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Lighting Up

I bounced back and forth this summer between my home and where Z lives. We both waited for the offer, and then the acceptance, and then the paperwork and then the logistics. But I did know that I was not in a rush to uproot him to my home. He has lived most of his life at one barn with the same people, I know in his mental state any sudden changes could spell disaster for our trust.

So, every time I was in town I made a point to spend time with Z. The first day I went out to catch him I was unsure of what to expect-I had heard so many stories. He ignored me when I approached and entered his stall. I waited and reached out to touch his shoulder. HIs whole body went rigid and he leapt from beneath my hand. His reaction was violent. He watched me as I gently explained my intentions and tried again. Within moments he lowered his muzzle into the halter. I have to admit I enjoyed the collective gasp when we walked back into the barn together!

I started riding him too. Lightly, softly, and slowly. He goes in a bitless bridle and I worked to break his habit of tensing, curling, and running while remembering that he had barely been ridden in years. He seemed to settle and stayed calm for our entire rides.

When I returned after an absence to teach a camp, I was greeted eagerly by Z with a wicker. That was a special moment. I decided maybe he was ready to join the world again. So, I asked him to come be our model for pony parts (this involves a herd of children and stickers). He was happy to come in the barn and stood waiting in the cross ties.

When the herd of TWELVE (a lot of noise, energy, and motion) children came around the corner of the aisle I watched him light up. His posture changed and he seemed to grow an inch or two. His ears came up and his eyes became soft and alert and he lowered his head to greet the approaching stampede. I was speechless and excited as he stood patiently while the stickers and children went everywhere. But the best part was he was engaged! He had again lost that sour look and was curious and attentive with the kiddos.

People ask me why I continue to teach and train. It’s not actually for me, or the kids, or the money. It’s for the horses. If I can make one horse’s journey on earth a little easier, then I have done my job. And that day the horse was Z.

Z’s New Girl

My Girl

i could feel the center of her crumbling;
that place that held warmth
and her laughter.
she no longer moved with a girlish and carefree spirit,
she clenched her teeth against the tears
and she began slipping away from me.
i could not find my girl
in the angst enveloping us now.

i have carried her so far.
through seasons,
over so much ground,
i knew how to follow where she leads
but i did not know how to carry her back to before.
so i did my best to follow.
maybe if i could hold some of the new pain,
she would stay close to me.

now the blood in me moves too quickly
and pounds in my ears.
i can hardly stand the wait for her,
but the in-between is stretching longer.
there are so many days she never comes at all
and the center of me is crumbling.
so i clench my jaw against the emptiness
and i slip away too.

A little context for this poem: it’s about a horse. A very special horse. A horse that is the newest addition to my little family. I am not the girl he is referring to, but I’ll start at the beginning of the story…

Z was 3 when he was brought home as the first horse for a girl named M. They learned everything together and were inseperable. Z was M’s whole world and she was the center of his universe. And together they grew up.

Then, M’s parents went through a horrible, public, humiliating, and vicious divorce. As M’s world began to crumble, she changed. Suddenly she was angsty and angry and Z took the brunt of the change-he had lost his girl. So Z began to change too. He became difficult to be around and ride, and he spent his spare time cribbing.

But things were going to get worse. Z could not take any of the pain or hurt away for M and so she fell into other things. She stopped coming to the barn. Z spent his days being sullen, detached and focused on the rush of oxygen that made him feel ‘high’. He sat alone in the pasture because no one but M could catch him.

Fast forward almost two years…

I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. He’s distinct, beautiful, and athletic. And M refused to let me near him. In her still out of control world-he was still under her control and while she did not want him she would not give it up the little bit of power she still had. But eventually, a transition to college led to a ‘For Sale’ sign over Z’s head.

What options did Z have? Untouched and difficult he would not find a good buyer easily. Most likely an auction to pay the debt and then a rough cowboy who liked his paint color and would fight him until he gave in.

I could not bear the thought, so I stepped up. I payed far too much money to buy a horse who may or may not be catchable or ridable they said. ‘He’s a jerk, he’ll never change’. But now Z has me and I refuse to believe a word they say.




smoke curls through the air between us,

illuminated by rays of light.
you are shrouded and blurred from view.

they say where there is smoke,
there is fire.

a billowing haze blows across the late summer moon:
muting the reflection of crackling reds and oranges
as a wildfire roars through the mountains.

where there is smoke,
there is fire.

i search out the river of your eyes,
will i see on the edges the flickering of flames?
or have they been buried by the smoldering cinders?

where there is smoke,
there is fire.

i wonder if you will ever let me be the hot wind,
whose breath flows down through the valleys
to blow away the suffocating smoke and carry the flames ever higher.

where there is smoke,
let us be the fire.



My Girl

i could feel the center of her crumbling;

that place that held warmth

and her laughter.

she no longer moved with a girlish and carefree spirit.

she clenched her teeth against tears

and she began slipping away from me.

i could not find my girl

in the angst enveloping us now.

i have carried her so far.

through seasons

over so much ground,

i knew how to follow where she leads

but i did not know how to carry her back to before.

so i did my best to follow.

maybe if i could hold some of the new pain,

she would stay close to me.

now the blood in me moves too quickly

and pounds in my ears.

i can hardly stand the wait for her,

but the in-between is stretching longer.

there are so many days she never comes at all

and the center of me is crumbling.

so i clench my jaw against the emptiness

and i slip away too.




Typewriter Series #379 by Tyler Knott Gregson


Typewriter Series #379 by Tyler Knott Gregson


How do you believe
after it all has been spent
on the hope before?



The Pit Bull, Part 1

I was prepared for questions when I fell in love with a Pit Bull.  I was prepared to explain all about MY dog. I’d done my research about breeds and dogs, but more importantly I spent time with him and the family that was giving him up.  How I considered his age: three and how that meant his personality was fully formed.  He’d been neutered on time, at six months.  How he’d been raised with a kid who he loved and owners who had taught him things the things he needed to know to live with people and then a baby.  How I watched as the kid poked him and took his toys away and how gently and attentively my dog played with him.  And how he’d lived with another dog and been a frequent visitor to parks and other dog friendly places.  And even how we had gone to the park and met lots of different dogs and how he was very well socialized and sweet and playful.  How he loves to be active but in reality he is a low energy dog who is content to be company while I study.  Those were the questions that I was prepared to answer.  Plus, I was sure that his wagging tail, big smile, and good manners would answer any that were left.

It turns out I was, in fact, very unprepared when my new best friend came home.

I did not know that I would have to take a definite stance on the ‘Pit Bulls vs. Society’ debate and be prepared to discuss is frequently.  And, that that stance should be that all Pit Bulls are awesome (because my uncle had a friend who had a sweet one, etc…) and people who don’t know that are bad.  However, I had and continue to have a slightly different opinion.  I actually think that you have to be very careful.  People attracted to Pit Bulls are often attracted for the wrong reasons and they will buy dogs from breeders who have bred irresponsibly.  And that poor Pit Bull-as a direct result of the people in its life, may in fact fit exactly into the stereotype.  I blame people and I blame them completely.  The lives of the animals in our care is not something I take lightly, and I do not ever downplay that belief. EVER.  So, I actually do not want to discuss ‘The Great Pit Bull Debate’ with everyone who sees I have a Pit Bull just because you think I automatically agree with you. (Especially when I think you are a careless, irresponsible dog owner who got a Pit Bull because you think it makes you look cool.)

I was unprepared for the looks and judgement I would get from other people. Not just the surprise that a shy, blonde, graduate student has a big muscly dog; but the negative expectations.  For example, the woman who demanded my dog be on a leash at the dog park because he was dangerous. When in reality after getting to know him, people rave about how sweet and well behaved he is and he is often greeted by name.  I never expected that after being bitten on the shoulder by an off-leash lab on the on-leash walking trail, the owners would make a passive comment about how,

'He's a Pit Bull, he probably deserved it.'

And then not even apologize.  My dog was walking calmly beside me! What exactly did he do?  I was aware there was a stereotype, but I did not know how prominent or intense it was or how forcefully I would feel it.  

I definitely never expected that I would start making the decision to steer away from Pit Bulls at the dog park and other places, after multiple bad experiences.  And I’m a person who knows that it’s not the breed that is the problem!  It’s interesting that that very judgement that annoys and angers me when I see it directed at my dog-I actually participate in!   How do I blame people who steer their dogs and children away from my dog?  I did not know that having a dog could get so socially complicated.

I was at the dog park two days ago with my dog and his friend.  As they were running and playing, in walked a couple with two Pit Bull type dogs-one male and one female.  I did the judgement scan, and decided I would get closer to my dog and get his attention in case I wanted to move along.  (For the record, I am probably over cautious and maybe over-protective of my dog with ALL other dogs. Both for my own and other people’s comfort as well my dog’s safety…) The two dogs approached my dog and he greeted them politely with a wagging tail.  They all seemed fine, so I let things be.  About 15 minutes later, the male chased my dog away from the group and started to snarl and try to hump him.  I called my dog’s name and ran towards them.  I heard my dog say, ‘No’ with a matching growl/snarl sound and an attempt to get out from under the other dog.  But the dog came at him again and then again.  Sort of without thinking, I screamed my dog’s name and grabbed him as he came towards me and pushed the other dog away.  My rationale?  The best way to prevent dog aggression is to never let it happen.  This was a situation asking for trouble because the other dog was not leaving my dog alone after he had said no.  I want my dog to say ‘No’ and have it be heard-he should never have to get aggressive to get out of a situation.   At this point, you might wonder where the other dog’s caretakers might be.  They were watching.  They did nothing.  Still holding onto my dog I asked them to call their dog away so we could go somewhere else.  This was the response:

'That's why you come to the park-to let them fight. They'll figure it out.'  

I could feel my own dander come up at his response.  He just shrugged and said,

'Some people have different opinions, I guess.' 

Oh, you bet I do!  And my opinion is that you are exactly the kind of person that should not have a Pit Bull and maybe not any dog! But my very calm response was;

'My dog has ONE SHOT, because of his breed. ONE SHOT at life. And the best way to prevent dog aggression is to never let it happen. Never let it be an option.’  

We left quickly after that, but I continue to fume about that experience.  I am not an expert on dogs, and I hardly think that I am always right.  But I am an expert on my dog and I am his human protector, and I am not about to be careless with his life. 

I was not prepared for the fact, that when I fell in love with a Pit Bull I would be ‘going to bat’ for him almost everyday.  I did not know that I would have to get involved in the great debate and that suddenly I would feel a responsibility to the entire breed.  Or that I would have to identify with Pit Bulls everywhere; even when I try my hardest to constantly do right for my own sweet, cuddly, ‘killer’ with my own decisions, and his training and manners.  I never expected that such a wonderful dog was going to need a full time defense team.

that day

a muddy day falls between winter and spring.

roll the windows down to breathe the sweet fresh air.

once that warm day has been felt,

been tasted;

there is no falling back into winter.

i am pulled from the past into the future.

you are that day.

that sunny, muddy, sweet, in-between day.


we are driving through tiny towns,

quietly watching Montana summer roll by.

my bare feet on the dashboard.

'you always look back at horses?'

you ask with that smile i will love.

'yeah, i do.'

not even knowing i had been.

'guess i'll get used to that.'

you say,

more to yourself than me.




i am watching you take confident steps back towards me,

up from the banks of the frozen river.

i can feel the joy wrapping around my heart.
feel the warmth soak into our matching smiles.

but this feeling will never be mine to hold;
not matter how hard i dream.

some happiness is not meant to belong.
it can be felt just passing through.

today belongs to the land beneath our feet,
and frosty breath in the cold air.

this happiness belongs to you.
you alone and all on your own.


I have been pondering the idea of trust.  What it looks like and what it feels like.

It’s funny, the opposite of trust is mistrust.  But is it really?  When I think of mistrust, I don’t feel it anywhere in my body.  For me, it feels more like fear (always back to that).  When I don’t trust something I am afraid of it.  I do not trust that log across the river, and I’m afraid to fall in. 

I trust horses.  Isn’t that silly?  We are separated by a language barrier and limited ways (?) to communicate.  But I trust them on my own, I trust them with the kids, and I trust them about themselves. 

But why? 

Honesty.  They are always honest.  They have no capacity for lying and deceit.  So, if I’m paying attention and listening the best that I can to them I have no reason for doubt. 

But trust is not lazy.  I trust because I’m listening and paying attention, and I never forget that they are horses and they can be strong, fast, and unpredictable.  Trust is communicated.

Of course I think of Holly. She is wild at heart.  I should mistrust her because of her nature.  But I trust her too.  I trust that she will be honest and true.  I trust that she will be a wild zebra.  I hope that she trusts me as well.  Does she see the same honesty in me?  Does she know that I am always listening to her and looking out for her?  How do I communicate that trust to her?  And do I communicate trust to others? Do I even trust people?

I believe that I am trusting by nature.  But I do not trust blindly.  I trust the good in people, but I am on guard for that danger always.  However,  I know that I look for dishonesty and often I believe in it’s existence without any proof. 

Wait…If I seem to assume dishonesty exists then am I really trusting?

If I am feeling an absence of trust in a relationship, I should be paying attention to the lack of honesty.  Maybe in them.  Maybe in me.

And so, this contemplation ends at this:  Honesty is trust.  The absence of trust, for me, is fear.  Trust is not accomplished, it is communicated.

Woven (2006)

Woven together,
Hurt and Joy,
Tears and Laughter.
I’m not always Honest,
but I’m not always Pretending.
I’m not always Happy,
but I’m not always Sad.
I walk that line between living 
and dying.
If you wait a little longer,
you’ll uncover the scars. 
I covered them the best I could,
and locked away the truth.
I wasn’t always Invisible, 
In trying to make it through,
I got lost.
If you delve a little deeper,
You’ll discover someone,
You didn’t expect.
You’ll see everything woven together,
with more Honesty,
and lots more Love.
But just stand back there,
and pretend you never saw.
"It’s hard enough already."
Just treat me like a girl,
You passed on the street.
You don’t have to love me;
but why not let yourself care?
I Laugh and Joke,
I Dance and Sing,
I Love and Care.
I Plan and Work,
I Talk and I Dream.
I’m not Poison,
and I’m not a Curse.
I’m just a girl,
With a little strand of everything 
Woven together.


She stumbled out and waited. She waited for her skin to stop holding her together and for her bones to crumble. She waited to shatter into a million tiny pieces and fall to the asphalt beneath her feet. She choked and wheezed on the cold air. But she did not crumble. She did not shatter. No part of her even seemed broken. And so begins the after.

first snow

hot black coffee

splashes on the linoleum floor.

we’re all in a rush.

hats, gloves, and boots.

the swish of bundled bodies

shoving their way out the door.

the first snow blankets the ground.

enough to build forts

and soak through my shoes.

you pull up

in the smell of exhaust and cigarettes.

and cold air.

you’re smiling

as you trudge up the sidewalk.

i’m hoping you’re smiling at me.

and then the snow starts flying.

laughter echos in the stillness.

everyone is a kid today.