost daydreams, for the loss of light, for the loss of having someone so capable by my side. Honestly, there are days that I don’t know how I’ll do this on my own. I am walking a precarious trail of faith.

I walked that trail all the way back to my cabin where the horses stood waiting for me. There was nothing left to do but just give up for a moment. I sat down next to Colorado, my back leaning against the tree nearest him. Colorado is the one that rescued me before Carl even came into my life. Surely, he can do it again? And, yes, he does. Every single day. Dakota, too.

I sat and cried into a lackluster forest with Colorado holding vigilance as I did so. He munched on hay and watched me with peacefully attentive eyes, occasionally looking up to take in the world around us. I felt like I could have sat there forever and the horses would not have left my side.

My guardians. They know. They care. They work their magic on me in a way that only sentient creatures know how to do.

Whenever I was having a bad day, Carl always used to tell me to go outside and hang out with the horses. It worked every time. Always. Their saving grace was and is almost annoyingly dependable. The horses don’t necessarily take my pain away, but for now their presence keeps me alive and breathing and moving, sometimes in seemingly exaggerated ways. I had so many crystal clear visions of a life with horses and Carl. I don’t know how to do it without him, but I pray, I pray, I pray that trail of faith I’ve been walking will, someday, become a little less precarious and a whole lot more beautiful.

In the meantime, I have this beauty. Colorado. Standing right in front of me. Catching my tears, letting me lean into the warmth of his strong body, always watching and waiting for me. Until the light someday returns.

I love you, Carl Bratlien. Be with me.

{originally published Nov 29, 2014}