The day after we had released the spirits of our horses Laddie and Mystico, our friend Austin arrived with his equipment to dig deep into the soil of our horse paddock, so we could bury Mystico and Laddie near Darma on the land where they have all walked for the last two decades. We chose to bury them all facing south, which is the direction Darma always faced as sentinel of her herd.
I knew it would take time to come to terms that in the last eight months all three of our remaining horses had crossed over. But the gentleness of their passing helped ease the sorrow. The burial became a blessed day of sacred moments.
I went into the stall where they were laying together. I lit some sage to bless and cleanse the space, and I placed the bowl so the breeze blew the smoke into the stall. The soothing scent helped me feel more grounded.
Over the years I had become accustomed to the sacred tending of the bodies of our animals. As I gathered some hair from their manes and tails, the ritual, the love, and the familiarity of touch helped to ease any disquiet that arose. It was a new experience to feel closure instead of angst.
One of our tame deer, a little yearling named Faeth appeared to observe the event. He wasn’t deterred by the rumble of the excavator. Faeth is the first fawn from our tame herd to have survived the illnesses, predation, and harsh weather that took several of the others in the last few years. Now he is sprouting a pair of yearling antlers. He observed all with the wisdom of a young buck.
Darma and the Hawk
In the last couple of years, Darma had a spirit connection to a hawk that would often appear close by. Once, after one of her anxiety episodes, I was standing with her and meditating to help her become calm. She was anxiously trying to focus her compromised vision to see what her fearful mind interpreted as a threat, when suddenly a hawk landed, flat footed, on the stacked pallets just a few feet away. It stood still, as if conversing with her, for quite some time. Then it rose into the air and flew south in the direction of her gaze, as if to say, “I’ll be the lookout for you”.
On the day before she passed, she rallied for a blessed hour and and walked into the pasture to eat some grass. She walked under and elderberry tree and the hawk suddenly took flight from just above her. I watched as it circled and I remarked on its appearance, hoping it was a sign of recovery. But in retrospect I believe it was there to acknowledge she would soon take flight herself.
Three months after she passed, I was sitting in our living room with a big window behind me , talking with my husband Rod about Darma, when suddenly I cringed at the sound of a loud collision right above my head. I knew from the sound it must be a large bird, and we ran outside. I found a hawk upside down with wings outstretched, still moving. I gently gathered it up in my shawl, but by the time I picked it up it had become still. I watched its beautiful amber eyes dim in the light of the rising sun, so like my beautiful Darma girl.
It was so sad and such a mystery that such a savvy predator would fly headlong towards a house. I felt the hawk spirit and Darma’s spirit must be connected somehow. So we buried the hawk on Darma's grave.
Signs from Spirit
With little Laddie settled into the earth, it came time to say farewell to Mystico. I slid carefully down the crumbling dirt ramp and knelt to stroke him one last time and cover him with flower petals and velvet. I touched the earthen walls with reverence. We were so deep in the earth it felt like an archeological dig, except we were burying this beautiful being rather than discovering his remains. Rod stood beside me. His reverence was equally heartfelt. We were grieving yet equally aware that the fact that we were able to be together here, burying the last of our horse herd was a miracle given the struggles we’d had both had in recent years facing our own mortality.
I thought of all the horses who are buried in the earth, laid there by human cultures both ancient and modern. I thought of the horses in wild places whose bodies rest under the open sky. I offered a prayer to all horses who cross the rainbow bridge. I trusted that our two were already reunited with their herd of seven, and with other horses, perhaps their parents and friends from the lives they'd had before we found them.
I climbed the ramp back to the surface as Rod began filling the crevice with shavings. I stood beside the mounds of excavated dirt near Darma's resting place, and I noticed the rocks surrounding the hawk’s small grave. I was just about to turn to Austin to tell him about the story of the hawk when something made me look up. There was Darma's hawk spirit flying low just over our heads! I exclaimed to Rod who looked up from his place underground just in time to see it circle over us and then fly south.
There was still more in store from the spirits. My friend Kimbra's insight was that Mystico would send me feathers as sign of connection, so I was on the lookout for whatever would appear. Somehow I didn’t expect a sign so soon. Yet in that moment my spirit was light as a feather, buoyed up by the appearance of the hawk, so my perception was keen enough to see the tiniest feather resting in the dirt from Mystico's grave. I immediately recognized it was a gift from his spirit because I always associate black to white as the symbol of his changing coat colors over the years. There we all were, the horses and the wild ones and the spirits all together, our joined hearts held in sacred infinity between heaven and earth.
The deer herd that graces our land has made their presence known in acknowledging the changes. They walk across the disturbed earthen mounds, blessing them with their delicate hooves. They are reclaiming the horse paddock. As the grass already starts to grow in the bare earth we start to remember what it was like when we moved here twenty-three years ago, when the fields stretched for four acres without fences. Darma brought us here when the land was parched, stripped, and vacant. It is now a glorious wild garden, and will continue to be so now, even more.
We are in a conversation with the stalls about what structures they want to be, and what they want to hold now. Even though the space feels incredibly empty, my heart feels incredibly full.
Instead of only the void of abscence we are exploring how it feels to be beginning the next chapter of our life with the spirits of the horses, the spirit of our land, and the presences and spirits of all the creatures and beings who are drawn to our beloved SkyeLandeSea sanctuary.
Frodo sensing the changes
Nurta blessing the burial ground
Rod many heartfelt feelings and thoughts of space and time
Me on the deck of the home we built in 2015, oriented in alignment with the chakras of the land.