For a long time after her traumatic brain injury, Linda Nations felt that wild animals were conspiring to keep her safe from harm.
There was the time the former Colorado Springs resident and psychotherapist was exhausted, shaky and unwisely driving home through a canyon near Beaver Creek in Penrose. A bald eagle suddenly dove in front of her car - she could see only its wingspan and tail - and led her partway out of the canyon. As the mighty bird peeled off to the left, a great blue heron swooped in and took its place, staying in that position until she exited the canyon.
Then there was the sassy skunk that sauntered down the middle of a canyon road she was driving that had a sheer drop on one side. The black and white creature's tail swished left to right and no amount of honking, yelling or barking from Nations' dog could alter her course. That is, until Nations finally gave up her Type A rush to get to a meeting. She started to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, and only then did the skunk move off to the side and let the car pass by.
"She wasn't going to move until I got the message," said Nations, 72. "I kept a journal of animal encounters. I keep a journal about a lot of things to keep me straight in my world. I didn't tell anybody because I was brain damaged, and it was so weird. I didn't understand it. It took 18 months to figure out it was something else other than coincidence or happenstance. They (the encounters) got so numerous that I couldn't believe anymore they were happening accidentally."
Nations' new memoir, "Remember Me," is her account of the 7 1/2 years after her injury and how learning to communicate telepathically with animals helped her heal.
A book launch is Saturday at a private residence in Colorado Springs. Seating is limited to 50 people, and reservations are required. The book is also available online at Amazon.com for $19.95.
Urban legend long has held that many who suffer a brain injury experience a deepening of their psychic abilities. In Nations' case, it was an ability to communicate with animals, living and dead, though the longer an animal has been gone and the busier it is on the other side, she said, the harder it is to talk with them.
Five years ago, Bonnie Reaves knew her 9-year-old pug, Hank, wasn't doing well after surgery for abdominal cancer.
After calling Nations, who agreed to meditate and make contact with him, she curled up with her dog. Suddenly he stopped breathing. She made note of the time - 10:25 a.m. And then Hank came back and began to breathe again. A half-hour later, Nations called her.
"She said she got in touch with him. He was scared to leave me," said Reaves. "He didn't know what happened when he died, so she explained it to him and that he would always be in touch with me."
Nations told her she talked with the dog at 10:25 a.m. The significance of the timing and the message Nations had relayed to her dog helped Reaves feel more comfortable when she had him put to sleep later that day.
"She explained where he would go and that he would always be in touch with me," Reaves said. "She's a phenomenal comfort. She's had some great experiences with animals and would do anything for them. It's her life."
Nations was thrown from her horse, a Tennessee Walker named Sestina, 21 years ago. She wasn't wearing a helmet and started to slur her words and vomit. They rushed her to St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, where she stayed nine days. She doesn't remember six of them.
"People still don't pay attention to wearing helmets," said Nations. "You never think it's going to happen to you."
Post-craniotomy life was a series of lows. The former workaholic with a thriving psychotherapy practice was forced to give it up after damage to her right frontal lobe, the area that deals with executive function. It decimated her ability to multitask. And her husband left almost nine months later because he didn't know how to be with the new person she had become.
"I was only able to operate on one track at a time - the immediate moment," she wrote on her Amazon page. "I had been the earth mother, the person that people counted on to be the real-world stable one. After my accident, many of the people in my life did not know how to be around me. I didn't even know how to be around myself."
But as it so often does, life presented a silver lining. Living in the moment opened her to the world of animals "because that's where they live," she said. After a string of serendipitous animal interventions, Nations began practicing with her pets, sitting with them and asking questions. It took awhile, but eventually she could hear them talk back.
"My mini horse was sniffing my butt. I said, 'Don't bite my butt; I hear you're a butt biter,'" she said, "and I heard in my head, clear as a bell, 'I only did it that once.' I said to him, 'Well, don't do it twice,' and that started it. It got stronger and stronger."
Dogs, cats, horses, goats, wild animals in rescues and even hedgehogs are all fair game.
"I'm combining a counseling approach and animal intuitive approach," she said. "I know what they're thinking and wanting and can help their human understand that. A lot of issues are with the humans because the animal will act out what the humans are dealing with.
If a person is afraid and not dealing with the fear, the animal will show fear or fear aggression. They'll get scared and lunge at people and bark at people."
Nations now lives in Olathe with her new husband and their pets, a border collie/husky mix named Ellie and a cat named Sierra.
She does in-person and phone sessions with animals and their owners two to three times a week and gives presentations on what animals have to teach us.
"They can comprehend more than we think they can."