Linda Carlson watches intently as Rob Manierre's three Arabians canter about the small corral, their tails aloft and sailing behind them like banners in a breeze. When the equine trio finally stops, Carlson, owner of the Boulder firm Equi-Sense, makes her way through the mud and manure to the seven-month-old bay, Miykalah.
"I've been worried about my baby," Manierre says, pointing to the filly, the first horse he's raised from birth. Manierre has asked Carlson to come from Boulder to the Aurora farm where he stables his Arabians to help pinpoint a health problem that's been bothersome to Miykalah.
Manierre believes Carlson's advice is straight from the horse's mouth. At Equi-Sense, after all, the specialty of the house is clairvoyant communication with the animal.
No one can talk to a horse, of course--unless it happens to be Carlson, who until five years ago made her living as a Chicago-based business consultant. All that changed in 1989, she says, when the rhyming business started--writing in rhymes, speaking in rhymes, giving prophesies in rhymes. Then angels began invading her dreams. Things just steamrolled after that. Now the 47-year-old Carlson makes her way in the world as a horse psychic and "rhyming angelic clairvoyant" who provides insight to clients primarily via Shakespearean verse. Her professional name: Linda "Sonnet" Carlson.
Once reluctant to accept her psychic "gifts," Carlson is building an extrasensory empire based on advice from her own personal angels--spiritual guides, she notes, that "never shut up." She's started a mail-order catalogue featuring her own line of "angel cards" and stationery. She has three books in the works. She also conducts psychic readings, at a new-age Boulder bookstore and over the phone, through her own 800 number and a 900-number psychic line. What she really wants to do, she says, is conduct workshops to teach better business techniques.
Says Carlson, who may break into rhyme at any time:
"If you take the basic principles and teach intuition to flow,
It will work regardless, whether you're in the mailroom or a CEO."
Back at the ranch, and without fanfare, Carlson places her right hand a few inches above Miykalah's neck and slowly strokes the air, attempting to pick up psychic vibrations. "She has a lot of potential," Carlson says of her four-legged client. "Very high-spirited. Almost hypersensitive--like an overly bright child. She needs a lot of gentle handling." Carlson continues her exploration, frowning slightly as her hand hovers close to the animal's rump. "Her right hindquarter is a little sensitive," Carlson says. "She has a hot spot back there."
When the filly runs off, she appears to have a funny loping gait, one that favors her right side and is apparent only by watching her from the rear. Manierre promises to phone his vet.
Carlson then walks over to Manierre's three-year-old chestnut mare. "I'm hoping she can read their personalities," says Manierre, who makes his living as a sales rep for a Fortune 500 company that he does not care to name. "Joi is not as friendly as the other two. I'd like Linda to help me in terms of getting Joi to trust people."
Carlson's places her hand above the mare. "She's a little spoiled," she says. "Definitely on the spunky side." That's as far as she gets. The session is cut short as Joi, who apparently doesn't care to lend her vibes to "intuitive communication" just now, trots back to her stall and the hay she's left behind.
Carlson's Midwestern roots are apparent as she speaks, her flat vowels proclaiming her origins as surely as if she wore a sign. She was raised in Michigan, a good Lutheran girl from a good Finnish family. There was little talk of psychics and such when she was growing up, she says, but people in her family just seemed to know things. Sometimes they'd see things, too. Years ago, according to Carlson, one of her aunts was startled by a friend who suddenly appeared in her bedroom, beseeching her to take care of the woman's child. Later that day, claims Carlson, her aunt learned the woman had died.
Carlson says her mother took those sorts of everyday psychic events in stride. But she was taken aback when her daughter began speaking like a medieval minstrel and told her she was communicating with angels. "Nobody in our family ever rhymed," she told her daughter pointedly.
It wasn't as though she had a choice, Carlson claims: When she was 42, it just kicked in. By then, she'd married, had two daughters, adopted two more children and been divorced. She'd had a stellar career, first as a partner with her husband in an insurance brokerage firm, and then as a sales rep, teaching financial planners to use specialized computer software programs. A 1991 newsletter published by the Elgin, Illinois, Chamber of Commerce listed Carlson as one of the best-paid saleswomen in America.
Dan Urban, one of Carlson's former co-workers at MAI Basic Four computer company, says her personal style set her apart. "A lot of account managers, they've read all those self-help books about being goal-oriented," he says. "They're more intense. Linda was friendlier, softer. She had a more intuitive approach."
In the summer of 1989, just as Carlson was preparing to marry a second time, stressful events began falling on her like dominoes. Her adopted daughter, who suffered emotional problems, was admitted to a hospital for evaluation. Two days later, Carlson was laid off. A week after that, she was married. And a week after that, she had a cancer scare when a routine medical test came back abnormal. Carlson opted for laser surgery.
It was during her recovery, she says, that the rhymes started. They came first in written form. "I'd write a letter to my daughter or my mother, and it would be in rhyme," she says. "I told my doctor, and he said it probably was a reaction to stress. He said I must have done it as a child."
Carlson, who says she can't recall having any verse reactions during childhood, says she eventually began speaking in rhyme as well, seemingly without thought. She'd carry on a conversation at the grocery store, not realizing she was speaking in iambic pentameter until the cashier gave her a funny look. She'd try to pass it off as a joke, says Carlson, who insists the bouts of poesy were beyond her control.
In the fall of of 1990, Carlson says, she began dreaming about angels. "Angels in typical regalia--wings and the whole shmeer--were warning me of cancer," she says. "They said, `You have to go back to the doctor. You have cancer again.' It wasn't scary. They were very matter-of-fact. It was like they were saying, `You need to wash the car.'" Carlson claims doctors later discovered she had ovarian cancer.
In some ways, Carlson says, the dreams and rhymes bothered her as much as the disease did. "I couldn't give people a rational reason for what was happening," she says. "I didn't have a frame of reference. I didn't do drugs in the Sixties. If I had, I would have excused it as flashbacks."
Eventually, says Carlson, she became more accepting of her rhymes and of what she describes as her ability to intuitively understand things about people. Within a matter of months, she was reading clairvoyant "angel cards" for clients at psychic fairs. The cards, which she still reads to this day, are small slips of paper liberated from an old card game. Each slip contains a picture of an angel and an upbeat word such as "inspiration," "openness" or "honesty." Carlson has since designed her own cards, which she hopes to have in Christian bookstores by early next year.
When giving a reading, Carlson has her clients pick three angel cards, then expands on the words that appear there. She speaks about the past and predicts the future. And she does it all in rhyme, the words spilling out much too fast to commit to paper. For that reason, she suggests that her clients tape-record the sessions and then listen to them again afterward. One typically untranscribable session takes place in a sunny, angel-filled room at her Boulder townhome. Says Carlson:
"(Something, something, something) full of creativity,
(something, something, something) in a paradigm that be.
Allow yourself to be open to another opportunity..."
Two years ago Carlson began working a 900 "psychic line," rotating shifts with a host of preternatural types. She says she expected to field questions about people's love lives and requests for winning lotto numbers. Instead, she says, she ended up giving advice on stock purchases and mergers and acquisitions--as well as interpersonal relationships.
Liz, a wealthy New Jersey widow, asked Carlson for answers about all of those and more. "She's been an asset to me with finances," Liz says. "She does prose and rhyming and gives me insight into the stock market. I'll call her and say, `Linda, I've got vibes about a stock.' Then she asks me what my vibe says, whether I should buy or sell...If I listen and take heed, I find out very good advice."
Carlson's advice doesn't come cheap--she currently charges $100 an hour for a face-to-face reading, $50 per hour for a phone consultation. But Liz says Carlson's worth it--unlike other psychics she's come across. "I had my house cleansed by some spiritual people after my husband died," she says. "They charged me $200 to cleanse it with sage, and then they kept calling back and calling back, wanting to do other things for me."
By contrast, says Liz, the only thing Carlson has ever asked for "is a letter of reference."
Liz isn't the only person for whom Carlson provides stock-market tips, and she's not the only one to provide Carlson with a letter of recommendation. "[Carlson] has provided her services in a professional manner and with astounding accuracy," wrote Terry Cunningham, a member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. "Since I carry large positions (inventory subject to high risk), I have found Linda's advice accurate and comforting. I say comforting because she provides a spiritual side to all my learning experiences in this `play for keeps' arena."
Brother Jerome Pryor, a Jesuit priest and humanities professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati, says he's been consulting Carlson for more than a year, ever since a friend recommended he speak to her.
"She was a big help to me," says Brother Jerome. "I was going through a very rough period, and she gave me exactly what I needed. I was caught up in something involving some other people, and she saw how it was all going to turn out. She told me that circumstances would work in my favor, and that the truth would come out." The incident, about which he does not care to go into detail, came out just as Carlson promised him it would. "I really am most grateful to her for that," he says.
Brother Jerome says he's also grateful to Carlson because she told him she could sense he was surrounded by saints. "She did not know who the saints were," Brother Jerome says, "but she told me their names. She said, `Is there a St. Bernadette?' because she saw her around me. St. Bernadette is the visionary of Lourdes," he explains. "And there are many, many parallels between my situation and Bernadette's."
Bernadette apparently is only one of a crowd of friendly saints peeking over Brother Jerome's shoulder. Carlson told him that St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa of Lisieux, St. Theresa of Avila and St. Joan of Arc also hover nearby.
Somewhat similarly, Carlson has her own personal set of angels. One is named Erasmus. Another is called, appropriately, Angelique. "And this sounds pompous," Carlson says, "but the Archangel Michael is around me. It's not like anybody has a corner on him," she's quick to add. "He hangs over everybody. And I get a lot of guidance from him. But it sounds so pompous."
Carlson claims she's constantly receiving unsolicited advice from her angels. "They mostly rhyme to me," she says. "I also hear them singing choirs and Christian songs." They've even serenaded her with an angelic version of the Willie Nelson song "On the Road Again."
"I'll be driving in the car with my kids," Carlson says, "and I'll say, `Did you hear that?' And they'll say, `No, Mom, it's in your head.' Where I live, it's mostly angels."
Of course, lots of people hear music in their head. The theme song to the Captain Kangaroo television show, for example, has been known to leap from people's subconscious to their conscious mind, haunting them for days on end. So why is it that she believes the voices in her ear belong to angels?
Carlson ponders the question briefly, then glances over her left shoulder and rolls her eyes heavenward. "Oh, all right" she says, as if addressing a kibitzing angel. Her explanation comes in rhyme:
"Who's to say, my dearest, when the voice does sing away,
That's not your guardian angel bringing light and love who's come to play?
So when you hear that little voice and wonder if it's true,
Could it not be your guardian angel, having fun with you?"
"That was sweet," Carlson says, as though someone else had recited the poem. "It gave me goose bumps."
Carlson hasn't always been well received. Once, after appearing on an Illinois television show devoted to extrasensory issues, Carlson was bombarded with irate phone calls. "You're in bed with the Devil!" one caller told her. "How dare you talk about angels?" another demanded. "No one we know who's Christian rhymes like that."
And those neighsayers hadn't even heard about Equi-Sense.
Carlson says she has long had an affinity for horses, animals she believes she can communicate with on a "nonverbal level." She says she can see and feel waves of energy emanating from the beasts much the way heat waves rise up from a highway in the summer. When she spots a disruption in the energy pattern, she knows the horse is experiencing pain in that area.
Carlson got her start in the horse business through a friend who taught Equi-Yoga, breathing techniques designed to help a rider become one with his or her steed. Carlson figured there was a niche for her in the trade as well.
Beatrice Tangel, who lives in northern Illinois, was one of Carlson's earliest clients in the horsey set. The two women met at a high-society horse show in the Chicago area almost two years ago. Carlson had a booth there ("I think they said she was an angel psychic," Tangel remembers), and Tangel decided to give it a whirl. "She asked me to give her something I wear all the time," Tangel says. "I gave her my watch. The first thing she said was, `You've been under so much stress the last ten years, it's incredible.' And that was very true."
Tangel was so impressed by Carlson's reading that she invited her to her home to inspect her horses, thoroughbreds Echo and Wave Bye Bye. "She said Wave Bye Bye apparently had a hard time being bred, which was true," Tangel says. "She also knew that Bye Bye had a problem with her back." Carlson told Tangel that Echo would be a great show horse. "I hadn't even started showing her then," Tangel says of Echo, "but she is incredible. I have a hard time getting a saddle on her now, she's so anxious to get out there and show what she can do."
Carlson says she doesn't have to see a horse to get in touch with its feelings. She was in Chicago last year when she first spoke to Pam Levien by telephone. The Littleton-based Levien was working with vendors for a prestigious horse show to be held at High Prairie Farms in Parker, and Carlson was interested in setting up a booth.
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"I was very intrigued by what she did," Levien says. "We had very traditional vendors coming, from tack shops to equine art and equine jewelry, so she was unique. That first chat with her on the phone, she asked me how many horses I had. I said two. Then she asked me if I was thinking of getting any more. And I said yes, that was a possibility. She said I should get the other horse. As it turned out, I did. And I'm very happy with him."
When Carlson came out for the show, she also visited with Levien and her horses. Levien says Carlson was able to sense what had happened to one of the animals in the past. "She seemed to think it might have been abused," Levien says. "This horse had come from Colorado Horse Rescue. The reason it ended up there was because it was being starved." Carlson's rhyming ability, adds Levien, "just blows me away."
Since moving to Boulder from Chicago a few months ago, Carlson has been downplaying her Equi-Sense venture, instead concentrating her energies on finishing her books and establishing herself as a public speaker on the use of spirituality and intuition in business. "It's time to be more consistent," she says. "I may actually be at the point where I need a business manager."
A part of her still wants to be "so-called traditional," Carlson says. As proof, she digs through a box of personal items, looking for one of her prized possessions. "Here," she says proudly, pulling out a three-by-five-inch identification tag with her name and occupation on it. "I may be the Rotary Club's only `intuitive consultant.'