At 4pm one year ago I said goodbye to Aslan the Wonderdog. She and I lived together for 15 years. She was one precious critter. Since so many of you shared your sacred stories in my Rainbow Bridge post last year, I know I’m not alone in loving a dog in a way I could have never imagined.
Several months after Aslan’s ‘crossing’, my sweetheart Tom presented me with a Spirit House he’d made to honor her spirit. Tom and I discovered Spirit Houses during our first visit to Alaska in 1997. We learned that when the Russians came to Alaska in the early 1800’s, they converted many of the native Athabaskan Indians to the Russian Orthodox religion. The traditions of the Natives and the Russians blended in holy ways. One of the most holy is the Spirit Houses found in the Eklutna Cemetery. They contain personal items to help the spirit in the next life. Each family uses specific colors for their spirit house to identify their clan. There are no written names. The three-bar Orthodox cross placed in the foot of the grave identifies members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Even though I’m not Athabaskan nor Russian Orthodox, I fell in love with this concept. So I put my own Zen Episcopalian spin on it. Tom and I put this beautiful unpainted cedar Spirit House beside Aslan’s grave marker. Her last collar (which I’m sure was Aslan’s all time favorite because it has peace signs all over it) hangs on the doorway of her Spirit House.
There’s a long purple bench close by. It’s a space I often settle to drink my morning coffee while Aslan’s sister Blossom and I anticipate our day. It’s holy ground.
I’d be honored to know how you celebrate the spirits of the precious critters who’ve shared your life.